From the big screen back to the Big Bend, Presidio-raised actor Marcus DeAnda returns home for latest role

Marcus DeAnda sits for a photo while on set in Alpine. The Presidio-raised actor was eager to return to the Big Bend for his latest job playing Ernesto in the forthcoming film “Free Dead or Alive”. Staff photo by Maisie Crow

PRESIDIO – Marcus DeAnda always wanted to be an actor. When his family moved to Presidio in the 1970s, he was only two, and as he grew up there, theatrical training and acting gigs were hard to come by. But this month, the Presidio-raised actor returned to the Big Bend for his latest role, playing getaway driver “Ernesto” in the forthcoming film Free Dead or Alive.

On set in Alpine last week, DeAnda recalled his very first role, playing one of the three little pigs in a stage production at Presidio Elementary School. “Back then they didn’t have acting classes,” he remembers. But that little taste of the limelight gave him a hunger for performance that hasn’t diminished since.

His dedication to pursuing the career led him to study Radio, Television and Film at University of Texas in Austin after graduating from Presidio High School in 1989. By 2001, he was living in Los Angeles and landing his first role on Cold Case.

“I grew up watching telenovelas a lot, and I think that’s where my liking for acting came about,” he said. “As a Latin guy I always thought of the guy on Santa Barbara, A Martinez. With a last name like that, I looked at him as – if he can be an actor, I can too.” He’s grateful that nowadays the career is more open to diverse representation on screen.

Since his first gig, he’s acted on major network sitcoms like Cougar Town and Modern Family and featured on soap operas like The Young and the Restless. “My characters tend to die,” DeAnda said. “My mother is always disappointed in that. She’s like, ‘I want to see you not die.’”

Last Friday, he appeared in the latest episode of the rebooted MacGyver series, and to his mom’s delight, survives the episode.

With decades of experience under his belt, DeAnda was eager to return to Presidio – to finally use his acting chops near his home town and to give his mom, Aracely DeAnda, a big hug. She just received her COVID vaccine, which made it easy for the actor to finally visit her. “I auditioned for this part so I could shoot here, because my mom is still in Presidio,” he said.

DeAnda plays a getaway driver for his part in Free Dead or Alive. On set last week, he drove a white van through a small road that goes under a railroad bridge in Alpine, as cameras tracked along with his moves.

In the story, A Guatemalan woman escapes with the help of a “coyote” to avoid a forced marriage in her home country. DeAnda’s character is hired to take them to a train that will lead them through Mexico, but the group ends up in a car chase. Paying off officials, escaping car chases and other antics make the film a sure-to-be-thrilling tale when it premieres. “They’re touching on what people have to go through when they have to leave their country,” he explained.

The crew filmed on location in Alpine and Terlingua, using different parts of the local scenery as a setting for Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. “I love doing roles here, I’m familiar with the area and love it,” he said.

“I don’t think I appreciated the way it was when I was a kid, because I wanted to get out and act,” DeAnda reflected. “I mean look at the sky, the mountains. It’s a beautiful town that I’m grateful as an adult to go back to.”