Native-American / Latino actor, writer, producer, and all-around creative, Justin Johnson Cortez is set to star in the highly anticipated new series WALKER: INDEPENDENCE (premiering on Thursday, October 6th) a spin-off prequel of the hit CW series WALKER.
Johnson Cortez is also set to star in the upcoming indie film “Gift of Fear” which highlights the major crisis of missing and exploited women devastating Native populations across the US and Canada, WALKER: INDEPENDENCE Set in the late 1800s, WALKER: INDEPENDENCE’S first moments begin with ‘Abby Walker’ (Kate McNamara) being left for dead after her husband is murdered.
She survives thanks to the Apache tribe who tend to her injuries and ‘Calian’ (Johnson Cortez), her Native guide who takes her to Independence, and an uncertain future. On her quest for revenge, her path crosses with ‘Hoyt Rawlins’ (Matt Barr) which ultimately leads to an entangled relationship for the three characters. Johnson Cortez takes on this role with the weight of his ancestors on his shoulders; a Native Yaqui, he learned to speak Apache through an Apache translator on set. He also did the majority of his own stunts including some impressive ones on horseback.
“When this opportunity came up, I was a bit nervous because I wanted to make sure that the character was going to be represented in a positive way,” Johnson Cortez, who is Yaqui and Latino, says. “I didn’t want to represent the same old image of Native American characters on screen, assimilating into Western culture, so I’m excited to dive in deeper and show the complexities behind this character. There is a way to tell this story by sharing his interests and curiosity in the town in the expansion of the West authentically. That’s going to come out when exploring his past through his history and experience in the world up until that point.”
Born and raised in Santa Paula, CA – just outside of rustic Ojai – Johnson Cortez still lives in the rural house he grew up in. As a youth he loved and excelled in anything athletic from skateboarding, surfboarding, snowboarding, football, baseball to riding dirt bikes and motorcycles. It wasn’t until his mid-20s that he began showing an interest in acting and began taking classes which ultimately lead to getting signed with a manager and agent. Around this time, he also began writing as well as he didn’t see roles that featured characters like him. Half Native Yaqui and Latino on his mother side, he was disappointed in the lack of representation in film and television. He additionally has another project soon to be announced which highlights the lives of Native people in an honest and impactful way. Cortez has also guest-starred on Fox’s 911: Lone Star and Lucifer. He also served as actor/writer/director/producer in the short film The Fall, which was a 2020 Skins Fest official selection.
A true handyman and artist at heart, Johnson Cortez enjoys using his hands to build custom furniture (his whole home is filled with his craftsmanship), riding his motorcycles, painting and doing art / stencil work out of wood blocks, and spending time with his wife Rachel and two daughters Olivia and Evelyn.
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