What is Taylor Zakhar Perez’s ethnicity? The actor’s mixed-race identity

By Chege Karomo — ON Aug 18, 2023
Taylor Zakhar Perez
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Taylor Zakhar Perez’s fame has hit a new level following his performance in Red, White & Royal Blue. Nevertheless, he is cautious about the adverse effects of fame. “You have to keep things for yourself, your sanity, your family, your dog,” Taylor told Refinery29. “You must be very selective and conscious about that, or else this entertainment industry can just run your life.”

Taylor is of Mexican, Mediterranean, and Middle-Eastern descent

Taylor Zakhar Perez and his mother

Taylor Zakhar Perez was born on 25th December 1991 in Chicago, Illinois. He was raised by a Mexican mother in Chesterton, Indiana, alongside seven siblings. 

Growing up performing in musical theater, Perez idolized Latino actors like Eva Longoria and Selena Quintanilla, who reminded him of his mother. “For me growing up, [the movie] Selena was my family’s cultural enjoyment. We watched it probably once, twice a month, even if it was just in the background. We just loved it, loved it,” Perez told Entertainment Tonight.

When he joined the acting industry, Perez learned that landing roles as a Latin actor was more complicated than he expected. He told Schon! that some casting directors concluded that he wasn’t Latin enough to play certain roles, an observation that confounded him. Perez concedes that his mixed ethnicity allowed him to ‘pass’ as other races, which boosted his career.  

Nevertheless, he realized that Latin actors are at a distinct disadvantage in the acting industry as people have a fixed idea about what a Latino actor should look like when, in reality, the spectrum of Latin actors is vast. Perez explained:

“I’ve been all over Central and Latin America, and a lot of these people look like me. But also, a lot of these people have red hair. A lot of these people are black. You can’t say, ‘Okay, this guy has brown skin and dark features. That makes him Latinx.’ You have Brazilians who are black and speak Portuguese, Chileans who are darker-skinned and speak Spanish, or really light blonde-haired women in Mexico who are Mexican and speak Spanish.”

Perez told Sharp Magazine he would use his platform to champion improved Latin and minority representation in the acting industry. He also told Entertainment Tonight he hopes writers ditch the trope that Latin people must be criminals. Perez explained:

“I just want to see less drug dealers, less gang members, less violence, [have] them less criminalized than a guy that plays guitar at school that has his Mexican swag on. Just like we normalize all different types of communities — LGBTQ, Black, Asian — we have to normalize Latinx characters as well. I’m looking forward to that.”

“And more Latinx writers!” he continued. “They are ones who know firsthand what it’s like to be Latin.”

Perez donates to El Valor, a charity that serves the Hispanic community in Chicago

“They serve the Hispanic community,” Perez talked to Entertainment Tonight about El Valor, a Chicago-based charity that supports people with disabilities and children. Perez revealed that his aunt worked for the organization for over three decades, and his family members often volunteered for El Valor. He continued:

“They gave so much to my aunt, they gave so much to the community. I have a couple disabled family members, younger and older, and I just see how hard it is. We’re so lucky to be able-bodied. If there’s something I can do to make someone’s life a little easier and more enjoyable for the kids, we should just do it.”

Touching on his family in an interview with Numero, Perez said that his parents came from humble beginnings and clamped down on any hint of ungratefulness displayed by their children. “No joke, any time we were ungrateful, it turned into an hour lecture which ultimately turned into some kind of house/yard work,” he said. Perez stated that he works with charities that ease the burden on working parents. 

Perez and his siblings learned the importance of hard work when helping out in the family auto body shop. Following the death of his oldest sister, Kristy Jean, Perez posted a throwback Instagram photo of him and Jean at the family shop. Perez captioned the early June 2023 upload:

“This photo was taken in Chicago in 1993 at our dad’s auto-body shop. The place that raised us and gave us our family values, work ethic, and understanding of what it takes to make a buck. She taught me to not sweat the small stuff and love unconditionally. She also taught me to ‘fuck it’ and know how lucky we were.”