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'Southland' honored for hiring homeboys

By Sonali Kohli
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, at 09:24AM
Courtesy of Homeboy Industries

Southland's executive producer, Christopher Chulack, accepted the Homeboy Media Award on Saturday night.



In one episode of the TV show “Southland,” , the character Leprechaun, accused of killing a police officer, talks about wanting to see his son born.

For actor Richard Cabral, who played Leprechaun, the dialogue wasn’t too far from his own experience.

“That just hit home right there, just thinking about my daughter,” Cabral said. “People who grew up in gangs, we do have kids. We are dads, we are sons.”

A former gang member and father of two, Cabral was in and out of prison until 2008, when he found a job at Homeboy Industries. The East Los Angeles-based organization provides services to former gang members, including helping them find and maintain jobs.

Homeboy honored "Southland" at an event last weekend, for taking an honest look at gangs in Los Angeles and providing 60 to 70 jobs a season for homeboys and homegirls.

“Their stories cover not just bad guys and good guys, but go beyond that and show the sad, tragic inevitability of gangs,” said Homeboy event coordinator Melissa Savage.

Casting directors approached Homeboy to add authenticity to the show, which focuses on police and gangs in Los Angeles, said Jennifer Bender, vice president of Central Casting.

“Their goal was to get the most realistic portrayal,” Bender said. “So we reached out to the real deal.”

Cabral now lives in Whittier, but he grew up in Montebello in East Los Angeles, and his younger cousins are still involved in gangs, he said. His family has been involved in gangs since the 1970s. It’s a way of life that results in death or prison for some, but others simply grow out of gang life and move on to have families and get jobs, Cabral said.

He sees his acting career as a way to show his younger family the possibility for a different life, one where they don't have to constantly look over their shoulders, or see a cop and worry about going to jail, he said.

It’s no use to try and talk family out of gangs, Cabral explained. The only thing that works is living a successful life himself, and being there to help when they are ready.

“Yea, (my cousins) are involved in gangs and yea I wish they weren’t, but it is what it is,” Cabral said. “I’m hoping through the things I’m involved in, they’ll see something.”

Cabral has been taking acting classes since he started in "Southland," and he’s appeared in a number of shows and movies, including the 2011 film “A Better Life.”

As Cabral’s acting career grows, he wants to gain enough success to help others from his community, and his family, once they decide to leave gang life.

“How I see it is I’m always going to be involved with gangs,” Cabral said. “Because if you come from this and you become successful, how can I not give back to where I came from?”

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