Alexis “Naheem” Garcia, Dorchester

It was only a matter of time before Alexis “Naheem” Garcia found his peace performing. Back in Cuba, his grandmother was a singer. His mother was a dancer. He may be the associate dean for Pacific Rim Charter School now, but acting carried him through his isolation as an immigrant, steered him clear of crime, and remains the great high of his life today.

“You give me a mic and a thousand people, and you better believe I will captivate them. I will do it,” he said. “I’m not sure of a lot of things in life, but that I’m sure of.”

Here, in his own words, are some of the chapters of his life, starting with the greatest moment of his acting career (in audio), when he arrived in Lynn as part of the cast of Black Mass:

“Let me tell you why it was the greatest moment. Downtown Lynn. They bring me in the car, you know, get ready, I walk out in Lynn, and the entire community in Lynn is looking out the window, and hanging out, and that’s a very Hispanic part of the community. And I’m walking in there, and people are seeing me, like, ‘Okay, he’s one of the stars,’ and I looked up and I said, ‘Qué pasa mi gente?!’ I said it just like that in Spanish, they lost their MINDS: ‘He’s one of us! He’s one of us! And he’s a star!’ You know, in my Boston accent, ‘He’s a stah!’ And people thought it was so great, and they wanted my autograph. It was a beautiful moment, I said, ‘I could get used to this.’”

On performing:

“I’ve got the fever for it. I’ve always had, since I was a little, little boy. I was always pretending, always play acting. It was the way I escaped. At Madison Park (high school), I was stressed out, you know, messing around, between getting high in the bathrooms, trying to sell weed in between, and I just hated classes. And I went to this theater class all the time. And it was my place of peace. It’s where I had a voice. It’s where no one could tell me…not so much what to do, but no one could tell me that I wasn’t good at it. I felt good at it.

I suffered depression as a young man, and I was always alienated because I was black and I was Hispanic, and I was always in this African American community who thought I was weird, and the Hispanic community, just racist because you’re a black Hispanic, and then of course white people, it’s quite obvious, you know. So I was just always in this crazy place. And as a young immigrant, and being the oldest child of my mother’s, I was alone.

Drama became the vehicle that I used to heal.

I like hosting shows a lot. The stage is a safe place for me. It’s the only place where no one can ever bother me, and I am in control. And I get off on that. You give me a mic and a thousand people, and you better believe I will captivate them. I will do it. I’m not sure of a lot of things in life, but that I’m sure of.

If you want to be an actor, you have to be educated. You have to read, you have to study, you have to think about the environment:  If this character lived in Germany, a rural part of Germany up in the hills, what was it like? What did the air feel like? When he said hello, where did it come from? Did it come from a different place than somebody who said hello in an urban community?

It’s a great feeling because it forces you to think and be in somebody else’s shoes, and if most people thought that way, if most people wanted to be actors, the world might be a better place. Because then I might think about where you’re coming from. I would think about why you’re saying that. I would put myself in your shoes. We don’t do that enough. And actors do it all the time.”

On the turning point, when he was younger:

“I was in Franklin Hills, sitting in this nasty-ass apartment, working on things I don’t need to be working on. I was looking out the window. It was late. I was with my childhood friend—he and I went to elementary school and middle school together—and we were sitting there. He was die-hard. He was, as they say, bout it, bout it? He was bout it, bout it. And I look out the window and there’s a police officer. I said, ‘I got to change.’

And then later on, I have a discussion with another friend. Shit has hit the fan, people were going to jail, things was tough, and he said, ‘This is not your life.’ He said that to me. He said, ‘You’re an actor. You’re a teacher. That’s what you need to go do. This shit ain’t for you.’ He said if something was to happen to me, it would be terrible, but not only that, but the world wouldn’t get a chance to see what I could do. And I never, ever forgot that.”

On what friendship means to him:

“When the going gets rough, your man’s there. When the going gets really, really rough, when the world looks like it’s about to cave in, and you’re inches from thinking about doing something very suicidal, your man’s there. When the world is great, and life is good, and everything’s feeling good, your man’s there.

I got a couple of friends like that. When I’m hungry, they feed me. When I’m thirsty, they give me something to drink. When I’m doing something I don’t need to be doing, they remind me in the most tender manner of my failings and aid in my reformation, and vindicate my character when I’m wrong, and represent me, and speak on my behalf. And they let the world observe how much we love each other. We stand together.”

Naheem, a Dorchester resident, has appeared in more than dozen movies, including the The Heat, The Proposal, Turntable, Lift, Maiden Heist and Blown Away. He is a teaching artist with I Dream: Boston and has spent much of his life coaching youth in acting at the Huntington Theatre Company and other venues.

He was interviewed and photographed by story ambassador George Powell. The interview was then transcribed and edited for length, clarity and flow by Cara Solomon, founder of Everyday Boston, in partnership with George. Cara wrote the intro text.