Get To Know: Niko Guardado (Actor and Son of Eddie)
Image courtesy of Minnesota TwinsMany of Niko Guardado’s earliest memories were following his dad throughout his baseball career. While many Twins fans are thrilled that the Twins have moved from Metrodome to Target Field, Guardado can’t help but maintain a soft spot in his heart for the Homer Dome.
He recalls, “I miss the Dome. The Dome was amazing in my opinion. I loved it. It was my second home. I was constantly there, almost 24/7.”
The Guardado family lived in northern California, and that’s where Niko was born on Christmas Eve in 1996. But Minneapolis, the Metrodome and the Twins were such an important part of his childhood.
“I have really early memories. I can remember back to when I was about three or four. Me and my siblings were very blessed to go to the ballpark with my dad almost every day.”
But it wasn’t all glamorous for the Guardado kids. Eddie made sure they earned the right to go into the clubhouse and on the field.
“My dad taught me at a very young age that if you are going to want to come into the clubhouse, you’re going to have to work for it. We had to polish shoes. We had to do the laundry, vacuum the floor. We had to clean up the kitchen, wash the dishes. And then after the work we would play and go shag BP and play catch on the field in the Dome.”
When Niko was about six, the family moved to southern California. That’s where he went to school, but his summers were spent in Minnesota.
“As soon as school got out, the day after, we would fly to Minneapolis and spend the whole summer there until a week before school started.”
Twins fans loved (and still love) those Twins teams from the late '90s and through the early aughts. You likely remember the ESPN Magazine cover featuring several Twins players with the title “The Team That Saved Baseball.” Those were the teams that endured a lot of losses in the late '90s, endured the threat of contraction, and brought winning back to Minnesota.
Eddie Guardado was a big part of that turnaround, and he was a leader and a prankster on the roster. Niko Guardado got to know the stars from those teams. He says he has a good friendship with Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones and keeps in touch with David Ortiz at times. He has great memories of playing with Hunter’s sons, as well as Casey Radke and “Little” Joey Mays.
LaTroy Hawkins has always been a fixture in the life of Niko Guardado. “I talk to LaTroy almost every day. I call LaTroy my Uncle Hawk. He’s the one guy, besides my dad, that we really became close. He’s really become a mentor to me in all aspects of life.”
Eddie Guardado pitched in the 2002 and 2003 All Star games. Niko remembers attending the 2002 All Star game in Milwaukee. He was excited to meet Barry Zito (“That was the one guy I wanted to meet. I met him and my life was made.”). But as a five year old at the time, it was the mascots that really stood out to him.
Following the 2003 season, Guardado signed with the Seattle Mariners. He spent time with the Reds and the Mariners, but in August of 2009, he was traded back to the Twins from the Rangers.
Niko says he vividly remembers hearing the news. His mom was driving him and his siblings to dinner when she told them, “Dad’s going back to the Twins.”
Niko, then 11, recalls, “We were super excited! Obviously going back to a place that was dear in our hearts, but I think the people too. The friendships that we made there and we were going back to. The kids room where all the babysitters that practically raised us, we would get to see again. The workers around the field. The fans. I think Minnesota is just really special when it comes to the fan base.”
Now that he is older, Niko admits he has a bigger appreciation for the opportunities he had. “Going to the field every day, I am more and more grateful to have experienced it.”
While Niko loved baseball and played sports throughout his youth, it wasn’t his passion. He chose his own path. While he found his true calling in the acting world, baseball remains a big part of his life.”I was about 10 or 11 when I stopped playing baseball and started getting into acting, but I still enjoyed it. I still loved going to the field and hanging out with the equipment managers, the clubbies and helping out. It’s still one of my favorite things to do to this day.”
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Niko Guardado will appear on an episode of Schooled on ABC at 7:30 Central Time on Wednesday, February 27.
At a very young age, Niko said he was always standing in front of the TV, rewinding the VCR. He was studying actors and characters, and his love of performing only grew from there.
However, it wasn’t easy for Niko to tell his dad that he wanted to be done with baseball and focus his attention on baseball. No kid wants to disappoint their dad.
