Taylor Making: From the Kissing Booth to Instagram, rising star Taylor Zakhar Perez shouts out for equity

By Joseff Musa
Feb 08, 2024

In the vast landscape of Hollywood, certain individuals possess the talent and drive to capture our attention and leave a lasting impact. Taylor Zakhar Perez, a rising star, has emerged as one such individual, captivating audiences with his acting prowess and using his celebrity platform to advocate for social causes close to his heart.

Born on Christmas Eve 1991, in South Chicago Heights, Illinois, into a family of Mexican, Middle Eastern and Eastern European ancestry, Taylor discovered his passion for the performing arts at a young age. Raised in a supportive environment that nurtured his creativity, he participated in school plays and local theatre productions. After completing high school, where he excelled at swimming, the budding thespian pursued his dreams and enrolled at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles, where he honed his acting skills and laid the foundation for his future career.

Kissing Tell

“Failure wasn’t an option,” says Zakhar Perez today of his decade-plus journey through Hollywood. Now 31, the actor moved away from his seven siblings in the Midwest to attend UCLA – in part so he could moonlight as an assistant at creative agency Art Department, where his uncle worked at the time. That was in addition to a few other gigs and, of course, attending class.

“I was working three or four jobs at one time: school, Art Department, production assisting, acting classes, and I was also a cater-waiter,” he says. “I didn’t move to Hollywood to not do what I wanted to do.”

It was in the second part of Netflix’s high-school romantic comedy series The Kissing Booth that Zakhar Perez made his big screen debut as Marco Peña, the dreamy, muscular and gifted “snack” that Elle (Joey King) calls him. Fans of the first film had launched co-stars King and Jacob Elordi into superstardom seemingly overnight, and Zakhar Perez received similar treatment. Within hours of The Kissing Booth 2’s release in 2020, he had more than four million Instagram followers. He was blown away by the response.

“I think my Instagram glitched, and my DMs [direct messages] still don’t work!” he exclaimed shortly after, highlighting the seeming absurdity of his instant appeal. “I try to delete them, I’ve talked to Instagram like, ‘Hey, I think these DMs are breaking my phone. It just glitches all the time.’ And they’ve tried to do it, but they still come in hot.”

His charismatic portrayal of the charming and confident Marco garnered critical acclaim and quickly endeared him to audiences worldwide. The following year he reprised his role in The Kissing Booth 3, solidifying his status as a rising star in the industry.

Honour Colour

Zakhar Perez is not only known for his talent but also for his unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community. Since entering show business, he has expressed his commitment to creating an inclusive and accepting society. “Love knows no boundaries, and it’s high time we embrace and celebrate the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community,” he notes. “Acceptance is the first step towards building a society where everyone feels seen, heard and loved.”

As a vocal and highly visible advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, he has actively participated in events and initiatives that promote equality and understanding. He says: “As an actor, I believe it’s crucial to use my platform to amplify voices that are often marginalised. Supporting the LGBTQ+ community is not only a moral obligation, but it’s also about creating a more compassionate and inclusive world.”

In addition to his support for the LGBTQ+ community, Zakhar Perez is a champion of mental health awareness. Recognising the importance of destigmatising mental health struggles, he has openly discussed his own experiences and encouraged open conversations about mental well- being. His dedication to raising awareness and promoting self-care serves as an inspiration to many.

Movies and Movements

Zakhar Perez is always moving forward. Having two successful films in quick succession under his belt, he was keen to take riskier steps in his career and continue to develop as an artist. “I’m inspired to lead more, inspired to throw myself in with talented people who are better than me. I just wanna learn it all,” he said at the time.

His guest role as a firefighter and potential raunchy cover star in HBO Max’s female-driven, female-created show Minx (2022) allowed him to do just that. The unconventional rom-com was greatly altered by this series set in the 1970s about the launch of an erotic magazine for women.

Zakhar Perez was thrilled to work with comedy great Jake Johnson of New Girl fame, who played one of the show’s leads.

His most recent film role sees him playing the co-lead. In the Amazon romantic comedy Red, White and Royal Blue, he is the gay son of the US president who falls for a prince of England – another character that casts him in a different light to his legion of adoring fans.

For him, life lessons aren’t limited to the big screen and cameras. He actively seeks to use his stardom to inform people about critical subjects, particularly in this era of performative ‘repost culture’. He has personally and consciously explored the topic of environmental challenges on his Instagram.

“I really like digging my heels into one social issue and being like, ‘This is what I know. This is what I’m learning,’” he says. “And maybe the people that follow me will have read everything along the way and understood it.”

And he’s all about practising what he preaches. “I’m trying to figure out composting. I’m trying to figure out a garden and chickens,” he laughs. “I’ll be that crazy chicken dad!”

Zakhar Perez’s background, career and advocacy works reflect his multifaceted, multicultural nature as an actor and individual. Through his talent, authenticity and dedication, he has positioned himself as a role model for future generations of actors and as a rising star with a passion for making a difference in the world. As his journey continues, audiences can anticipate witnessing his growth and impact both on and off the screen.

However, he may need a chicken-sitter when he’s away on long shoots, which is what he plans to do, keeping an open mind to wherever his next move will take him.