Directed & Photographed by: Mark Lim
Styled by: Sean Knight
Written by: 
Todd Plummer

“Failure wasn’t an option,” says actor Taylor Zakhar Perez of his decade-plus-long journey through Hollywood. The actor, 31, moved away from his seven siblings in the Midwest to attend UCLA—in part so he could moonlight as an assistant at creative agency Art Department, where his uncle worked at the time. That was in addition to a few other gigs and, of course, attending class. “I was working three or four jobs at one time: school, Art Department, production assisting, acting classes, and I was also a cater waiter,” says Perez. “I didn’t move here to not do what I wanted to do.”

Perez has all the makings of a Hollywood heartthrob: a solid work ethic, an undeniably magnetic charm and a passing resemblance to a young Cary Grant (so says his grandmother). And if that isn’t enough to get you swooning, he’s also a man of character who cares deeply about social and environmental issues. Don’t expect this bright star to gravitate towards fame for fame’s sake (he’s worked too hard for that). Perez knows full well the power of the platform onto which he’s about to step. The only question is: what will he do next?

Only Natural Diamonds: You recently visited a diamond mine in Botswana. What did you learn there?

Taylor Zakhar Perez: I visited the Karowe Diamond Mine in Botswana. It’s female-led and 99% of its employees are from Botswana. But the really cool thing is the mine works to provide lasting and sustainable benefits in the communities. Not only does the mine support the people who are working in the mine, but it supports the communities around the mine in terms of education, roads and infrastructure. Using the minerals they own to develop their country is incredible—and they’re taking a large amount of these profits and investing them into the country and the people. Revenue from diamond mining contributes to a school system providing free primary education to every child in Botswana.

OND: That must have been such a great lesson in sustainability.

TZP: Yes, sustainability—but real sustainability. Not a company using the color green to make it seem like they’re sustainable. There is so much greenwashing out there. Sustainability starts with social sustainability. With the people.

OND: What did you learn from that trip?

TZP: Do your own research, and don’t believe everything you see on TikTok. Start asking “why,” again. We’re in a position where a lot of information has become democratized and open-sourced; it’s for everyone. It’s up to us to want to know more.

OND: Tell us about where you grew up.

TZP: It’s the duality of growing up in Chicago but also growing up in Northwest Indiana. We grew up on the Southside of Chicago, a very urban, multicultural, dangerous place, but that’s where my mom and dad’s families grew up. Then we moved to Northwest Indiana which had horses, cows and cornfields. So, I had this duality of city life grounded in country life.


OND: Did you come from a creative family?

TZP: I have seven siblings, but oddly enough, I didn’t. The only creative in my family was my grandmother on my dad’s side. She loved Hollywood, old films and she always said I reminded her of Cary Grant. As a kid I was like, “I don’t know who that is,” and now as an adult, I’m like, “Oh, a great actor, thank you!” My dad was enamored by Hollywood but never had the luxury of exploring the arts because he had his first kid at 17 and took over my grandfather’s auto body shop. My parents always brought the arts and theater around us because they didn’t have it as kids. My dad always had a sparkle in his eye when it came to shows. He would become the consummate coach in anything. I chose sports that he didn’t play because I didn’t want his notes. That’s why I chose swimming in school—my dad doesn’t know how to swim to this day. I did musical theater, and he has no idea about musical theater. That’s my relationship with my dad. You kind of want to do stuff yourself.


I love projects that are emotionally connected and that will maybe change the way people look at something for the rest of their life.

OND: Do you accept your dad’s notes now?

TZP: When it comes to business things, nobody knows business better than my dad. He’s a self-made entrepreneur. When he stops making deals, that’s when he’ll die because that’s what keeps him going. He lit my fire when it came to being your own business person and advocating for yourself… Nobody is going to fight harder for you than you.


OND: Has your family dynamic shifted now that you’re in the public eye?

TZP: It hasn’t changed. I have a really big family. We recently lost my oldest sister, so I’m at a place in my life where the importance of everything has shifted. Family is most important to me. Yesterday, I was on the phone with my sister, and then my little brother called, so I brought him in, and my [other] sister was also at my place, so all four of us were on the phone strategizing for family trips: Thanksgiving, birthdays. My sister said, “You kind of went MIA for ten years and now you’re talking to everybody!”

OND: What do you think was the most valuable thing you did during that period?

TZP: For me, when people ask me how I “did it,” or what the journey was like, I say: get a group of friends you trust, get into class and work your butt off and be crazy honest with each other. There are no other options. Failure is not an option. You have to make your own opportunities.

OND: What about acting fulfills you?

TZP: Being able to tell stories that move people and change people’s perceptions. I travel around the world for work, and wherever I am, people come up to me and tell me how my characters have influenced them and made them feel. I go to Mexico and kids are like, “I see myself in you and you’re my favorite character.” I think that’s the most fulfilling thing. I love projects that are emotionally connected and that will maybe change the way people look at something for the rest of their life.


OND: What is your most treasured possession?

TZP: Anything sentimental. Anything that when I glance down it reminds me of my family. I have this diamond bracelet that I got for my 30th birthday, and I have this stainless-steel ring that used to be my mom’s that I wear on my middle finger.

Photographer/Director: Mark Lim
Creative Production: Petty Cash Production

Fashion Editor: Sean Knight

Executive Producer: Lizzy Oppenheimer

Director of Photography: Ricardo Fernandes

Bookings Editor: Glynis Costin

Postproduction: Modern Post

Video Editor: Garrett Tezanos

Colorist: Taylor Schafer

Post Producer: Meagan Sullivan

Sound Composer: Mark Lim

1st Assistant Camera: Sean Kisch

2nd Assistant Camera: Mike Panczenko

Lighting Director: Christian “Bummy” Koepenick

Lighting Assistants: Dom Ellis, Jordie Turner

Senior Producer: Anthony Federici

Production Manager: Vincenzo Dimino

Sound Recording: Boris Krichevsky

VO Actor: Ed Kelly 

Grooming: Jamie Taylor

Production Coordinator: Rachel Oliver

Production Assistants: Jake Wilson, Gage Gaubert, Brendan Barlow, Bridget Grant, & Emma Mortimer

Fashion Assistant: Cameron Greene 

Tailor: KK Cheng