EW Staff
July 06, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

I wanted to be a New York cop, and then I got bit by the acting bug. I thought I would give it a shot until I was 30. If nothing happened, I could still be eligible for the police academy. I almost didn’t get CHiPs [at 27] because I had done seven years of bad-boy Hispanic roles — I shot a priest on Hawaii Five-0. CHiPs‘ creator said, ”Let’s screen-test you.” The uniform neutralized me, and I was able to turn Poncherelli, [scripted as] an Italian American, into Poncherello, the first Hispanic cop on network television.

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