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Young Actor's Goals Rise as His TV Role Expands

April 18, 1991|MARY ANNE PEREZ | SPECIAL TO NUESTRO TIEMPO

A 14-year-old actor and singer from East Los Angeles has made it to prime time and hopes to continue progressing in the entertainment business.

Rigoberto Jimenez Jr., a ninth-grader at Belvedere Junior High School, plays a character named Rigo on the ABC sitcom "Davis Rules," starring Randy Quaid and Jonathan Winters.

Rigo's character--the producers liked his real name so much they kept it for the show--is a student in an ethnically diverse school. The principal, played by Quaid, converses haphazardly with Rigo and other students in a variety of languages.

"I told them I'd be glad to speak (some) Spanish" on the show (Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 7), Rigo said.

In a recent episode, Rigo courted a young girl by singing the popular "Unchained Melody" and surprising many people with his talent. He said his agent received several calls the following day from film studios and others in the entertainment business.

Ellen Falcon, the show's director, said Rigo's part was originally to have been one of the many students at the culturally diverse school. His audition, however, impressed Falcon and others with the show so much that they decided to make Rigo a main character. They cast him as a neighbor who is a close friend of the principal's son.

"He just has an unbelievably wonderful quality," said Falcon. "If we had a thousand kids (reading for the part), he would have stood out."

She said it has not been determined whether Rigo's credit, which is now at the end of the show, will be moved to the beginning with the other main characters.

Rigoberto has been singing in public since he was 3 years old and he performed at Belvedere, said his oldest sister, Marta. Rigoberto's parents, who came from Mexico 20 years ago, obtained scholarships for their son to train with private teachers.

Rigo has sung in choirs and studied music composition and drama in programs offered by the Los Angeles Unified School District. He also belongs to the California Children's Choir, which practices three times a week at USC.

A song that he wrote is being produced commercially. Rigo also recently recorded his favorite Mexican ballads, a move inspired by his father, who feared that his voice would change soon, Rigo said.

After landing acting jobs in commercials for Coca-Cola ClasT and the Metro Rail Blue Line, Rigo continued to act in community theater, including a play last summer at Plaza de la Raza.

Other members of his family, including his brother Gabriel, 11, and sister Angelica, 15, sing and have started acting. Those two siblings will be featured in an upcoming series on Channel 58, the Los Angeles Unified School District TV channel.

Rigo and the cast of "Davis Rules" still do not know whether the network will extend the show for another season. In the meantime, he attends school and enjoys the fame that the show has brought him. Recently, some seventh-grade students interrupted a math test he was taking to get his autograph.

He hopes to continue singing and acting and would also like to explore other subjects.

"I'd like to be a director and a lot of things. And I'm thinking of becoming a doctor," he said, ". . . to fall back on."

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