Jay Hernandez was born as Javier Manuel Hernandez Jr., on February 20, 1978 in Montebello, California. A fourth generation Mexican-American, he was approached by talent manager Howard Tyner, who thought he had what it takes to have a successful career in Hollywood. He was later sent to acting school and was referred to casting agents.
He first appeared in the teen comedy Hang Time, where he played Antonio Lopez from the show’s fourth season. He made guest appearances in two other teen sitcoms: Undressed and USA High. He made his film debut in 2000’s Living the Life, but only broke out when he played the male lead in the drama Crazy/Beautiful, which also stars Kirsten Dunst. He plays Carlos Nunez, a Mexican-American student who gets straight A’s in school and strikes an unlikely relationship with a congressman’s out of control daughter Nicole Oakley (Dunst). His performance there won an ALMA Award—honoring For An Outstanding Actor.
Hernandez then appeared in numerous Hollywood films.In Joy Ride, he played a bit role, as a Marine soldier.In Torque, he played Dalton, one of the bikers.In Ladder 49, he was probationary fireman Keith Perez.In Friday Night Lights, he was football player Brian Chavez.In Hostel, he was backpacker Paxton; his performance there earned him a Teen Choice Award in 2005.In World Trade Center, he was firefighter Dominic Pezzulo. He also appeared in a fake trailer within the film Grindhouse.
Hernandez was also a regular in the drama Six Degrees, about the interconnected lives of six strangers.He played Carlos Green, a defense lawyer whose feelings for Mae Anderson (Erika Christensen) interferes with his job. He also appeared in the sequel Hostel II, and the drama American Son, which was premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.