Despite showing off his musical talent on Disney Channel staples Lizzie McGuire and Corey in the House — and on two Spanish-language albums, Shalim and Cuarto sin Puerta — Ortiz is something of a newbie when it comes to American television. So he’s getting a crash course thanks to his new role on Heroes, as super-powered Alejandro Herrera, on the run through Central America with his twin sister Maya (Dania Ramirez).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell us about Alejandro.
SHALIM ORTIZ: The fact that me and Maya are twins plays a very strong role in our power and what happens to us. We complement each other. We’re illegal immigrants and we are running from the cops. We need to get answers because we can’t live with what we have. We need to find a solution, a cure.
Sounds intriguing. What about your character do you find most interesting?
His love for his sister. He protects her no matter what. Even if his life is at stake. My younger brother and sister are twins, so I based a lot of this relationship on what I grew up with. Their relationship is beyond just brother and sister. They take care of each other. It’s beautiful.
Is it easy to play Dania Ramirez’s twin?
We clicked right away. We did not have to work on chemistry, it just happened the first time we did the ”chemistry” read. We are both Dominican. We’re in the same age range. There were a lot of things that we had in common that you can’t make up, which helped.
What interested you about being on Heroes?
I love the realism behind the sci-fi. That’s the magical part of the show. People can identify with these characters, and although they do have powers they’re still real. They’re characters you can find on the street. They’re not super heroes that are wearing uniforms and a cape. They’re real people.
Were you a fan of the show before taking the audition?
I really wasn’t because I’m not a TV junkie. But my brother and sister are hard-core fans. They’re probably still screaming with excitement right now. But I caught up on it and now I’m a total fan. There’s no way you cannot be a fan of a show like this because there’s so much to gobble on. If you don’t like one plotline, the next one’s coming up in five minutes.
How would you sum up your Heroes experience so far?
It’s mind blowing. It’s been such a great school for me, as an actor. Beyond that it becomes a lifestyle for everybody that’s part of the show. You don’t feel like you’re going to work.
Let’s talk about your storyline — what should we look forward to?
Our story starts in sixth gear. Most of the other stories start developing on a character development stage then you start going to the climax. This is climax from the get-go.
Any chance we’ll see that musical prowess of yours? Maybe you could form a Heroes super-band?
That would be great. Can you imagine? It’s not impossible. Especially with a show like this; anything can freaking happen.
Want more Heroes? Take our interactive quiz to answer the question Which Hero Are You? And don’t miss EW’s Ultimate Heroes Fan Guide, where you can join with other members of the Heroes community to fill in new details of season 2.