The Cousins (Daniel and Luis Moncada) (Photo : Ursula Coyote/AMC)
Twin brothers Daniel and Luis Moncada can intimidate with one steely-eyed look. The stony-faced brothers are bald, muscular and covered in tattoos (Luis even has tattoos on his eyelids), giving them the appearance of formidable gang members. And that is exactly what they were-- that is, until they became the go-to tough guys of Hollywood, appearing in shows like "Breaking Bad" and "Southland."
Daniel and Luis Moncada were born in Honduras and raised in a neighborhood near Hollywood and Echo Park, which are crime-ridden areas where gangs are pervasive. The two brothers fell in with the wrong crowd, engaging in gang street crime. Eventually, Luis was arrested for driving a stolen vehicle, the Los Angeles Times reported.
While Luis' prison sentence was obviously regrettable, his time behind bars set him on a new path that would eventually change his and his brother's lives for the better.
"I'm not thankful I went to prison," Luis told the Times, "but after going to prison, that's when you really, really, really think, 'Wow, what a waste of time.' I had to change."
While in prison, Luis met a charming parole officer who eventually became his wife. After settling down, Luis and his brother Daniel moved away from their rough neighborhoods to Studio City.
Luis used his muscle to his advantage and got a job as a security guard. Luis was working as a security guard on the set of the film "El Padrino" when director Damian Chapa spotted his gang tattoo and asked if he wanted to play the part of Jennifer Tilly's bodyguard. Shockingly, Luis initially refused the part.
"I was getting off in 10 minutes so I said, 'You know what, sir? No thank you," Moncada said. "I don't know if I can do eight or 12 more hours."
Manuel Jimenez overheard the conversation. Jimenez, an ex-con who created Suspect Entertainment, a talent agency that turns ex-gang members into actors, convinced Luis to take the role. He then signed him onto his agency. Hollywood often calls upon the agency to fill the role of a classic "bad buy."
Luis began to snag other film roles, such as a gang banger on "Californication," "Lincoln Heights" and the feature film "The Fast and the Furious."
Finally came "Breaking Bad," the hit show about a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who becomes a meth dealer to provide for his family. Luis and his brother, Daniel, were perfect for the parts of two ruthless Mexican drug cartels called the "Cousins."
"We knew we were going to have these very scary, very silent Mexican cartel assassins in our third season, so we put the word out and needed to find these guys," said Vince Gilligan, the show's creator. "We needed a couple of guys who were very charismatic, whose expressions and eyes told us a lot."
Luis initially tried out for the role, but as the part called for brothers, the creators asked that Daniel audition as well.
The creators had found their perfect assassins. "They exuded a certain authenticity," Gilligan said. "They don't have to glare at you to scare you."
Bryan Cranston, who stars in the show as Walter White, directed them in season three's premiere. The episode included the brothers shooting Mexican immigrants trying to sneak into the U.S. in a hay truck, then proceeding to light the truck on fire.
Cranston said, "If you feel like it, it would be cool if you casually lifted your cigarette to your lips and take a puff like you're walking in the park."
After the scene, "I just threw my arms around them," Cranston said. "It was perfect."
"These two guys, their lives could have gone a very different way and our industry somehow showed them an avenue of alternatives, and they took them," Cranston said.
Luis and Daniel are now Hollywood "bad guy" mainstays. When Luis is not acting, he is a motivational speak at schools, prison camps and youth programs, while Daniel trains boxing and Muay Thai at 818 Boxing Club in Pacoima, CA.