“I sat down with my dad and I was just bawling when I told him I didn’t want to play baseball anymore. I was so afraid of what he might say. But he was very, very supportive and said to do what you want to do. I’m just very glad I have parents that support me in all my decisions.”
Niko Guardado entered the entertainment industry at an early age. His mom got him a print agent when he was about two years old and he was in several Target ads in Minnesota. In southern California, he did some commercials. However, when his younger sister was diagnosed with autism, Niko stepped away from acting for a little bit. But when his dad retired from baseball, Niko was able to get back into it.
What we have learned is that there are are a lot of similarities between Eddie Guardado and Niko Guardado. It is a good reminder that there are some similarities between the world of athletics and the entertainment industry.
He had guest roles on several Nickelodeon shows. He was on an episode of Sam & Cat (the Ariana Grande vehicle). “I grew up watching Zoey 101, Drake & Josh, Victorious. When I booked it, I think my initial reaction was I get to work with Dan Schneider, which is the guy who built my childhood. He made all the Nickelodeon shows back to All That. He was in my favorite movie growing up, which was Good Burger, if you remember that one.”
I do remember that one. But I also remember Dan Schneider in the excellent, late '80s sitcom Head of the Class.
Getting to work with Schneider was exciting and nerve-racking, but again, he was able to lean on his dad’s playing career. “Being able to work with him was so amazing. I was definitely so nervous walking into the set that day. But I think once the cameras roll, it’s like when my dad pitches. When he warms up he gets anxious, nervous. But when he gets on the mound, as soon as the camera starts rolling, it’s automatic, I know what I’m doing, it’s like I’ve been here before. It’s almost instinct and those concerns go away. ”
However, for every role that Niko got, he lost out on several roles. That can be tough, but he was able to lean on his dad and his baseball career again.
“I’ve been doing this for nine, ten years now. The amount of jobs I haven’t got is ridiculous. But it all comes back to… my dad. (He’d say) ‘Failure is failure. It’s going to get you sometimes. Just wave at it. Say goodbye. Go on to the next one until success comes your way and be grateful for the ones you get.’”
Niko was able to learn so much from his dad and his playing career. “From my dad, it’s just never give up. I know it’s cliche, and I wish I could give you a better answer. It’s huge. Focusing on what you want, your dreams, and sticking with it no matter what. Especially because the entertainment industry and sports kind of coincide with how competitive it is. Being able to hold your head up high when you fail and just get back up and go get them the next time. That’s probably the #1 thing I’ve been able to learn, and I’m glad I learned at a young age, to treat failure as a best friend, and be OK with it, and not let it affect you as much because your time will come if you keep at it. ”
While he learned from his dad, it’s important for him to point out how important his mom was in his growth and development as well.
“(She is) 100% the backbone. Growing up, with my dad in-season, my mom raised us. We didn’t have the same circumstances, of course, but it was almost like being a single mom eight months out of the year. We had to go to school. My sister was diagnosed with autism during my dad’s career, so a lot of stuff was put onto my mom. She had the courage. She was being a mom. I could not have been blessed with a better mom. The sacrifices she made, not only for us but for my dad. She truly is the backbone of the family.”
Over time, Niko began getting more guest roles, but in 2016, he was cast as one of the leads in the Nickelodeon mini-series Lost in the West. In 2018, he played the role of Scroggins in the feature film A-X-L.
Starting in 2016, he was case in the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs. His recurring role as Ruben Amaro, Jr. has appeared in 17 episodes. In the role, he has been fortunate to play a jock, something he is very comfortable with.
Niko Guardado said, "“I’m blessed to play a jock on The Goldbergs. I mean, I know it so well. You’d be surprised how many actors can’t throw a ball. It’s fun. I’ve always wanted to do my own stunts. I want to do this, and I want to do that. Whenever stunt work comes into play, I enjoy it so much.”
He also had the opportunity to meet former big league outfielder, former Phillies GM and Red Sox coach Ruben Amaro at a Red Sox game a couple of years ago. Amaro even talked about how much fun it would be to get to play Niko’s father on the show. That opportunity came in an episode last year.
