South American-born actor Santiago Cabrera originally planned to pursue a career as a professional soccer player prior to discovering his love for acting. Classically trained on the stages of the U.K....
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Born on May 5, 1978, in Caracas, Venezuela, Cabrera was the middle child of a Chilean diplomat father and a homemaker mother. Due to the nature of his father's job, Cabrera and his family rarely stayed in any one place for too long. An experienced globetrotter by adolescence, Cabrera lived in Canada, London, Madrid, and Romania before returning with his family to Chile in the early 1990's. A gifted athlete, Cabrera excelled in soccer and was captain of his high school soccer team. As much as he loved sports, however, Cabrera discovered his true passions lied elsewhere. In his senior year, at the behest of his drama teacher, Cabrera auditioned for and won the title role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in his high school production of "Amadeus." From that moment on, Cabrera was hooked.
After graduation, Cabrera moved to London and enrolled at one of Europe's leading acting schools, the famed Drama Centre at Central St. Martin's College (alma mater to such stars as Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Paul Bettany, among others). To finance his studies, Cabrera made good use of his athleticism by pulling drunken tourists around in rickshaws on the weekends. During his three years of training at the Drama Centre, Cabrera honed his skills in a number of stage productions including "A Month in the Country," "The Dutch Courtesan," and Jean Racine's classic tragedy, "Britannicus." Living in London also gave Cabrera the opportunity to audition for television roles. During his final year at the Centre, Cabrera made his small screen debut with a tiny role in the BBC cloak-and-dagger serial, "Spooks," re-titled "M.I.-5" for the U.S. and Canada.
In 2003, Cabrera got his first big break when executive producer Tony Jonas cast the unknown actor in the six-hour miniseries, "Empire," an epic sword-and-sandals period piece set in Rome. In it, Cabrera played young Octavius Caesar, nephew of the recently slain emperor himself, Julius Caesar. Strongly reminiscent of the Oscar-winning Ridley Scott film, "Gladiator" (2000), "Empire" received a lukewarm response from critics. Lambasted for its many historical inaccuracies, "Empire" was also a disappointment in the ratings, drawing less than 6.4 million viewers. Still, the mightily hyped "Empire" succeeded in getting Cabrera's name out there and that was all that mattered for a newcomer.
Three years later, Cabrera returned to television with his showy role on the "superheroes- next-door" drama, "Heroes." Joining a rich ensemble cast of young actors, Cabrera turned heads with his portrayal of Isaac Mendez, the tortured painter with the power of precognition. When the series began, Isaac's power proved to be as much a curse as it was a blessing, due to the maddeningly cryptic nature of his visions. Initially unable to summon his power at will, Isaac originally depended on heroin to trigger his visions. Once his power took hold, Isaac usually entered a deep, trance-like state, whereupon he would begin furiously painting images of future events. As the series progressed, however, Isaac eventually kicked his drug habit and gained the ability to "fine-tune" his visions, much to the relief of the show's fans.
Unfortunately, Isaac's redemption was short-lived, when, near the end of season one, Cabrera's character was murdered by the super-powered serial killer, Sylar (Zachary Quinto). Now free to pursue more work in feature films, he played Cuban leader Fidel Castro's right-hand man, Camilo Cienfuegos, in "Che" (2008) an epic-length biopic starring Benico del Toro as the iconic revolutionary figure, Che Guevara. Television work would remain a staple of his career, however, when Cabrera picked up a recurring role as Sir Lancelot on the U.K.-produced fantasy-adventure series "Merlin" (BBC, 2008- ). Continuing to find opportunities in Europe, Cabrera landed the lead role of a man attempting to reconnect with a group of his old friends over the course of an evening in the Chilean drama "The Life of Fish" (2010). He next played a human competing with an earthbound guardian angel (Julian Rhind-Tutt) for the affections of a beautiful young woman (Kelly Reilly) in the romantic-fantasy "Meant to Be" (2011). Back in Hollywood, Cabrera could be seen with a recurring role in the mystery-adventure series "Alcatraz" (Fox, 2012- ) as well as in the literary biopic "Hemingway & Gellhorn" (HBO, 2012) as famed war photojournalist Robert Capa.
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