NYC subway conductor reflects on ‘Raising Victor Vargas’ role 20 years later

His profession took a distinct monitor — however subway conductor Kevin Rivera nonetheless has fond reminiscences of his scene-stealing flip within the 2002 film “Raising Victor Vargas,” which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary with a screening on the New York Latino Film Festival on Wednesday.

Rivera, now 39, made headlines in The Post earlier this summer season when he survived an attack by an “unhinged” straphanger threatening MTA employees — so he’s glad to be revisiting a happier reminiscence now.

He had zero performing roles earlier than his cult traditional and scored only some extra after its launch — however he nonetheless counts his efficiency as Harold, the eponymous foremost character’s finest buddy, amongst his “biggest accomplishments.”

“I watch it over and over again. Over 2,000 to 3,000 times,” he informed The Post forward of the 8 p.m. screening, which is able to mark 20 years since the movie was shot on the Lower East Side in the course of the week of of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Raising Victor Vargas” tells the story of a younger, swagger-filled Dominican American teen (Victor Rasuk) coming of age along with his two siblings and grandmother on the Lower East Side.

The movie obtained near-universal acclaim upon launch in 2002. The Post’s Megan Lehmann on the time praised it as “a love letter to a New York neighborhood that is rapidly disappearing – a tight-knit Dominican community of chicken runs, secluded gardens and social clubs.”

Rivera was a 21-year-old finding out at Queensborough Community College when his cousin reached out about a chance to check out for the role of Victor’s caring wingman. Most of the solid, like him, had little to no performing expertise.

“At first I was hesitant. I was cast without a portfolio, without a picture, without a resumé. I just went in there and acted energetic. I never acted before in my life,” Rivera stated.

Kevin Rivera and Melonie Diaz in "Raising Victor Vargas."
Kevin Rivera and Melonie Diaz within the acclaimed 2002 indie movie “Raising Victor Vargas,” which is available to stream on Amazon Prime. Wednesday’s reunion screening takes place “drive-in” type in a car parking zone at Gerard Avenue and 151st Street within the Bronx. Tickets can be found on the NYLFF Festival website.
Alamy Stock Photo

In the movie, Rivera’s character offers a distinction to the protagonist’s foibles. While Victor makes an attempt and fails to impress Judy “Juicy Judy” Ramirez for a lot of the movie, Harold rapidly wins the belief — and romantic affection — of her finest buddy.

Director Peter Sollett (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) inspired the actors to play their roles as near their precise selves as doable.

“Everything was improvised,” Rivera stated. “He gave us a script, but it was like, ‘How would you say it? What would you do in that situation?’”

“It was from the heart. It was so genuine,” he stated of the performing within the movie. “We just got along. It was just the right people, the right actors. We all just clicked.”

“The lesson of the movie is how Latino families are brought up in New York City, how close they are,” he stated. “So many people could relate to the movie — you know, the struggles, the happiness. Money really doesn’t make you happy. I think it’s family. It’s the people you hang out with, your friends.”

The movie was shot in the course of the week of 9/11 — mere miles from the World Trade Center. The Twin Towers will be seen within the foreground in no less than one shot.

“It was an independent movie that didn’t have a whole bunch of money to make it seem authentic,” Rivera stated. “To inform you the reality, I actually haven’t seen a film like ‘Raising Victor Vargas.’ “

David Rivera, actor and MTA employee, who starred in "Raising Victor Vargas" in 2001, met with the Post in Queens, NY at the 7 subway station at Court Square on September 13, 2021, to discuss the movie and being attacked while off duty from the MTA by an emotionally disturbed person.
Rivera’s former castmates tracked him down this summer season after discovering a Post article from May a couple of harrowing assault Rivera confronted on his manner residence from work.
James Messerschmidt for NY Post

Other solid members moved to Hollywood to turn into full-time actors. Rivera, who grew up because the son of Colombian immigrants in Kew Gardens, Queens, nailed just a few extra performing gigs — however the work quickly dried up.

“I did a Coca Cola commercial, I did a movie and ‘Law & Order,’ then I wasn’t getting gigs. But I was happy. I was just so proud,” he stated. “I wasn’t in it to be an actor.”

Rivera joined the MTA a decade in the past as a visitors checker — “the bottom of the bottom,” he says — and has since moved as much as the role of conductor on the subway’s 7 line. He acquired married and now has two children, ages one and three.

“Every time going to school, I used to see transit workers working. I was like, ‘Wow, they got a good pension, they got a good job, it’s a really good gig, man,’” he stated. “I saw people able to take care of their families, and I wanted that.”

His former castmates, in the meantime, tracked him down this summer season after discovering a Post article from May a couple of harrowing assault Rivera confronted on his manner residence from work.

He’s anticipating tonight’s reunion, when the movie will probably be screened “drive-in” type in a car parking zone at Gerard Avenue and 151st Street within the Bronx. Tickets can be found on the New York Latino Film Festival website.

“I felt like we all had a lot in common, since we all grew up and was raised in New York,” he stated. “I saw them a couple times after the movie, but most of them went to LA and LA’s not for me. I’m a New Yorker. I want to be me.”

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