*ASIDE: A search of Baseball-Reference tells us that Ruben Amaro, Jr. faced Eddie Guardado one time in the big leagues. Amaro singled.*
On The Goldbergs, Niko got to work with Minnesota native and the star of classics such as the Back to the Future Trilogy and Howard the Duck, Lea Thompson. She is one of the show’s directors.
“Lea Thompson is amazing. She’s an actor, so she really knows how to step into the actor’s show and describe what the director and producers want from an Actor’s point of view. That helps speed things up and helps us perform at our best.”
Thompson has also been involved in the sitcom Schooled. In fact, on Wednesday night (February 27 at 7:30 CT on ABC), Guardado will be on an episode of Schooled opposite the talented Tim Meadows.
“They’re doing such a good job with it. It’s a spin-off of The Goldbergs. They have the same writers, same producers. It’s funny. The episode I’m in is basically a 10-year reunion episode.”
Just recently, Freeform announced that they had placed an order for episodes of a reboot of Party of Five and that Niko would be one of the lead characters.
As you recall, the late-90s drama was about five kids whose parents passed away unexpectedly and they were left to fend for themselves. In the upcoming Party of Five, Niko plays one of five children whose parents get deported to Mexico. Like the original, the kids are left to struggle to make it without them.
“Super excited to be a part of it. It’s very timely.” Guardado continued, “Since getting the job, I started watching (the original show).
While the shows are different and the characters are not identical, Niko said his character likely compares most similarly to Scott Wolf’s Bailey character.
The cast filmed the show’s pilot in November and December. The show was picked up by Freeform in January. Now Guardado awaits word of when filming for the first season will begin.
In the meantime, he is continuing to go to auditions. He is also working on more episodes of The Goldbergs and excited to get started on Party of Five.
He also gets to several Angels games, though he does so with a grudge.
“I go to a lot of Angels games whenever my friends want to go. But I never cheer for the Angels. Not even when Torii was on the team. I still have that ‘02 grudge. I’ll never get over it. It sucks. That was the year that we moved here. (The Twins) lost, and my dad came to his new house and all he saw was Rally Monkeys and Angels fans.”
He also enjoys going to his younger brother’s baseball games. He is a junior on his high school team. “My little brother is the athlete. He wants to be like dad. His dream is to be a pro.”
Niko also tries to bring awareness to autism whenever he gets the chance in honor of his sister who was diagnosed at age 2.
“She’s just a little genius. She loves learning. She’s just a bookworm, super smart, super intelligent. She’s such a hard worker. She’s taught me work ethic more than anybody. ”
Niko Guardado is happy. Clearly the decision to go into acting has worked out well for him.
“The best thing is getting to go and do something I love. I’ve found something that I really enjoy. I really haven’t worked a day in my life, doing this. It’s a passion that I have being able to finally... Getting a TV show has always been a dream of mine. It’s just all so surreal. In terms of days on the set. It can vary. They can go long. They can be 13-14 hour days sometimes. You’re not complaining. You just kind of look at the clock and see we’ve been here for 12 hours.”
Niko Guardado has a ton of talent. Despite his relative youth, he has already had a lot of success in his career, particularly over the last five or six years. It’s clear that his career is on an upward trajectory. It will be fun for Twins fans to follow Niko and see where his career will take him.
Be sure to follow Niko on social media:
Be sure to listen to the full interview with Niko Guardado on the audio player below. In it, we discuss many more topics. He tells several more stories about his dad's time in the big leagues and their relationship. We also got into much more detail on the process of auditioning for guest roles and for lead roles. We talk more about The Goldbergs and Party of Five, but also about an upcoming short field called Gigi Boy that he stars in. We talk about his favorite actors to watch and emulate. And, much more.
Thank you very much to Niko Guardado for taking the time to chat with me in this 48 minute interview. Thanks to John Bonnes for his help editing the podcast, and to Riggs Bonnes for the music in it.
Click here to download the podcast/interview or set up alerts for future podcasts.
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