Victor Rasuk is excited to be back on Manhattan’s Lower East Side after a late-night flight from L.A. Not only did he grow up here, but the Dominican-American actor’s Hollywood rise has largely been set against the backdrop of L.E.S.--first with his 2002 breakout roll in Raising Victor Vargas, a film about a Dominican teen growing up in the community, and now almost 10 years later as the co-star of HBO’s How to Make It in America. His persistent and wide-eyed character Cam Calderon mirrors Rasuk’s own hustle to create a name for himself while not forgetting where he comes from. NBC strolled the neighborhood with Rasuk to find out his favorite spots, and why he says he’ll always come back home.
Why do you come back to the Lower East Side now that you live in L.A.?
I hang out in the Lower East Side because I’m from here. My family is here and all my friends are here. Every time I come here I always get a sense of what’s real in life. I feel like when I come here all the little things about the Lower East Side remind me of who I am. New Yorkers always have a place that they consider their own and the Lower East Side is that for me.
In the 1960’s the Lower East Side was popular with artist and musicians, do you still feel that vibe here?
You had artists like Basquiat and Andy Warhol taking the streets of the Lower East Side and if you’re looking in the right places you’ll still see that here. As a young kid I was always inspired because anywhere I went in this neighborhood there was something artistic happening, like the painters lined up in Tompkins Square Park. I definitely feel that the Lower East Side is the reason why I became an actor.
Why do people love the Lower East Side? What are they missing?
I think people love the Lower East Side because they see how diverse it is, they see that there are families and people from all different backgrounds living in one place. You know the neighborhood is not that big, so I think people really love watching and being a part of that. And there is a sense of community in the Lower East Side. I think what they are missing though, is that back in the day you know the Lower East Side wasn’t the nicest place to be. I grew up when squatters were still occupying most of 9th Street, 4th Street, and 2nd Street. I miss the part of New York that has that grungy feel to it. The Lower East Side had that.
What does a good day in the Lower East Side look like?
SEE THE VIDEO ABOVE
Usually I would get up to my favorite spot, Café Pick Me Up. Get a little Cafecito. Come over to Tompkins Square Park see who is shooting hoops. Maybe I’ll shoot around get a few games going - Maybe a little three on three. And maybe later in the afternoon get a little wine at my favorite spot Il Bagatto. Wind down on the day. Hang out with a few homies out there. And then get maybe a few grilled calamari. Then, hit the nightlife.. (laughing)
Production Assistance By
Juan Alberto DeJesus