Ebby Magazine




Actor Sal Velez Jr. discusses his latest film “Switch Up,” exploring love, happiness, and the power of helping others, before its premiere at SXSW 2024




Los Angeles, California, Renowned actor and executive producer Sal Velez Jr. gears up for the world premiere of “Switch Up” at the highly anticipated 2024 SXSW Film Festival. Directed by Tara Pirnia, the romantic comedy delves into themes of love and self-discovery, offering audiences a heartfelt narrative that resonates deeply with Velez. Portraying the character of Ty, Velez brings his signature blend of authenticity and emotional depth to the screen, infusing the role with personal significance amidst the backdrop of Brownsville, Texas. As anticipation builds for the film’s debut, Velez reflects on his connection to the story, the challenges of production, and the broader impact of storytelling on societal issues.


Can you share a bit about your journey into the world of acting and storytelling?

I was born in Chicago, a second-generation Puerto Rican who grew up watching larger-than-life performers like Sammy Davis Jr. & Danny Kaye. In my early years, I used singing and impersonations just so I could eat. I had no clue that later on in life, it would win me a scholarship to Second City Chicago. Improv changed my life, from theater to commercial and later on film and TV. The world of storytelling has been and will always be a fascinating place I found in my heart. 


Your latest film, “Switch Up,” has been selected as an official entry in the 2024 SXSW Film Festival. Can you share a bit about the inspiration behind the story and your role as Ty in the film?

It is an honor to be selected by the SXSW Film Festival. “Switch Up” was a project that came to my table with laughter, heart, and an opportunity to give voice to the homeless. I related with the character Ty, as he created humor and joy by helping others through their daily struggles. “Switch Up” is a story of humility and emotion, and it was very close to my heart.


“Switch Up” explores themes of love and finding happiness through helping others. How did you approach portraying Ty’s character and his journey within the narrative?

I’ve spent many years working with shelters and juveniles and speaking to the youth about their future possibilities in the world. Playing the role of Ty was very close, and keeping Ty vulnerable and grounded allowed me to keep the character a compassionate soul in a time of need.


You’ve expressed a deep connection to Texas, particularly to Brownsville, where “Switch Up” was filmed. How did the setting influence your performance and the film’s overall tone?

I believe Texas is an incredibly self-sustaining part of America, filled with culture, history, and hospitality. We were fortunate to film in Brownsville, a border town city that embraced us from day one, allowing us to find our way through the story.


As an actor and executive producer, what challenges did you encounter during the “Switch Up” production, and how did you overcome them?

During the filming of “Switch Up,” I believe the COVID-19 pandemic was at its highest point. It was a priority for all cast and crew to maintain a healthy level of professionalism to finish this film.


Your career spans various roles in both film and television, from dramatic performances to comedic characters. How do you navigate between different genres, and do you prefer one over the other?

I do not have a preference for genres. Once I find the truth of a character, I immerse myself in that world. And as I have learned through my experience, every comedy has drama, and every drama is worth telling.


Reflecting on your journey from Chicago’s Second City to becoming a renowned actor and executive producer, what advice would you give aspiring performers looking to break into the industry?

Every story is worth telling. To all young filmmakers, patience, research, and working relationships are all essential habits every artist needs to practice.


Your work often tackles important social issues like poverty, homelessness, and equality. How do you see storytelling and acting as vehicles for raising awareness and promoting change?

Change exists in all of us. But through our daily lives, we forget how to be better human beings. Sometimes, laughter, music, and vulnerability are all we need to get us through the next day. Entertainment is a form of expression.


What do you hope audiences take away from “Switch Up” and your other projects in terms of entertainment value and deeper themes or messages?

“Switch Up” is a reminder that we are all human, capable of great love and kindness, regardless of race, age, or financial status.


What future projects are you excited about, and are there any specific roles or genres you’re eager to explore in your career?

I believe in heroes with conflict and struggle and even villains with compassion. These are the stories that are compelling to me. A full challenge of the mind, body, and soul, leaving it all on the screen.


Do you have a personal mantra?

To inspire laughter, create knowledge, and to know love is the true pursuit of happiness.


What is your luxury for the soul?

A sun that shines and creates life infinitely.



This image is an actual film still of him, alongside actress Julieth Restrepo. In SWITCH UP, Velez plays the character of Ty, the brother of Cassandra (portrayed by Julieth Restrepo) as seen in this shot.