Richard Cabral: Johnny “El Coco” Cruz

Richard Cabral
Richard Cabral

Overall, I learned a lot about Richard Cabral while checking out his character Johnny “El Coco” Cruz. Here is what I learned:

Richard Cabral

First, Richard Cabral was born August 28, 1984. He is an American actor, musician, producer, director and writer. Cabral is best known for his role on the ABC television series American Crime for which he earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination in 2015. Furthermore, he can be seen in the Fox television series Lethal Weapon and the FX series Mayans MC.


Equally important, Richard Cabral has been married and divorced twice. His second marriage was to actress and producer Janiece Sarduy on October 24, 2014. He has two daughters, Adalyn and Bella.

Early Life

In the beginning, Richard Cabral grew up in East Los Angeles, without a father in a second-generation Mexican-American family. He became active in gang activity from an early age. As a matter of fact, Cabral said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that his family had been a part of the gang scene since the 1970’s. Likewise, he was a documented member of a gang in the city of Montebello. Also, when he was a child he was separated from his family. He was incarcerated at age of 13 for stealing a wallet.

How he got there

In addition, by the age of 15, Cabral developed an addiction to crack cocaine.  Comparatively, he spent much of his teens and early twenties in prison on charges ranging from theft to assault. Similarly, Cabral says he went from juvenile hall to jail to prison for various crimes. Behind bars, he says, he found a sense of belonging, earned his GED and discovered storytelling. He began writing poetry, and rapped under his gang name, “Baby Jokes” too. On the outside, Cabral recorded his music and became a father. Unfortunately, at 20, he faced a life sentence for shooting a man. As a result, he was sentenced to prison for violent assault with a deadly weapon; he was released at the age of 25. Although he had no outside work experience,  he was desperate to change his life.

His Look

As you can see, Richard Cabral’s neck, chest and arms are covered with tattoos. As shown above, they depict Mexican gang culture, his friends, uncles, even his daughter Bella. Cabral’s intense look and his powerful acting have landed him a lot of TV roles, but his path to Hollywood wasn’t easy.

The Turning Point

In any event, his friends recommended he check out Homeboy Industries, which is an L.A. gang-intervention program whose motto is “nothing stops a bullet like a job.” Eventually, Cabral found himself in the Homeboy bakery, doing everything from washing dishes to baking muffins. Homeboy Industries had a connection with Central Casting, so Cabral would bake in the mornings and then head to auditions. “I remember my first thing was CSI: Miami,” he says. “I played a Cuban gangster. And that was it. I was like: Wow, I don’t have to clean toilets. I could actually dress up and get paid equivalent to that, so that was my introduction into the Hollywood industry.”


It wasn’t long before he started getting speaking parts in shows such as Southland, and the film A Better Life. In fact, his performances brought complexity and three-dimensionality to some pretty tough characters. Boyle says Cabral’s portrayals of gang members are sensitive and authentic: “Not a single false note. He’s really good.”


Equally important, in 2010, he appeared in the music video for Bruno Mars’ single “Grenade”. Moreover, he appeared in movies like 2012’s End of Watch and 2013’s Snitch.

His Big Break

Eventually, the Mexican-American actor got his big break when he was cast as Hector Tonz on the ABC crime miniseries American Crime in 2015. Additionally, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his role. Richard Cabral plays a former gang-banger implicated in a drug-related murder. His character dreams of a new life with his wife and daughter, away from trouble. The project’s story is remarkably similar to the 31-year-old actor’s. He co-starred with Timothy Hutton on the first season of American Crime. Uniquely, in 2016, Cabral co-wrote with Robert Egan a one-man show called Fighting Shadows, about his experiences as a former gang member who spent years in and out of prison. APA and Primary Wave Entertainment currently represent Cabral.

Awards & Nominations

  • 2013 – Lo Maximo award from Homeboy Industries, which honors HI service recipients who give back to the community – Won
  • 2015 – 67th Primetime Emmy Awards – Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for American Crime – Nominated
  • 2015 – 19th OFTA Television Awards – Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries – Nominated
  • 2016 – 20th Satellite Awards – Best Ensemble – Television Series (shared with the ensemble) – Won


  • 2011 – A Better Life – Marcelo Valdez
  • 2012 – End of Watch – Demon
  • 2013 – Snitch-Flaco
  •            The Counselor – The Green Hornet
  • 2014 – Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – Arturo Lopez
  •            Walk of Shame – Gang Member
  • 2016 – Blood Father – Joker
  • 2017 – Khali the Killer – Khali
  • 2018 – Breaking In – Duncan
  •           Peppermint – TBA
  •           All Creatures Here Below – Hugo (Post-Production)
  •           Windows on the World – Domingo (Post-Production)


  • 2009 – Southland – Joker Ruiz
  • 2011 – Southland – Cholo #2
  •           Southland – Leprechaun
  •           Body of Proof – Jorge
  • 2012 – Luck – Store Clerk
  • 2013 – Chicago Fire – Inmate Rios
  • 2014 – Bosch – Jimmy Uribe (uncredited)
  •            Key and Peele – Eduardo
  • 2015 – American Crime – Hector Tonz
  • 2016 – American Crime – Sebastian De Le Torre
  •           Lethal Weapon – Detective Alex Cruz
  • 2017 – American Crime – Isaac Castillo
  • 2018 – Mayans MC – Johnny “El Coco” Cruz


  •  2017 Khali the Killer (producer)
  •  2016 The Was (Short) (producer)
  •           In Varrio We Trust (Short) (executive producer)
  •  2015 Secret Love (Short) (executive producer)
  •  2014-2015 Out the Box (TV Series) (executive producer – 2 episodes)


  •  2016 In Varrio We Trust (Short)
  •  2015 Secret Love (Short)
  •  2014-2015 Out the Box (TV Series) (4 episodes)


2014-2015 Out the Box (TV Series) (3 episodes)


2016 Toxic Temptation (Short) (special thanks: help with script)

Music Video

2010- Bruno Mars – Grenade

Johnny “CoCo” Cruz

Furthermore, Johnny ‘El Coco’ Cruz is a former soldier and member of the Mayans Motorcycle Club, Santo Padre charter. Mayans MC is a spinoff of the FX original series Sons of Anarchy. Played by American actor Richard Cabral, Johnny makes his debut in the series’ premiere episode, “Perro/Oc.”, in the series’ first season.

Comparatively, Richard Cabral’s Johnny is a veteran Marine in the Mayans MC series. A weapons expert and sharpshooter, “El Coco” is a full patch member of Mayans MC. In fact,  Johnny demonstrated his enormous skill and received a discharge for being a little too loco. As it turns out, he demonstrated this skill by using his rifle to fire the cigar out of an officer’s mouth, while stoned, from a half-mile away. He later joined the Mayans Motorcycle Club in the city of Santo Padre, and is under the command of Obispo Losa.

In summary, you can watch Richard Cabral and Mayans MC on FX Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. Follow this page for weekly recaps.