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Growing up in Hollywood was an advantage for Rhenzi Seliz

Luaine Lee, Tribune News Service on

Published in Entertainment News

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- When he was a little boy actor, Rhenzi Seliz attended eight different schools by the time he was in the third grade. His family moved often, he says, as his single mother tried to make ends meet.

"My mom cleaned offices, she was a receptionist at a hair salon, worked in retail -- small little minimum wage jobs," he says. "And she'd do two jobs at a time to pay the bills and put food on the table. I can't thank her enough," he says, seated on a beige frieze couch in a coffee bar here.

"She had me when she was 21, and we were living in New York at the time in the projects. Then we moved to Florida because she hated the cold and didn't want me to grow up in an environment like that. We didn't end up in an amazing place in Florida, but it was better than the Bronx in New York at that time ... And because of her, I had a very good childhood."

It wasn't until his mom married and the family moved to Los Angeles that Seliz even thought about being an actor. When he was 6 he'd enjoyed singing karaoke on stage, but the idea of performing for a living didn't occur to him until he arrived in Hollywood.

"I was playing baseball and so I was doing that for a while, and then I realized, one, I wasn't going to go too far in baseball. I'm 5-10 and weigh a buck-30. Plus I don't have the passion in that I feel I need to do that for the rest of my life. So I'd thought about acting just in my own life, but I'd never put that idea out there," says Seliz, whose parents are Dominican.

"In L.A. -- being that it's not such a weird thing to do out here -- in Florida you start acting, it's 'What? Play a sport, kid.' When I got out here, like, it's one of the cool things to do ... So I jumped into a play my junior year of high school. I loved it."

He loved it so much that he landed an agent and roles in "Casual" and "Teen Wolf." Then an audition for Hulu's "Marvel's Runaways" came up.

They asked Seliz to recite a monologue. Though he'd not prepared a monologue, luckily he'd memorized a piece from "Fences," and that scored the part for him. The adaptation of the comic book by Brian K. Vaughan begins streaming on Hulu Nov. 21. Seliz plays the leader of a group of diverse teenagers who unite when they learn that their parents are super villains.

Seliz, 19, was a sophomore in high school when the family relocated. "We came out here, we didn't have family, friends, a place to stay or a job," he stretches his legs in front of him.

"We just moved into a hotel, put all of our belongings in a truck. And by the time we got to L.A., we'd found a place to stay and we were able to unload our things in the apartment, and my stepfather found a job. So we were able to pay our bills and three weeks later, I was going to Santa Monica High School."

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