Wilmer Valderrama has been in the television industry for over two decades.
The actor first started out in his iconic role in one of the most popular sitcoms ever, “That ’70s Show.” Valderrama played the role of Fez, a character that was groundbreaking and hilarious.
From there, he starred in several television shows and a couple of feature films. As of now, you can catch him on the long-running crime drama series, “NCIS,” which is entering its 19th season this fall. Valderrama plays Special Agent Nick Torres.
‘NCIS’ Star Talks Not Changing Name
Back when he was getting started in TV during the 1990s, Valderrama was approached about the possibility of changing his legal name to something else.
“It’s funny because they definitely said I didn’t sound Latino enough. I said I’m Colombian-Venezuelan how can that possibly be. They wanted me to name myself Carlos … I entered the industry, we’re talking 22 years ago, television looks completely different today,” Wilmer Valderrama said during an interview with “Studio 10” in 2018.
Valderrama was born in Miami, Florida. His father is Venezuelan and his mother is Colombian. However, when he was about 3, the “NCIS” actor and his family went to Venezuela and then eventually Colombia. At the age of 14, Valderrama then moved to the U.S. once again. He was only 18 when he got his leading role in “That ’70s Show.”
Wilmer Valderrama is incredibly vocal about his background and has often discussed issues with diversity in the entertainment industry.
“I never changed my name and I’m very proud that I didn’t. Wilmer Valderrama is actually my real name and it’s not a stage name or anything. I wanted to keep my name because I wanted to bring pride to my parents,” Valderrama said.
Wilmer Valderrama Works for Diversity
Beyond the screen, Valderrama also works to assist in diversity and other social issues. He serves on the Voto Latino Foundation’s executive board. This organization helps promote voter registration within this community. Valderrama is the co-founder of HARNESS. This is a social justice group. The goal is to share the stories of marginalized communities in the hopes of sparking changes.
His work allows the voices of younger generations and underrepresented communities to finally be heard.
“It’s beautiful. The new generation of Latinos can wake up knowing that they can play themselves with integrity — unlike some of their parents who were told that in America you only speak English or you have to be this or that. I love seeing this new, young generation looking up at their grandparents and saying, “Wait a minute, I really identify with that,'” Valderrama said during an interview with Good Housekeeping back in May.