WATCH Magazine: December 2022: Wilmer Valderrama

FOCUS | WILMER VALDERRAMA

IT’S A BRUTAL, HISTORICALLY HOT DAY IN LOS Angeles when Wilmer Valderrama sits down for a talk—so hot that merely walking from the car to the pristine sushi spot he’s chosen would make most of us lose our composure. Yet when Valderrama glides in, wearing a hip AllSaints T-shirt and a cap pulled low over his eyes, he is the very definition of cool and collected—even greeting the server, who remembers him, with the warmth and sincerity of an old childhood friend. It makes sense that he’s so calm and even-keeled, though; with all that’s on his plate, he has to be. As the actor, producer, and media mogul reveals all that’s on his mind, heart, and very busy calendar these days, it’s clear Valder- rama is working to realize a vision—a vision he has of a brand-new world. And when you’re basically functioning as a real-life alchemist, as he is, noth- ing can rattle you—not even the feeling that you’re walking through fire. “I think I have found the groove in how to be as ambitious as I am, with all I have to do,” he says while nibbling on impeccably carved tuna and salmon—the kind of clean, high-protein dish he uses to fuel 15-hour or more workdays. “I’m run- ning a lot of things. Your brain has to be firing on all cylinders.” It’s been seven years since Valderrama became NCIS Special Agent Nicholas Torres, a role that at the time marked a significant shift from what the public thought they knew of him. In his biggest previous role—foreign exchange student Fez on That ’70s Show —Valderrama charmed millions from 1998 to 2006 as a goofy and inappropriately randy misfit with an intentionally ambiguous ethnic background. Fez was not meant to be taken seriously, but behind the scenes Valderrama was much more focused and determined than viewers might’ve known. Born in Miami, he mostly grew up in Venezuela and Colombia before returning to the U.S. at age 13. His experience as an immigrant had a profound impact on him: It still shapes his fierce devotion to family, the lens through which he views his experience as an American, the projects he chooses, everything. Now, heading into NCIS ’ historic 20th season, the 42-year-old has emerged as one of the franchise’s new-school elder statesmen—and a multi-hyphenate ready to

unleash the unique power he’s cultivated over the decades with a dizzying slate of projects and devel- opment initiatives meant to transform Hollywood and the world at large. Most of all, he wants to transform the world his daughter, Nakano Oceana, who’ll be 2 in February, inherits. “I feel like I’m in a very unique position,” he says. “I’m the first one in my family to have the audacity to be what I am now. I get emotional talking about it. It’s not just about self-achievement. It’s about what you’re leaving behind.” He turned down NCIS when first approached. “I was like, ‘It’s number one. They don’t need me. I’d rather go to a place where they really could use me.’” Fortunately for fans, he took a meeting with persis- tent producers who, like him, were looking to collab- orate rather than fit him into a rigid preexisting role. That synergetic spirit was nonnegotiable for Valder- rama; after leaving That ’70s Show , where he was asked for his input and ideas, he worked on projects where he was expected to just read lines. The experi- ence made him unhappy, and he knew he couldn’t

ERDEM suit, Canali turtleneck

NCIS airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and streams on Paramount+

/ cbswatchmagazine.com

NOVEMBER / DECEMBER • 2022

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