Picture by FOX
By Sammi Turano

Tell me about yourself and career.


J.W. Cortés is an award-winning actor, Marine combat veteran, singer, filmmaker and philanthropist. Born and raised in Sunset Park Brooklyn, to inspiring Puerto Rican parents, he developed an interest in the arts along with a desire to serve his community and country. Currently Cortés plays the recurring role of "Detective Carlos Alvarez" on FOX’s hit prime-time series "GOTHAM." Cortés is the first actor in history to portray the iconic comic book character in television and film. Detective Alvarez was originally created by Judd Winick's for his hit DC Comics’ The New 52 Catwomanseries. 

In addition to "GOTHAM," he has had various roles on: Starz’s “POWER,” NBC's “The Blacklist,” “The Mysteries of Laura” and CBS’ “Blue Bloods.”  Previously, Cortés starred as an “Operative” on NBC's reality television show, "STARS EARN STRIPES" and appeared in feature films including the soon-to-be released “A Momentary Lapse of Reasoning” with The Big Bang Theory's Kunal Nayyer, “As Good As Dead” from Andie MacDowell, “Blue Caprice" with Isaiah Washington and the award winning short film “Stop” at Sundance Film Festival. 

Currently, Cortés serves New York State’s Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department (MTAPD) as an officer based in Grand Central Terminal. In addition, he helps raise awareness and funding for various philanthropic organizations, including: the Detective Rafael Ramos Foundation, Autism Speaks, Got Your 6, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, the Gary Sinise Foundation and MusiCorps. In 2016 Cortés received the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award, was chosen by the Boot Campaign as a celebrity spokesperson & Hero Ambassador and participated in the critically acclaimed HBO series HABLA Y VOTA. In 2015 he was selected by Got Your 6 to serve as an “American Icon” and he continues to support the organization’s mission to empower Veterans by serving on its advisory board. 

Cortés served in the United States Marine Corps for nearly thirteen years attaining the rank of Gunnery Sergeant, serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His military awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medals and Marine of the Year. He studied acting at the world renowned William Esper Studio, under the tutelage of Terry Knickerbocker. J.W. Cortés is the proud father of two boys, a lucky husband and loving owner of an American-Bulldog named "Blue.” 

How did you get involved in the NYC Marathon?

I had met two members of the Semper Fi Fund, Kathy and Wendy, during the 2017 DOD Warrior Games in Chicago. I knew the tremendous work that SFF does for our veterans, and their families, and after speaking with Kathy and Wendy was inspired to join their team formally.  

After several weeks of speaking with them, I elected to run the 10K portion of the Marine Corps Marathon’s events. I later decided I would commit to training for a full marathon. Fast forward to today, and we are less than a week from me running my first-ever NYC marathon on behalf of the SFF!  

What went into your training?

As I didn’t have the luxury of slowly working towards the mileage that would be required for me to comfortably tackle this challenge -  I subscribed to an online training course offered by the New York Road Runners.

 In just about 10 weeks of training, I have confidence in my ability to conquer the 26.2 miles waiting for me come Sunday, November 5th.  

What is Semper Fi?

The most basic answer I could give you is that “Semper Fidelis” is Latin for “Always Faithful” which is the motto of the Marine Corps. However, it really is so much more for anyone who has ever worn the uniform of the United States Marine or has had a family member who has served as a member of the USMC. 

 There is much invested and sacred about our motto, much that rings true to what we believe in and the value of the words “Semper Fidelis.” No matter what the circumstances are; no matter how grave the danger is; no matter how challenging the fight; we leave no one behind. We, the Marines, rise time and time again to answer each America’s call.

 Marines make a solemn promise: no matter what, we’ll always be there. We will always be faithful. And, that promise/commitment/responsibility is not limited to active duty - I believe it is with us throughout our lives, as veterans. 

What made you decide to use that platform to support Semper Fi?

For many years I had heard of the wonderful work that the Semper Fi Fund had done and was continuously doing. My peers, fellow Marines, had received much needed help and support through SFF. And, SFF’s support of my brothers and sisters in arms was something that always intrigued and inspired me. It is why I am honored and humbled to be standing amongst the Semper Fi Fund team today. 

Thank you for your service to our great country. How else do you plan to support Semper Fi?

As I continue to gain name recognition and grow my platform as an artist, I will continue to advocate for the Semper Fi Fund.  Part of that is engaging non-military folks to draw attention to the good work of SFF and the men and women SFF supports.   

Tell me about this season of Gotham.

This season is probably is one of the most exciting seasons to date! There has been so much emphasis on Bruce Wayne donning some version of the mask. And, to watch the actor (David Mazouz) become that version of Bruce Wayne has been very exciting. GOTHAM’s audience has the opportunity to watch him and Camren Bicondova, both terrific actors, grow up in front of their eyes. That’s been really fantastic. 

How do you expect your character to evolve this season?

That’s the million-dollar question I wish I had a really good answer for you but I don’t. like most actors were kept pretty much at bay and we’re not giving too much information about where our characters stories are going and how they will unfold. 

 My hope is that Detective Alvarez becomes more a part of the GCPD, having been one of the few detectives who has made it through the past four seasons!

 It would be great to partner up and really tackle some of these villains and create some sort of allegiance with other members of the GCPD, similar to the way Detective Alvarez is portrayed in the comic books.

What do you want to see happen to him?

For Detective Alvarez to be more involved, to be someone that the audiences can relate to on a human level with real wants and fears. 

 When people learn about my background - that I am a USMC Veteran and that my current day job is serving the great state of New York as a Police Officer - they connect with me. I would think that people could be as connected, if not even more so, with Alvarez.  

What else are you working on?

I just had the pleasure of working on a new film titled MONSTERS AND MEN with John David Washington of HBO’s Ballers and Cara Buono of Netflix’s Stranger Things and some other really great actors. The director Reinaldo Green is incredibly talented and a craftsman. I’m really excited to see how the film is received. 

 What would fans be surprised to know about you?

Many are still shocked when they see me on their way to work as I am an actively serving MTA Police Officer. And, that in addition to wearing a uniform on camera and off, I have sung with some of music’s biggest names and am often at their favorite sporting events belting out a national anthem!

What are you watching on TV these days?

I’m currently watching the new season of Stranger Things, This Is Us, Narcos and really do love a good documentary. 

Anything else you want to tell America? 

I recently worked on the NBC show The Night Shift where much of the cast was veterans and the writer and director we’re both veterans. It was an opportunity for us, as Veterans, to tell a very poignant story that occurred during the Invasion of Iraq in 2003 (which is when I was there).

It was great that we were able to bring out our real experiences without sacrificing the craft of storytelling. And it was one of the most successful and widely reviewed episodes of the show. I hope that America and Hollywood-at-large want more of that: real veterans telling real veterans stories.


About the Semper Fi Fund

The Semper Fi Fund provides urgently needed resources and lifetime support for combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Case managers from the Semper Fi Fund work one-on-one with service members and veterans in order to understand and support their individual needs right now and throughout their lifetime. We keep our overhead low so our impact on the lives of service members and veterans is greater. The Semper Fi Fund has been awarded the highest ratings from watchdog groups: an A+ from CharityWatch – one of only two veteran nonprofits to receive this rating last year – and six consecutive “4-Star” ratings from Charity Navigator, an achievement attained by only 3% of rated charities. Visit to learn more. 

The Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities. We work to ensure that no one is left behind.


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