Lou Diamond Phillips Reveals Which Of His Roles Are Fan Favorites - Exclusive

Lou Diamond Phillips has enjoyed a long, richly diverse and consistently busy career as an actor since the Filipino-American thespian first appeared onscreen in 1984 with an uncredited role as a terrorist in a TV movie called Time Bomb. His big break came in 1987 when he was cast as the doomed Chicano rock and roll pioneer Ritchie Valens in the biopic La Bamba, with Phillips earning raves for his sensitive portrayal of the young singer who died in a plane crash at age 17.

From that point, Phillips' career took off, leading him to featured roles in hit movies like Stand and Deliver, the iconic Western Young Guns and its sequel, Courage Under Fire, and The 33. He's also taken on scores of guest and regular roles on TV series like Miami Vice, 24, Numb3rs, Stargate Universe, Longmire, and most recently, Prodigal Son, a crime drama that begins its second season on Fox on January 12, 2021.

While he's expanded his career into directing and writing (his first novel was published in the fall of 2020), Phillips has managed to accrue some 146 acting credits in his decades on the job. But with that many roles on his resume, which ones remain fan favorites to this day? He answered that question for Looper during our exclusive interview.

From La Bamba to Longmire: different people, different places

Not surprisingly, Phillips tells Looper that he gets asked about different characters he's played depending on the generation of fan he's speaking with — and sometimes where they're from.

"As far as a lot of the roles go, sometimes it's regional," the actor explains. "La Bamba, obviously, that was such a touchstone. The fact that it is still relevant and still speaks to a new audience — I think it was just put back into rotation on Netflix last fall, so an entire generation that hadn't seen it gets to see it again. It's still fresh and it's still new. It didn't feel like a trendy '80s movie. It's timeless in that respect. A lot of people still identify with that."

But Phillips adds that it's another early role — that of Jose Chavez y Chavez, the Spanish-Apache outlaw and member of Billy the Kid's Regulators in Young Guns — that still hits home in a specific part of the United States. "Throughout the South and the Southwest, where I shot Longmire, Young Guns is the thing," he notes. "That's of a generation. A lot of guys my age and a little bit younger looked up to the Regulators. That was such a moment in history, to have all of us together in one film." The 1988 Western also featured Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, and Dermot Mulroney.

Speaking of Longmire, the modern Western drama that ran for six seasons on A&E and Netflix is a popular choice from Phillips' more recent works. "Henry Standing Bear from Longmire is very much loved. There's a massive audience base out there for that," says Phillips. "I'm just fortunate that so many of the roles have spoken to different people and that I wasn't a one-hit wonder."

From La Bamba to Prodigal Son and beyond, it's clear that Lou Diamond Phillips is the very definition of a successful working actor, with a list of characters behind him that have struck a chord with viewers on both the big and small screen for nearly 40 years. The man is no one-hit wonder.

Catch Lou Diamond Phillips in the new season of Prodigal Son on Fox on January 12.