The world needs another comedian like it needs another crime drama, so men everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief when April Hernandez ditched standup to become a thespian. Maybe it was seeing John Leguizamo in drag one too many times, but after a few semesters of college, the Nuyorican bombshell decided she didn't have time for jokes. She cut her teeth as a monosyllabic clerk who punks Yao Ming in a Visa commercial and has since made several impressive turns on the small screen (ER, Law & Order, Blind Justice). Now she makes her feature-film debut in Freedom Writers as Eva Benitez, a teenage gang member who would have the entire Dipset washing her drawers in the bing. While her character favors baggy clothes and street fights, KING convinced this bat-wielding tomboy to go a couple of rounds with our photogs. Guess who won?
KING In your new movie, high school is like the front lines in Iraq. What was it like for you in real life?
April Hernandez I went to an all girls high school in the Bronx, St. Thomas Aquinas. I'm an Aquanite, but I was a good girl. I wore my skirt down to my knees.
You must have stood out like Jessica Simpson at a MENSA meeting.
See what happened is, the girls started raising their skirts and the nuns started noticing it, so they would stand by the door with a ruler. If it passed a certain point they would have to buy new skirts. If you're going to Catholic school and you look like a little stripper it's not cute.
Clear heels and the whole nine . . .
Making it clap . . .
So you weren't even close to being the class bad-ass.
No, I wasn't. I was very athletic, very smart. I was an A-student. I had two parents that loved me and kept me focused. Because I was in sports I didn't have time to be in the street. I was always a leader and wanted to conquer the world.
World domination and athletics go hand-in-hand, just ask Isaiah Thomas. Which sports did you play?
Softball and volleyball. I was a tomboy growing up. I never even thought about being an actress. I wanted to work for the New York Yankees as an athletic trainer. Then when I went to college I was studying nutrition, but I hated chemistry, so I became an actor.
Not everybody can fall back on acting.
No, they can't.
If you had a chance to teach a class, which would it be?
I think I'd teach English, anything that allows students to express themselves, or even acting classes. I recommend everyone take an acting class because you come out of your element and learn things about yourself. I actually started out as a standup comedian. I was inspired by John Leguizamo when I saw him in Mambo Mouth.Â So I was like, I'm going to be the Latina Mambo Mouth. When I left college I auditioned at New York Comedy Club and got booked.
**Find out more about April Hernandez and get a closer look at her pictures from the March/April 2007 issue of KING. On newsstands now!