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A Class Act: Learn More About Rafael V. DeLeon

Rafael V. DeLeon is an up-and-coming actor known for his roles in the hit shows New Amsterdam, The Breaks and She’s Gotta Have It. He shares his story about family, giving back to the community and working with the legendary Spike Lee in a chat with QG. As a rising star in the industry, he expresses the importance of cultural representation and its unique impact in film. DeLeon’s dreams were realized through hard work and tenacity.   

DeLeon was immersed in the world of performing arts at a young age. His mother took him to auditions and acted in community theater. His grandfather inspired him through his passion for film and instilled in him the importance of a story’s message. Growing up, his grandfather would take him and his cousin to Blockbuster weekly for movie rentals. These experiences ultimately inspired DeLeon to move to New York and pursue an acting career. “I realized that it was really something that I was passionate about, that I wanted to do,” DeLeon states.  

Every influential experience was a stepping stone that would lead him towards something greater in life. A pivotal moment arose in his career when he landed a role in the latest TV show created by Spike Lee. The show’s lead character left a distinctive impression on him. Nola Darling, the protagonist in Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have It, caused DeLeon to reflect on his personal growth, the art of acting, and his career path. He could relate to some of her experiences and describes her as a “Brooklyn creative” and an “artistic go-getter.” “I live in Brooklyn as well, and you know I’m creative and so in many ways, I saw a lot of myself in some of the things she spoke about specifically,” DeLeon explains. Reflecting on Nola and her relationships in the show, DeLeon believes there are aspects of her lifestyle that audiences will find relatable.

She’s Gotta Have It is a comedy-drama TV series based on the 1986 film of the same title. The plot unfolds as the fiercely independent Nola Darling struggles to find a balance between life and love. Alongside DeLeon who co-stars as Manny Graciela, the show features the acting talents of Dewanda Wise, Anthony Ramos, Lyriq Bent, and Cleo Anthony. The series is written and directed by Spike Lee. 

When asked about his feelings regarding the opportunity to be apart of a Spike Lee Production, he stated,“It’s kind of a testament to working hard and how things can happen that may seem unlikely years earlier.” He praises the writers for avoiding some stereotypical aspects of the characters played by Afro Latino and Hispanic actors. Although the characters Mars Blackmon and Manny Garciela are from a similar ethnic background, cultural differences exist, and each man is uniquely defined by his own personality.            

Aside from his acting endeavors, DeLeon gives back to the community by taking part in #Hashtag Lunchbag and Make A Play Organization. Co-founded by Ajay Relan, #Hashtag Lunchbag utilizes social media to generate buzz and bring people together to not only provide food but friendship and support. Volunteers can join a local event or host one in their community worldwide.  As for Make A Play Organization, sportsmanship is used to cultivate character building and enhance life skills. The organization was founded by Sean Brown and Rafael Salazar and has two locations in New York City and Albany, New York.


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