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The Transformation Of Manny Montana From Childhood To Good Girls

You wouldn't expect fans of a show called "Good Girls" to fawn over a ruthless gangster like Manny Montana's Rio, but he has been a fan favorite since the very first episode, in which three desperate suburbanite moms rob a supermarket unknowingly controlled by his gang. Montana's character then leads the group of women down an even more treacherous path, opting to use them to make more money rather than take revenge. It's often easy to love a bad guy, especially when they are as captivating as Rio and have a face like Manny Montana's. "Good Girls" ran for four seasons until a controversial cancellation left it dead in the water, but Rio remained a beloved character in the fandom, despite fans having to stomp on their morals in order to root for him.

While the show earned Montana a newfound following, the actor had actually been around for a while by the time it came to air, and his background may have helped him aptly portray Rio in a way no one else could have. In honor of the actor who gave the world one of its most loveable rogues of recent memory, we're taking a look at Manny Montana's transformation from childhood right up to his time as one of the main cast members of "Good Girls" and beyond.

He was born and raised in California

Manny Montana is a first generation Mexican American. The actor was born in Long Beach, California and he remained in the Golden State throughout his childhood and into his adult years. The future star was reportedly raised mainly by his aunt and uncle due to his parents working long hours in order to support their young family. They were new to the country and were trying hard to establish themselves in the States. Montana once said that his humble beginnings made acting seem like a goal that was out of reach.

In an interview published on his wife's blog (via The Netline), the Cali native said that a career in acting "seems like something that doesn't happen to the first gen kid whose dad works in a warehouse and whose mom has always had odd jobs. I never imagined this happened to people who came from normal families. Because of that, though, I never shared that I wanted to become an actor with too many people, because it seemed like a far reach to them." Montana didn't pursue his acting dream until he reached adulthood, but his leap of faith was quickly rewarded.

These days, he loves to give advice to kids coming from similar backgrounds. In fact, he believes that they're uniquely qualified for careers in Hollywood. "I feel like every kid, especially from the hood, knows how to act because a lot of us don't want to be hood," he told En Fuego. "We just want to be able to laugh and joke and have fun like we did as kids."

An emerging sports star

While Manny Montana may not have pursued acting in his childhood years, he did excel in a different area. During his time in school he became quite the football star, even getting accepted into Cal State Sacramento on a scholarship due to his skill on the field. His time as an emerging football star was somewhat short-lived, though, as Montana suffered an injury that took him off the team and out of the game. The loss of one passion opened his life up to another, as his injury forced him to adapt to unexpected events and things that were far out of his control.

"I was calling my dad and my mom and I'm crying," Montana told En Fuego when explaining how his injury turned his life upside down. "What's a parent going to do? They're just like, it's going to be okay. You'll find something else to do." The former prospect returned home to Long Beach. When he started to consider chasing another dream, he did what most people do at the beginning of a new adventure — he went to Google and searched for "how to become an actor," according to En Fuego. It was the first step in a journey that would take him from bit parts all the way to the big screen.

A college graduate

Despite his football injury putting a stop to his sports career and his scholarship to Cal State Sacramento, Manny Montana did graduate college with a bachelor's degree. He holds alumni status from California State University Long Beach, where he majored in Journalism and Broadcasting. Despite the degree he holds in the subject, though, he did not wish to pursue a career in communications or anything to do with his major.

"I remember the exact moment," he said in an interview with Schön! Magazine when asked about why he made the apparent U-turn from journalism to acting after graduating. "It was sports journalism that I was interested in and I was having a debate with someone about a game, or a specific athlete... I remember thinking, 'Man, I really don't care about this.' That's when I knew, and I never looked back. I always knew I loved movies and specific actors, so I thought why not follow my gut and at least give it a try."

It wasn't long until he found success in the acting world. Manny Montana graduated in 2006, and his acting credits start two years later with a few TV roles. He has been working in Hollywood regularly ever since.

