By Jason Lynch and Katie Wright -People
February 17, 2003
Kingpin's Yancey Arias knows what he wants. So why did he waffle on marriage?
It took Yancey Arias mere seconds to realize how dangerous life could be
playing the fictitious head of a powerful Mexican drug cartel. Driving with then-fiancee
Anna Alvim last February, the actor got a call telling him he'd landed the lead
in Kingpin, NBC's Sopranos-inspired new drama. "He screamed,
then the tears came," says Alvim. Adds Arias: "We had to pull over so
we wouldn't get into an accident."
As the conflicted Miguel Cadena,
Arias, 31, pulls off some pretty tricky emotional U-turns, tenderly tucking in
his 8-year-old son in one scene and mercilessly ordering a hit on his uncle in
another. "You know when somebody's quiet and serious, and you never know
when they're going to explode?" says Bobby Cannavale, who plays Arias's brother
Chato. "That's the intensity he brings to the role."
Arias might be a bit too strong for some Hispanic groups, who criticize Kingpin
for reinforcing stereotypes. "There's a real lack of balance," says
Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "You have
a dozen Mexicans blowing each other up and one Latina DEA agent battling the forces
Despite the controversy, Arias says he had "no reservations"
about signing on to Kingpin: "As a Latin community, we can come together
and say, ' Look at all the wonderful actors we can be proud of in every episode,
that show their passion regardless of the issues that come out of their mouths.'"
Growing up in New York City, Arias at first wanted to be in baseball cleats.
His soap-opera-obsessed grandmother Matilda had other ideas. "I guess she
overheard me singing in the bathroom," says Arias, because the next thing
he knew, he was belting out "No Me Olvides" at 12, during the intermission
of a Menudo lip-synching contest catered by Matilda. The ovation he received inspired
him to pursue acting, with the blessing of his parents, Antonio, 61, a tour-bus
owner, and Miriam, 53, a business professor.
He enrolled at Carnegie
Mellon University in 1989 but withdrew in '91, when his parents, then running
an office-temp agency, fell into financial straits. A year later Arias landed
on Broadway as an understudy in Miss Saigon, eventually playing Thuy, the
Real romance struck in 1994, when he began dating Alvim,
an actress he'd met at the local gym. Four years later, after accumulating bit
parts as what he calls "misunderstood" bad guys in TV's NYPD Blue,
Law & Order, and The Sopranos, he proposed- but never committed
to setting a wedding date. Finally, Alvim removed her ring last fall: "I
said, 'I'm not putting it back on until you give me a date!'" In October,
says Arias, "I woke up and said, 'This feels right. Let's just do it.'"
He and Alvim, 28, wed two months later.
The couple, who share a one-bedroom
L.A. apartment, are linked professionally as well. Alvim plays Arias's Kingpin
sister, and they jointly run Body Language, a line of workout wear they created
in 1999. Now the TV drug lord is anticipating a safer managerial role- on the
ball field. "When we have kids, I want to coach Little League," says
Arias. "I can't wait for that time in my life."