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Harlem-born actor Tyler Dean Flores takes on lead role in new film ‘Reefa’

Photo Credit: Jonny Marlow

Tyler Dean Flores is bringing the story of immigrant and artist Israel Hernandez to life in the new film “Reefa.”

Born and raised in Harlem, Flores started feeling like he had to provide for himself and his family from a young age. He started modeling when he was 10 years old and his agency later told him he should try acting.

“My agency suggested that I try acting, and it just clicked,” said Flores.

Flores booked his first role in the 2012 film “The Dark Knight Rises.” As a fan of the film “The Dark Knight,” Flores was thrilled to be able to take part in “The Dark Knight Rises,” but that role really solidified for him that he loved acting.

“When got the call that I was going to be in ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ I didn’t believe it until I got to set,” said Flores. “It was mostly that point that validated things for me, and I kept continuing to do so ever since.”

Flores took a step back from the industry following the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” but ultimately started to build a career for himself in 2016. He has since taken on several roles in the industry, including roles in Netflix’s award-winning series “When They See Us” and NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Flores also recently appeared in Marvel’s newest series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” as a member of the flag smashers.

On the film front, Flores appeared in the 2019 film “Already Gone,” executive produced by Keanu Reeves, and is slated to appear in the upcoming mob-drama “The Birthday Cake,” with Ewan McGregor. For Flores, as much as he loves acting he would also like to try his hand at writing and directing someday.

“I would love to write and direct, I do some things on my own time, messing around with writing to fulfill my creative desire,” said Flores. 

Flores can now be seen on screen in the new film “Reefa.” The film, written and directed by Jessica Kavana Dornbusch, follows the real-life story of 18-year-old Colombian immigrant and artist Israel “Reefa” Hernandez, played by Flores, during his last summer in Miami before tragically being killed by Miami Beach cops in 2013. His death ultimately left the local community outraged and the rest of the country reeled in yet another case of police brutality.

“The film pretty much follows Reefa during his last summer in Miami before going to art school,” said Flores. “Though it is a heavy story, it is filled with love, family, skateboarding, art. There is a lot of life and culture in the movie.”

Though Flores was not initially familiar with Reefa’s story, as he dove deeper into the role, as a Puerto Rican-American man he started to see more of himself in the artist. Even more so, once Flores started to take on the role he learned that several people in his own life were familiar with the story.

“I did not know reef’s story, but once I was actually on set and I was portraying Reefa, some of my close friends said they knew about Reefa and were fans of his artwork — I was so close to his story without even knowing,” said Flores. “More importantly, I see myself in Reefa. It’s a beautiful story to tell, I think people will love Reefa’s story. I grew up with kids like Reefa, it felt like home for me.”

Reefa’s story really hit home for Flores, and he was happy to be able to help bring the artist’s story to life in this way. 

“It felt amazing, I mean it’s such a tragic story but i was actually felt happy to play him,” said Flores. “To show this kid’s life and what he was destined to be and what it would be, and everyone else around him. It was cool to play a character like that.”

“Reefa” is now playing on video on demand platforms, and Flores can be found on Instagram @tylerdeanflores. Check out the trailer for the film below:

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