He was a Los Angeles radio DJ

Montana's first taste of the spotlight came during his time in college when he became a radio DJ for a local station. He got his foot in the door when he secured a spot on the Street Team at Los Angeles' 92.3 The Beat, working his way up over the course of two years. The higher-ups eventually recognized his talent and gave him and his friend Chuck Dizzle an overnight hosting spot. "We were on air and then maybe two months later, the station was sold, so it was again like, oh my God, what do I do with my life now," Montana told En Fuego.

During an appearance on The Angie Martinez Show, Montana revealed that he was so scared about making a mistake after he got his big break in radio. "Terrified," he told Martinez. "You know how it feels when you hit that on button!" Chuck Dizzle still works in radio, which is no small feat. As Montana discussed with Martinez, the radio world is a lot more cutthroat than many people seem to realize. "It's hard," he said.

Five years of one-off roles

Although Manny Montana seemed to find work relatively quickly in the tough world of acting in Hollywood, he mainly secured much smaller roles in the beginning, establishing himself in TV. For around five years Montana landed numerous one-off roles in various shows. His short-lived series credits include shows like "ER," on which he popped up as an orderly, and "Cold Case," in which he played a character named Francisco Ariza, who is suspected of murdering a shopkeeper. He gets killed in an act of revenge, though it turns out it was his brother who committed the crime, not him. He also appeared in minor roles on the likes of "Breakout Kings" and "CSI: New York."

Montana's big break in TV came in 2013 when he secured his first series regular role in "Graceland," starring alongside Aaron Tveit. He's still close with Tveit and the rest of the cast, he revealed during his appearance on The Angie Martinez Show in 2018. "We all got together and had dinner the other night and it was a big reunion," he said. He went on to reveal that while Tveit found that he no longer had to audition for roles because of the success of the show, "it works differently for minority actors." Montana found himself still having to chase parts, which led to smaller roles on the likes of "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "Lucifer."

Breaking taboos

What's it like for a straight actor to play a gay scene? It's a question that Slate magazine asked Manny Montana in 2014, not long after his "Graceland" character kissed Carlito Solano (Erik Valdez), the son of a cartel boss. When Montana received the script for the episode in question and saw that his character (undercover FBI agent Joe "Johnny" Tutturo) was going to lock lips with Carlito, he thought it was a great twist. After all, Johnny had already started a relationship with Carlito's sister Lucia, so it made for great drama. However, he started to get nervous the closer it came to filming. Not because he's homophobic, but because there is "still a taboo" where his parents come from, he told the mag. "I'm first generation in the country — my family's Mexican."

It turned out that his concerns were completely unfounded — his parents supported the idea entirely. "When the idea was brought up to me, I was, like, yeah, that's a great story line, let's do it, and then the week the episode was filmed, I got really scared," he said. "I called my acting teacher, my mom, my dad. They were like, 'Do you like the story? Yes. Do you like the actors? Yes. Do you like the show? Yes. Then do it. There should be no question about it.'" Knowing he had the full support of the people who mattered to him, he was able to commit himself to the scene and turn in a great performance. There was one thing he wasn't prepared for, however. "Erik has a beard. He has stubble. My first thought afterward was, 'How the hell do women deal with that?'"

He married the love of his live(s)

Between his football injury and the radio station closing in his young adulthood, it seems like the universe cleared a path for Manny Montana's stardom. While this might be true, the star himself would probably say it was more likely that his life was lining up to meet his wife Adelfa Marr. He seems to be head over heels in love with his significant other, who he married in 2016 and seemingly had a child with around the same time — not too much is known about their son, who they are very private about.

Montana expressed his deep love for Marr in an Instagram post, saying, "I married her in our past life, our present, and will find her again in our next." Marr is a life coach and mentor who has apparently been quite the positive influence and source of happiness for the star. In an interview for Marr's own website (via The Netline), Montana raved about their relationship. "I'm married to my best f****** friend. She's my f****** rock. It's so funny man, you always wish you find that ideal marriage, whatever that means to you, and you want it but in the back of your mind you think it's far-fetched. I found that s***, man."

Good Girls fans want a Rio spin-off

Despite being the baddest guy on "Good Girls," Manny Montana was pretty much instantly loved by fans. The relationship between his character Rio and Christina Hendricks' Beth is a swoon worthy one, and fans seemingly revel in the typical plot format being flipped on its head: The good guys are actually the antagonists of the series, and the villain is the one we're rooting for.

