At age 48, Berto Colón gives his absolute best performance every time. Whether he’s on the football field, in the CrossFit arena, or stealing scenes on-screen, the man from Ponce, Puerto Rico, never brings anything short of his A-Game.

M&F sat down with the fast-rising performer, who first shot to the world’s attention playing Cesar Velazquez in Orange is the new Black, and is currently enthralling viewers with his portrayal of Lorenzo Tejada in Starz’s highly rated Power Book II: Ghost, to find out why he owes his current successes to a solid background in sports and physical activity.

“I’ve been a fan of Muscle & Fitness since I was a very young guy,” says Colón, who stands at 6’1”. “Wanting to have muscles, this was the publication of choice. My wife makes fun of me all the time because I still have publications from the 80s and 90s that I never threw out. I treated them like encyclopedias.”

Effort Equals Reward

Starting out as an up-and-coming actor, trying to make ends meet by working in hotels and bars across New York and New Jersey, Colón would catch the train between shifts, hustling to land acting roles through audition after audition. His dogged determination paid off, and having provided his voice to video games (The Warriors, Grand Theft Auto IV), he later landed varying sized appearances in The Good Wife, Gossip Girl, Nurse Jackie, Gotham and Jessica Jones, but it would be his portrayal of Cesar in Netflix’s monster hit, Orange is the New Black, that made his face internationally recognizable.

“I had just moved to a new area here in Jersey, and one of the first crazy moments happened at a waterpark and I was with my daughters,” says Colón. “This guy had, like a mini heart attack, he couldn’t believe that I was in Keansburg at this old waterpark.” The actor appreciates that fame can be a fickle business, and is able to take previous accomplishments and setbacks in the sporting environment as motivational fuel for his acting career. “I was born and raised in Puerto Rico,” says Colón. “I played sports my whole life. At first, I was a swimmer, and we would have these summer swim camps where we would be swimming, essentially, all day long. For me, the implementation of cross training from your actual sport started early in my life because we would have swimming and then we would have calisthenics exercises, and then some type of training on the side of the pool or in one of the gymnasiums. So, I understood the implementation of cross training to enhance your stroke, your movements, your shots, or running ability.”

Actor Berto Colón working out for his role on Power Book II- Ghost
Courtesy of Crater Media Group

Berto Colón is a Gentle Giant

While Berto Colón is gentle voiced and very much down to earth in his downtime, he is very competitive when the lights go on. “I went from swimming to basketball, and then at some point, it sort of switched,” says Colón. “I think a lot of it had to do with personality, but once I discovered the contact of football it took me to another level. We would play rough touch, and rough tackle, with no equipment.” Following his move to the United States, Colón worked hard in high school and earned a football scholarship to Fordham University. It was football training that introduced the actor to the Bulgarian method of working out, and he gained a good grasp for lifting while maintaining his stamina. “The high for me, was training in the gym,” says Colón. “I’ve always believed that if you are gonna play a sport, you have to train, to enhance what you are doing.”

It’s All About the Process

A knee injury would eventually quell the actor’s dreams of making the NFL, but these days he pursues prominent acting roles with the same fire and passion that he displayed in his sporting career. “You could be a musician, an artist who’s painting, it’s all about the process,” says Colón. “I had a couple of ACL injuries that kind of made the odds of having an NFL career that much more difficult. But that process, of spending all those hours in the gym, you play a game for an hour, but you practice an endless amount, and it’s definitely all about the process and the work ethic, because that’s where you hone your skills. That’s what draws me to acting; it’s an artistic endeavor that we all need to have by nature, but it also involves that work ethic and process. It’s very hard to break into anything, to get to the upper echelon of any industry, and if you don’t develop some type of work ethic, or threshold for pain, and in this case; a threshold for rejection, you’ll maybe have 10 no’s before you get a single yes, so you learn all that in the process. You stay hungry.”

Berto Colón performing a sandbag shoulder carry for his crossfit workout
Courtesy of Crater Media Group

Berto Colón Is Still Crushing CrossFit

Despite his shooting schedule, the star still fills as much time being as active as he can find. Berto Colón is a keen surfer and is also into CrossFit in a big way. Training at Power Pak Fitness in New Jersey, an Instagram post from last year shows him crushing a CrossFit Games Open Workout in just 21 minutes and 20 seconds.

Those CrossFit workouts are a real challenge,” says Colón. “Because, again, going back to the Bulgarian method, I feel like I had an introduction to this in college, by maintaining a certain workload over a longer period of time. If you are smart and pace your workout so you understand that the first 5-minutes of a workout might feel weird because your body is still adapting, so you don’t necessarily go all out, you have to do them at a certain rate because you are only 5-minutes in of a 20-minute workout. The whole concept is to maintain the work. After those first 5-minutes your body adapts, it becomes easier in the following 10-minutes. If you find the right pace in the beginning, you then find the right pace in the middle, and then you can give yourself that last push.”

Now starring as Lorenzo on Power Book II: Ghost, the drama that follows up on the original Power crime series, Colón is in his element on the show, produced by Courtney A. Kemp in collaboration with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.

“Lorenzo is a guy that, obviously unlike me, his ethics have sort of gone out of the window,” says the actor. “For me, he’s a man with real ties, and an understanding of family, and protecting what’s his, but his line of work requires him to be unattached from the ethical. For me, I don’t want to romanticize a personal like that, but for the purposes of the work, I have to find an understanding of what his motivation must be like. That’s the joy of what I get to do.”

PowerBook II: Ghost season 2 currently airs Sunday’s on Starz and is also available on StarzPlay.

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