Ray Garcia:

A Young Star's Journey Blending Passion, Purpose, and Performance

By Guillaume Jean Lefebvre

Mateo Ray Garcia, professionally known as Mateo Ray, is a rising talent with a name that bridges English and Spanish, reflecting the rich cultural tapestry of his family. Born in Walnut Creek, CA, his formative years unfolded in the picturesque setting of Santa Barbara County. Currently residing in Orcutt, CA, at the age of 10, Mateo is already leaving an indelible mark on the world.

Mateo's journey into the world of entertainment began at the tender age of four when a professional photoshoot sparked his passion for modeling and acting. This early interest paved the way for him to delve into writing and directing his own short films, demonstrating a creative spirit beyond his years. An encounter with sustainable fashion early in his career heightened his awareness of environmental issues, inspiring him to advocate for sustainable practices in the fashion industry.

In addition to his artistic pursuits, Mateo faced a health challenge at the age of six when diagnosed with epilepsy. This experience instilled in him a deep appreciation for the uniqueness of each individual and a commitment to promoting love and respect for everyone, regardless of their differences.

Mateo's dedication to his craft is evident in his extensive training, including individual and group acting classes since the age of six. His passion for acting is complemented by writing and directing, as showcased in his own short films. His professional journey, which began with notable projects like a commercial with the SF Giants and a feature film at the age of five, has evolved into a diverse portfolio of films, commercials, and print projects.

Currently a fifth-grade student at Ralph Dunlap Elementary School, Mateo aspires to attend film school at UCLA in the future. Key moments in his professional career include obtaining his SAG card at the age of six and hosting the premiere of his first feature film in his hometown. Notably, he was nominated for three awards at the Young Artists Academy Awards, winning Best Actor in a short film, a moment that stands out as a testament to his peers' recognition of his talent.

Mateo approaches his work methodically, delving into scripts with a focus on understanding the character's motivations and behaviors. His proudest achievement is not only winning the Best Actor award but also the impact his performance had in the short film "The Daily War," shedding light on the challenges faced by a female veteran with PTSD, homelessness, and the responsibility of raising a child.

Balancing professional commitments with his personal life is a priority for Mateo and his parents. Despite his burgeoning career, Mateo continues to embrace a typical childhood, participating in sports, music, martial arts, and academic activities. He values both his professional achievements and the simple joys of being a kid.

Looking ahead, Mateo is currently engaged in filming a sci-fi dystopian motion picture, marking a significant milestone in his career. His future goals include continuing to portray characters that contribute to his personal and artistic growth, along with aspirations to direct and produce. Through his work, Mateo aims to radiate passion, joy, and a commitment to making the world a better place, leaving an enduring positive impact on those who encounter his artistry.


1. Your name, Mateo Ray Garcia, has a unique blend of English and Spanish influences. How does this cultural fusion reflect your personal identity and artistic expression?

My dad is half Spanish and half Mexican. My mom is mostly Scottish and British. When I was born, my paternal great-grandparents only spoke Spanish. My mom’s dad lives in Mexico. I was born and live in California. My name easily moves between these worlds, and so do I. My personal identity and artistic expression are rooted in being able to be uniquely who I am and in celebrating the unique attributes of every individual. Everyone is special, exactly the way they are. I feel like my name is special and helped set me up to appreciate uniqueness.

2. Growing up in Santa Barbara County, what aspects of the local environment and community have shaped your worldview and influenced your creative endeavors?

We live in such a special place. The California central coast is really magical. The beaches, the lakes, the hills. We are lucky to live in a place other people choose to visit on vacation. But, also, we live surrounded by fields and vineyards and are reminded every day how the earth feeds and nurtures us all. We have enough space to have chickens, and a large garden and several kinds of fruit trees. So, we can even raise some of our own food. The landscapes around us are beautiful, but the land also sustains us. We should appreciate it more and take better care of the planet Earth.

3. At the age of four, you discovered your passion for modeling and acting during a professional photoshoot. How did that early experience shape your perception of the entertainment industry, and how has your passion evolved since then?

When I decided I wanted to act and model, I didn’t really understand what it all was. I just loved being on camera. I loved pretending. I loved being part of creating. So, this is what I learned to think about the industry—that it was about being creative, telling stories, pretending, bringing art to life. I still think that is what it is about. But, I have also learned since then that it is a business. Sometimes the art gets lost in the business part. I try to stay focused on the creative side of it all.

4. You've ventured into writing and directing your own short films. Can you share the inspiration behind this creative expansion and how it has impacted your artistic expression?

During the last 7 years of movies, commercials, and photo shoots, I have seen all sorts of directors do things their own ways. You can tell when they have a specific vision and keep working until they capture it on film. That is why I want to write and direct films. To be able to take a story that is in my head and capture it in a way that other people can experience my vision. To be able to do it my way. To let other people see what I see in my head.

