Wilmer Valderrama’s parents moved the family from Miami to Venezuela when he was 3 years old. At the age of six, when most kids are focused on friends and fun, Valderrama knew he wanted to make it big as an actor. “My parents sold everything they had in Venezuela, just so they could afford to bring us, the family, to the United States,” he recalled. When he was 14, they made the trip back to the U.S., and it turns out dreaming big really paid off! And it all started by playing a foreign exchange student.
Valderrama’s big break came in 1998 when he landed the role of “Fez” on That ‘70s Show. His charming accent and witty one-liners were the perfect comedic combo. Both fans and Hollywood quickly took notice of the up-and-comer. The role even earned him three Teen Choice Awards for his adorably funny character, including “Choice TV Sidekick.” The series was a breakout hit, running for eight seasons — a milestone most shows only dream of achieving. It also launched the careers of Ashton Kutcher, Laura Prepon, and Mila Kunis.
Aug. 23 marked the 20th anniversary of the first episode (yeah, we’re shocked too). Valderrama posted throwback photos of the cast with a heartfelt message: “I love you guys always, you guys made me who I am today...and we will always have each other.”
Following his massive success on TV, Valderrama leapt onto the big screen making his debut in the 2001 movie Summer Catch (you know, the baseball flick with Freddie Prinze Jr.). He’s since gone on to star in more than fourteen movies, directed and produced several projects — aka Yo Momma, and he’s even made some music video cameos, because why not!
His love life has always made headlines, most recently his relationship with singer Demi Lovato, but his work with the Latino community has not been overlooked. Valderrama serves on the board of Voto Latino, a non-profit that encourages Latino youth to become more politically involved. The 38-year-old actor, who joined the long-running and hugely successful CBS series NCIS in 2016, also signed a first-look deal with CBS. His production company will cover unscripted and scripted projects with a focus on diversity — talk about a major win. “As someone who immigrated to the United States at 14 years old, I am immensely passionate about this opportunity,” he said — and his fans are beyond excited too!
Season 16 of NCIS premieres Sept. 25.