Lou Diamond Phillips is at Sundance for the first time
Published: January 19, 2012 05:01PM
Updated: January 19, 2012 12:20PM
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Australian actor Robert Taylor, right, and Actor Lou Diamond Phillips, left, participate in the A&E Network portion of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena , Calif. on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Lou Diamond Phillips have never been to Sundance before. He didn't have a reason to come.

And, unlike some celebrities, he didn't want to show up just to be seen.

"I'm not one of those people who goes to the Academy Awards or goes to the Golden Globes or goes to any of these things without a reason," Phillips said. "Because I don't want to feel like a hanger-on.

"So now that I've got a film at Sundance, I'll go."

The film is "Filly Brown." Phillips plays Jose, the father of Maja Tonorio (Gina Rodriguez), a tough young woman and aspiring rap star

"Yes, it's a music movie, but it really is, at its core, a family drama," Phillips said. "I'm an ex-gang banger, I'm trying to keep the family together. She is a street poet with dreams of becoming a musician."

"It's a bit like '8 Mile' meets 'Stand and Deliver,' if you will."

As was the case with his break-out role in the 1987 film "La Bamba," Phillips is playing a Latino. Although he isn't. Latino, that is.

The 49-year-old actor benefits from the fact that casting directors can't figure out what his ethnic background is, and thus cast him as everything from Hispanics to Native Americans.

"If I waited around to play a Filipino-Irish-Cherokee, I'd never work," he said with a laugh. "Fortunately, my look is so unidentifiable, I fit a lot of them."

— Scott D. Pierce