‘Breaking Bad’ Actor Danny Trejo on His Time in Prison: ‘It’s Just a Warehouse for Insanity’

Danny Trejo is best known for his roles in Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, and Machete. But before he was an actor, he was in and out of prison for 11 years. In a recent interview Trejo did in promotion of his new memoir, Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood, he spoke about what led him to a “life of crime,” his experience in prison, and what he’s proudest of today.

A close-up of Danny Trejo in a hat during the May 9, 2020 episode of 'Saturday Night Live'
Danny Trejo | NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Danny Trejo says his upbringing led to a ‘life of crime’

Trejo told Karen Hunter of SiriusXM Urban View’s The Karen Hunter Show that his upbringing and home life steered him toward problematic situations early on.

“I feel sorry for the life of my mom because my dad basically married her to take care of me,” he said. “She was like an indentured servant. But this was the 50s so she didn’t work. My dad has a passport, has his picture next to her and it says, ‘Wife.’ But she didn’t really like kids. She couldn’t have kids so she had a resentment. But everything she did, she did out of duty. There was no love there, you know, it’s what I have to do. And it was so unbelievable that like that’s the way I grew up.”

Danny Trejo was in and out of prison for 11 years

“Prison isn’t about being tough,” said Trejo. “It’s about willingness to do whatever it takes.”

The actor says “our prisons are so broken.”

“They took all the weights out,” he said of his most recent time incarcerated. “They took all the boxing out. They took all the exercise [equipment out]. It’s like now it’s just a warehouse for insanity. That’s all.”

But it’s not just the prisons themselves. Trejo says the whole system is broken.

“California department of corrections spelled backwards is recidivism,” he said. “Because that’s what happens that the whole structure is built to come back. If I ran a business with 80% failure, I’d change my business. But they got 80% failure, and 10% of the people in prison belong in prison.”

Trejo says there was a time when he felt he “belonged in prison.” But not anymore.

“I had to say, ‘Wait a minute. Dear Heavenly Father, if you let me die with dignity I’ll say your name every day and I’ll do what I can for my fellow inmate.’ I said inmate ’cause I thought I was never going to get out of prison,” he said.

Today, Danny Trejo is proud of his kids

Even more than his acting career, Trejo is overwhelmingly proud of his three children.

“My son just directed me in a movie called ‘From a Son,’ the best work I’ve ever done,” he beamed. “He made me cry. I mean, and not a manly cry… I’d want to do it like John Wayne, but no, he kept showing me baby pictures. ‘Look, Dad, remember this, remember this?’ So he’s a director and he directed me. In fact, tonight we’re going to his video that he shot for ‘Star Crawler’ and it’s me and David Hasselhoff are in it and he directed it so it’s awesome.”

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