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Game Changers 2014: Gabriel Luna

The ball-dribbling star of El Rey Network's 'Matador' trains like an elite soccer player for his scenes on the field and off.
Illustration: Sean McCabe

If not for a separated shoulder under the Friday night lights of a Texas high school football field, Gabriel Luna would likely not be able to dribble and shoot a soccer ball, and he definitely wouldn’t be doing it on screen while starring in his own TV show.
The injury during his senior year yanked college football scholarships, but led Luna to the high school stage. While fulfilling a required art credit in a theatre class, his teacher ask him to play a role in the school’s play. That performance earned him an acting scholarship jetting him to a professional acting career on stage, then to the screen, and now to the El Rey Network’s first foray into original programming with “Matador," a spy thriller focused on a corrupt professional soccer team. 
Luna, 31, plays the title role of Tony Bravo, who he describes as a “Latin James Bond” – a DEA agent recruited to go undercover on a drug-connected fictional soccer franchise because of his speed. Luna only played soccer in college for fun, but had to hone his technical skills and speed for the show while surrounded by a cast of former soccer pros. 

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“With a character whose greatest asset is his speed, quite often I’m just in a dead sprint either towards the goal or after a bad guy,” Luna says about the physical toll of playing part soccer star, part spy. “When you have to do that, take after take, you have to make sure you’re staying hydrated and limber and stretch constantly.”
Luna will have to maintain his soccer shape, as “Matador" just earned a second season, which is set to air in summer 2015.
Luna’s character Tony Bravo is clocked at running a 4.3 second 40-yard dash on the show. While Luna is not quite that fast, he says his background in football and an intense training regimen has brought his 40 to well under five seconds, typical speed for an NFL running back.

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