In front of the camera is where Juan Carlos "JC" Merino of Hackensack says he feels best.
If you've seen his work, you might agree his grace is undeniable -- almost like he's been acting his whole life.
But he hasn't.
Merino had just graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2008 with a degree in political science when he says he had a change of heart.
More than a decade after completely flipping the trajectory of his life, Merino has been featured in independent films, television commercials and music videos -- most recently a promo for WNBC, airing imminently.
In turn, he's sharing his story in hopes that it will inspire someone else to pursue what truly makes them happy.
"I realized I had a lot of love and passion for the craft of acting," said the 32-year-old, who you may remember from this story.
"To influence others would be an amazing accomplishment."
The Bergen Catholic alum says if he hadn't immersed himself completely in his passion, he wouldn't be where is now.
He remembers reenacting movie scenes as a child with his brother, who seemed to always have had a camera in his hand.
"I really admired his storytelling," the actor said. "I grew much of my imagination from him."
Together, they'd watch films and old television series such as "The Twilight Zone." Merino says one of his most vivid memories was seeing his brothers' school performance of "West Side Story."
"The music and acting were phenomenal," he said. "I found myself always singing it or reenacting moments from the show and others."
Merino never really considered acting as a career for himself until he was 22, and couldn't see himself doing anything other than what he loved.
That he had just earned a degree in something completely unrelated mattered little.
He knew, though, he'd have to give it his all. Almost immediately, Merino began studying with accomplished actors, directors and well-known theater companies. He honed his on-stage and -camera skills for nearly two years before he started landing paying roles.
He quickly realized, however, the work had only just begun.
He continues to give each and every role his all.
"I was portraying a prisoner of war from the Korean War and I was addicted to morphine," Merino said.
"I studied the drug by interviewing addicts and recovering addicts, and watching hours upon hours of interventions."
When playing a paraplegic, Merino would meticulously eliminate his body's mobility throughout the days leading up to the show. He added layers of meaning to the character by creating a backstory he could relate to: A triathlete who had just lost everything in an accident.
Merino came on stage in a wheelchair feeling more than ever like the character he'd become. Coming out of it was an equal transition.
While the actor hopes his work speaks to everyone, he particularly hopes to resonate with the Latino community -- it's why he kept his name: Juan Carlos Merino.
"I definitely dream big and try to visualize myself working with the people I admire who have created legacies in the art," he said.
"I look to make a mark as well and really work towards being an actor."
FOLLOW JC MERINO ON INSTAGRAM
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.