Jeff Lima was notorious for playing hooky in high school, but always for a good reason. Talent Unlimited, a prestigious performing arts school in New York City, prohibited their students from auditioning for professional roles. However, Lima found his way and admits, “There were a few of us who would leave school to audition.”
Jane the Virgin
All it took was one audition for Lima to land himself a talent agent. Actress Gina Rodriguez, the Golden Globe-winning star of the hit TV show Jane the Virgin, who was working as a talent agent at the time, followed Lima into the elevator after the audition to take him under her wing.
“Gina’s been a real sweetheart to me. If I have a question regarding casting or just need some advice, she still picks up my calls. And you know, this woman’s busy,” Lima laughs. With Gina Rodriguez’s signing, it opened up many opportunities, including roles in soap operas, such as Guiding Light, all while still in high school.
Anti-Bullying Activism & Ryan Gosling
Although Lima went through a childhood of bullying, he has always been one with great courage. Lima was often teased for the look of his teeth, causing him to speak with his hands over his mouth. However, that did not dishearten him, but rather encouraged him. At the age of 11, Lima auditioned for the Tito Puente Performing Arts Academy, a competitive junior high performing arts school, and was accepted. This guided his path to fame.
While Lima was still attending the Academy, he landed a part in a small film called Gowanus, Brooklyn, which then lead into the feature-length film Half Nelson, which turned into Ryan Gosling’s first Oscar nomination. “It was great to be 12 and be in a film that was nominated for an Oscar,” says Lima.
“Bullying is a big issue in underserved communities,” stated Lima. He found other ways to turn his discouraging experiences into something beneficial for himself, and others as well. He was a founding member of the Achievement Lab after school program and summer camp in Bronx, New York, which cater to at-risk children from underserved neighborhoods. He offers a vast variety of extracurricular activities, such as tutoring, chess, sports and the performing arts. Lima also helps with youth outreach and education with the Hope for Depression Research Foundation.
Chicago Fire & Show Me a Hero
With Lima’s career on the rise, he landed many more roles in different television series alongside actors such as Oscar Isaac, Alfred Molina, and Catherine Keener. Some of the series included Taxi Brooklyn, Blue Bloods,The Get Down, and HBO’s Show Me a Hero. His most successful episodes came from his character of Leon Cruz in Chicago Fire, which was originally only supposed to only be two episodes but turned into a reoccurring role.
In addition to founding the Achievement Lab after school program and summer camp, Lima also earned a degree in finance. With that, he founded a production company called Innovative Pictures. His goal is to finance short films and put them into film festivals, giving aspiring filmmakers the chance to turn them into full length films. He says, “As an artist, this is the most meaningful thing I can do between my acting gigs.” Lima plans to start working with students from NYU’s graduate film program to give them support and a jump start in their careers.
Rising Star Award
While Lima is helping others achieve their goals, he is being praised for his very own achievements. Lima received the Rising Star Award at this fall’s inaugural New York City Television Festival alongside Tony Lo Bianco, the star of The French Connection, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lima will also be the Emcee for the New York City International Film Festival this February. He looks forward to many more opportunities in the future.