This interesting layout and the way fans appeared to cling to the bad boy turned mentor spurred on the idea that a spin-off featuring the villainous character would be pretty desirable. Reddit users took to the online forum to discuss the watchability of such a project, even though it's not likely that one would ever come about. Some fans in the thread claim that Rio is the only reason they watched the series at all, but others claim they wouldn't want to watch a spin-off that didn't also include Beth and their unlikely romance.

Why Good Girls viewers love the bad guy so much

Manny Montana's "Good Girls" character is so intensely adored that fans have done a deep dive on the character and examined just what it is about Rio that makes him so desirable and attractive to them. Reddit users discussed and analyzed Rio, saying that while simply looking at a photo of Manny Montana as Rio wouldn't get such a reaction from them, seeing him on screen as the character absolutely does.

Fans on the online forum seemed to have come to the conclusion that it is his bad boy status (some likened him to Jess from "Gilmore Girls") combined with what they have widely coined as his "swagger" that has given Rio such a huge attractiveness. Other attributes mentioned include his voice, the way he looks at Beth, his tattoos, and his intelligence mixed with his confident attitude. No matter what the reasoning, though, it's clear that fans see him as a sex symbol in the show.

He knows his worth

What the uninitiated might not know is that "Good Girls" was actually greenlit for a fifth season at one point. The cancellation that came after the renewal was confusing for fans, but soon after this came claims that it was Manny Montana who was behind the collapse of the series. It was said that NBC couldn't move forward with the promised fifth season due to financial concerns. According to TV Line (who quote an unnamed NBC insider as their source), all three leading ladies in the series agreed to take pay cuts in order to make a fifth season work, but Manny Montana refused to do so.

While this has never been confirmed, viewers seem to have taken it as fact — but whose side are they on? Fans of the actor have defended him staunchly, placing the blame on the network. Reddit users don't seem to blame Montana, even if the rumors of him denying a pay cut are true. The general consensus is that the huge network should have recognized that "Good Girls" had a big fanbase and that execs shouldn't have asked any of the stars to take pay cuts, not just Montana. No matter the final factor in the decision to cancel "Good Girls," it was still a sad day when fans got deprived of more of the series.

A film star in the making

Manny Montana was active on "Good Girls" for its entirety, from 2018 to 2021. During this time, the actor was also getting into other projects and building his acting portfolio. While he mainly worked on TV projects before his time on "Good Girls," Montana landed a few film roles while he was still acting as Rio for the series. He appeared alongside and under the direction of the great Clint Eastwood in 2018's "The Mule," which was apparently a great experience for the film newcomer. "I already looked up to him, but after I met him he became a hero of mine," Montana said in an interview with Celeb Mix. "I want to be as in love with my job as he is when I'm his age."

The actor also played an important role in 2020's "I Hate the Man in My Basement." The audience reviews are pretty mixed, but most viewers agree the film is very well acted. Despite the mixed signals viewers give, the mystery movie holds an impressive 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. According to The Independent Critic, Montana is one of the best parts. "Manny Montana is another example of someone who takes what could have so easily been a one-note role and turns it into something completely and utterly compelling and unforgettable," reads the website's review. "He takes someone who could so easily be an undesirable human being and transforms him into a complex, compelling human being."

A Marvel-ous future

Manny Montana's roles to date have set him up for a great future in acting. He might not be a huge name just yet, but if there's one thing that will put you on the Hollywood map these days, it's joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. According to Deadline, Montana has been cast as a series regular in the Marvel and Disney+ series "Ironheart." While details about his character are being kept under wraps, it looks like Montana will play a central role in the upcoming series.

The MCU is steadily growing thanks to the addition of numerous Marvel shows, and "Ironheart" will be one of the first new series to be introduced in Marvel's highly anticipated Phase 5. The series also brings more diversity to the MCU — Black actor Dominique Thorn leads the line as teenage inventor Riri Williams, who crafts her own Iron Man-style suits of armor. Manny Montana has been open about the importance of representation, inclusion, and diversity in the projects he works on, so this would seem to be a great fit and a huge boost to his career.