‘NCIS’ Star Wilmer Valderrama on What It Means to Play ‘Zorro’ & (Maybe) Reprising Fez
Wilmer Valderrama is having one great year. On the heels of Encanto, the Oscar-winning Best Animated Feature for which he voiced the role of Mirabel’s accident-prone dad Augustin, he learned that NCIS, the CBS crime procedural on which he stars as Nick Torres, was renewed for the 2022-23 season. Now, Valderrama is set to make arguably an even bigger mark in the entertainment industry — playing the title role in the series Zorro for Disney Branded Television.
TV Insider recently chatted with Valderrama on the red carpet at PaleyFest 2022 at the Dolby Theatre — where NCIS was being honored — about taking on the part of Don Diego de la Vega, and his masked alter-ego.
“It was an incredible, incredible year,” says Valderrama, who counts his daughter, Nakano Oceana, turning 1-year-old as a major cause for celebration. The actor says he grew up watching the original 1957-59 Zorro series that starred Guy Williams (Lost in Space) in the title role.
“Guy was this dashing, romantic and adventurous vigilante,” Valderrama recalls. “The series was playing in Venezuela when I was watching TV in Spanish. One day, I told my father when I was just a little boy that I was going to someday be Zorro!”
That dream came true after Valderrama and Disney partnered to revive the series after over 60 years since the original program ended. “I couldn’t stop crying for two days,” the actor says after the deal was finalized. “Not just for what it means for me but what it’s going to mean to the community.”
Does Valderrama recall his father’s response to his dream of playing Zorro? “He said, ‘Okay, Mijo! Very good!” He said okay like it was going to happen.”
While Valderrama has played animated characters, he suspects that taking on the role of Zorro in a live-action series will take him to a new plateau in show biz — among other things, he’ll be made into an action figure! “I’ve been toys for animation before but this is a different level,” he says.
And for the rest of the current season of NCIS, Valderrama previews, “We’re going to bring a very inside look to where [the characters] are and what tolls they’ve [endured]. There’s an episode coming up in the next couple of weeks where you’ll see Torres really struggle.”
Between NCIS, Zorro and, of course, his family, Valderrama’s dance card is fairly full. However, he says if schedules allow, he’ll happily reprise his lovable That ‘70s Show character Fez in the upcoming That ‘90s Show. The comedy series is set to star Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp, who are reprising their roles as Red and Kitty Forman. “I’m a little busy now,” Valderrama says with a grin, “but I support them so much. I’m rooting for them. I wish them nothing but the best. And if the timing is right, I’d never say no.”
NCIS, Mondays, 9/8c, CBS