Photographer: Rodney Ray - @Rrayimages
Kid Model/Actor: Mateo Ray - @Mateoray_officialStylist: - Christopher & Sarah Garcia
Upcycled Clothing Designer: Clementina Martinez-Masarweh for DNA Sustainable Threds @DNAthreds

Clothes: DNA Sustainable Threds - Thrifted by Ring of Fire, Gap, Top Heavy Clothing, Lands’ End, REI Co-Op, Armani Jeans, Sonoma
Pants: DNA - Thrifted Phat Farm, Old Navy, Levi Strauss & Co., Old Navy
Shorts: DNA - Thrifted Cobra PUMA Golf
Glasses: SAVVYND Eyewear & Nike Eyewear
Hats: Roxy by Kate Bosworth, Ballcap - Jinx, INC
Tie: DNA….thrifted Banana Republic
Shoes: Adidas, Cat & Jack, Dadawen
Socks: Zeke
Skateboard: Quest Longboard

5. Your involvement with a sustainable fashion designer early in your career highlights your commitment to environmental awareness. How do you integrate sustainability into your personal life and professional choices, and what message do you hope to convey to your audience through this commitment?

Fast fashion is everywhere in the entertainment industry. It seemed almost expected to buy a new outfit for a big audition, several new outfits every six months for new headshots, always needing to be wearing the newest trends for meetings, go-sees, and events. Add in premieres, festivals, red carpets, and award shows and the impact is enormous, and that is without even discussing wardrobe for projects. There is so much unnecessary waste.

I have tried to limit my impact on the environment in several ways. As you mentioned, I work with a sustainable fashion designer to dress me for events using upcycled fashion and fabrics. I also encourage my parents to shop for interviews, auditions, and headshot clothing at thrift stores. I take my own wardrobe choices along to sets to encourage the wardrobe departments to use clothes I already own instead of purchasing new items. I also try to take my own toys and props. And I try to speak out about my thoughts on our need to take better care of our planet. I also participate in Earth Day events every year.

6. Being diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of six must have been a significant challenge. How has this health journey influenced your perspective on diversity, empathy, and the importance of appreciating everyone for who they are?

It has helped me remember that everyone is different and special. Our differences make us interesting. I have had a couple of friends who have autism. I have a friend on my soccer team who is deaf. My dad has PTSD and a TBI from military combat. My mom and GiGi have autoimmune conditions. My cousin is an adult and she also has epilepsy. We had a dog with epilepsy. People are all different. These things aren’t problems; they're just differences. And we should all be loved and included for being exactly who we are.

7. Balancing a burgeoning acting career with a typical childhood involving school, sports, and music is no small feat. How do you manage this balance, and what role do your parents play in supporting both aspects of your life?

My parents are amazing. They support all of my crazy interests. Whether it’s acting classes, a new musical instrument I want to try, student council elections, math club, karate, flag football, or anything else I want to try, my parents support me 100%. I am very lucky in that way because I get to try everything and see what I like. But, it also means every day I have 1-3 extra activities outside of school, plus auditions and jobs. Sometimes it is hard to be so busy. But, when I need a break, we take a break and then get back to it. Fortunately, I am busy doing a whole lot of things I really love. What could be better than that?

8. Your academic pursuits include being a fifth-grade student at Ralph Dunlap Elementary School. How do you envision the intersection of your education and your passion for filmmaking, especially with aspirations to attend film school at UCLA in the future?

I really like school. I enjoy learning new things and understanding complicated concepts, including the process of making movies. I want to study it all, learn it all, and understand it all.

9. Winning the Best Actor award at the 2022 Young Artists Academy Awards for "The Daily War" is a remarkable achievement. Can you share the emotional journey of portraying a character with such personal significance and the impact you hope the film has on its audience?

This was a very special project, and playing Bo was an emotional roller coaster. But that made it feel real. Bo was excited about a trip to the beach, mad when his mom broke a promise, scared when things went wrong, confused when his mom made mistakes. Those things felt real. So, I tried to make Bo real. I hope that the audience can connect with Bo and his experiences. And I hope that everyone can see that life is complicated. A mom struggling with PTSD, keeping a job and a place to live with her kid, she wasn’t a bad person. She needed help. They both did. And I hope people watching the movie think about how we can all help each other more.

10. As you embark on your most significant project to date, a sci-fi dystopian motion picture, how do you approach the challenges of portraying a character with depth and heart in a genre that often explores complex themes? What do you hope audiences take away from this upcoming project?

Whenever I am preparing for a new role, I spend time thinking about and creating the character. This particular role involves a kid who has experienced some really hard things but has also been sheltered in a lot of ways. It is a fun combination to play because there is a sense of wonder every time he sees something new but also a maturity on some hard topics. So, I get to play the hard and soft together, strong but innocent, tough but also eager. And the audience gets to see the story and understand the complexities through his eyes. I hope the audience can enjoy the story and also think about how we treat each other and what kind of future we are building toward.


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