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Danny Trejo Went From Being a Prisoner To Movie Star: Here’s a Look Into His Pre-Hollywood Years

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Danny Trejo’s role in “Breaking Bad” was not different from his numerous movie appearances where he portrayed a key character in the world of gangsters and criminality.

Hollywood’s Danny Trejo has made a name for himself, starring in over 100 movies, and half the time, he was cast in fast-action roles. Trejo’s movies are often reminiscent of the mafia lifestyle, which was once his sole identity.

Many years before the Mexican-American took Hollywood by storm, he was a die-hard mobster who lived the life of prey and predators. This led him to prison. Here’s how he pulled through and redefined himself. 

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Danny Trejo in breaking bad
Image: Pinterest

Danny Trejo’s Rough Childhood

The hard lines that trace across Hollywood veteran Danny Trejo’s face were perfect for the TV roles, so much that he did not need extra prep or make-up when he was on set. But away from aesthetics, those hard lines tell the story of a man who was introduced to the rugged life way too early.

Trejo grew up with his parents in California, and his dad was quite the disciplinarian. This played little to no significant role in setting Trejo straight. The young Trejo had an uncle, Gilbert, who was quite lenient with him, and the pair grew closer over time.

Trejo was barely eight when Gilbert introduced him to weed. Gilbert also taught him to fight, and at the age of 12, Trejo got his first heroin shot. With each introduction, the juvenile Trejo sunk into the abyss of crime.

Even before hitting his teenage years, Trejo and his peers were involved in carjacking, drug peddling, and armed robbery. His family thought of a way to curb his burgeoning criminality and sent him off to distant relatives in San Antonio, Texas.

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Trejo returned to his parents after a while, and nothing changed. As a twelve-year-old, the youngster ended up in the juvenile hall, and all his thoughts were that he had no option but to choose a life of crime. 

Danny trejo in breaking bad
A young Danny Trejo. Image: Pinterest

A Life of Crime 

From his teenage years to his young adulthood, Trejo was entrenched into the rough life of illegal dealings. When he was 24 years old, Trejo wound up in San Quentin prison, famous for its death row statistics. 

This was the first time he truly felt fear. Trejo was in prison for eleven years, of which he spent part of it in solitary. In there, Trejo learned the hard way, putting aside his compassion and striving to make it out alive.

His solitary stint in prison happened after he slammed a rock into one of the correctional officers by mistake. This had happened during a prison fight. 

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During that time alone, Trejo retraced his steps, and unknown to him, he honed his acting skills. Being alone in his cell room made the star reminisce on the movies he watched and act out some parts. 

Danny Trejo’s Redemption 

Trejo’s second chance in life was when his jail term ended in the 1960s. The middle-aged man returned to town, engaging in menial jobs to survive. He also became heavily involved in rehabilitation for drug addicts.

His penchant for help led him to a drug addict who changed his life. Although it was rather indirect, Trejo got a call from the recovering addict who said he was at the set of a movie that had to do with cocaine props.

The man feared he would be sucked into the addiction again. Trejo reached out to him by visiting him on the set of “Runaway Train.” Although he did not see the man who called him, Trejo met the movie director, who immediately saw his potential.

Danny was cast in a small role as a convict, and the pay was a refreshing change from his odd jobs. He eventually evolved from there, and action movie fans would come to know Danny Trejo in “Breaking Bad,” “Folsom,” “Death Wish,” “Spy Kids,” and “Machete”, among myriads of others.

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