Like José, Cortes lived and fought in Iraq and says that this has helped him embody the character.
“I have gone through some experiences where if I was to live was the question,” Cortes told Fox News Latino. “I tried to bring into the role what I felt in those moments, in those seconds, when I really wasn’t sure if I was going to see Mami and Papi when I got back home.”
The emotionally charged play debuts on Thursday, at the Poet’s Den Theater in New York City and is being directed by “Law & Order” actress Angelica Torn.
“She comes from the Actors Studio and she is such a legacy,” Cortes said. “She’s really added quite a bit to the show. Angelica brings out a certain realism that I thought the musical initially didn’t have.
“The really dramatic points were not as dramatic as I envisioned them initially,” he added. “I felt that some of the situations that José was going through could have been more rooted in realism, and Angelica somehow… she reaps magic.”
Cortes says that he wants the audience to realize and believe that “there is hope in love.”
“You can go through an arduous and incredible moment in your life,” said Cortes. “But if your heart is genuine and you truly love, you don’t always have to question that. We always hear the negatives but there are incredible success stories within love and José goes through it and in the end he wins.”
For those veterans, like himself, Cortes hopes that this production will encourage them to find what they love to do in life and chase it zealously.
“Whatever that thing may be that you obsess about, that’s the thing that you whole-heartedly have to pursue,” Cortes said.
“There are too many downs and not always that many ups. And it's in those moments when you are down and questioning that that healthy obsession will get you through it," he added. "For me that’s what acting has become.”