Most computer science majors seek post-graduation employment as IT specialists or software developers, but not senior Johnny Riojas. In some respects, he leads a double life when it comes to preparation for his future. This year, he attends UMHB during the week, and then on the weekends, he makes the hour-and-a-half drive to College Station to take classes from his acting coach, Nikki Pederson a highly acclaimed talent scout.
While many UMHB students plan to head back to their hometowns of Houston, Dallas, Austin or a number of other Texas cities, Riojas plans to move to Los Angeles, California to take the pursuit of his dream to the next level: Hollywood.
Riojas, who was born and raised in Austin, Texas said of his childhood, “Growing up was pretty simple. I would go to school, then come home and do my homework, and then go out and hit (baseballs) with my dad in the fields.”
Baseball was a big part of his upbringing as his dad played and subsequently influenced him to. Riojas knew from a young age he either wanted to play professional baseball or act. He played all throughout grade school and college, playing for UMHB’s baseball team for one season.
Even though he’s pursuing an acting career, he believes baseball has helped shape his character.
“I guess one of the things I learned from baseball was leadership and a strong work ethic.”
Pederson said of Riojas, “He’s a relatively new actor, but I’m very impressed with Johnny’s natural ability. He’s very funny, and has good comedic timing, but he also has the ability to be vulnerable, organic, and honest. Emotionally, he’s a generous actor.”
She also said, “I feel he has a realistic idea of the work and time it will take in order to be successful as a respected actor. The greatest asset Johnny has is his “like-ability” factor. It’s off the charts.”
Playing a minor role in 2014 film “Men, Women and Children” Riojas got the opportunity to work alongside stars like Kaitlyn Denver, Rosemarie DeWitt and Ansel Elgort.
This was a learning experience for Riojas who said of the filming process, “It was a great experience being on set and getting a feel for how the process goes.
Riojas was also a featured extra in the TV series From Dusk Till Dawn on the El Rey Network., and is currently working on his own movie Gone Astray set to be filmed in Los Angeles this summer.
He said, “I owe a lot of this to my high school friends. I was the shy kid. They got me out of my comfort zone. I would have never, in a million years, gone in front of people and done this.”