HomeBad Ass AsiansActor & stuntman Ernie Reyes defies expectations

Actor & stuntman Ernie Reyes defies expectations

By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent

At just 50, Ernie Reyes has been doing the unexpected since an early age.

He competed in martial arts tournaments in the adult division at the age of 8 and ranked in the top 10.

Six years later in 1986, the Filipino American would be starring in the ABC TV series, Sidekicks. This happened at a time when producers rarely cast a person of color in any role-let alone a leading one.

Ernie Reyes with Gil Gerard in Sidekicks (1986). ABC/Disney photo

Then last month, after six years of waiting, he received the news that he would receive a life-saving kidney transplant.

Today Reyes is recovering from that operation and trying to navigate his career as an actor, stuntman, and personal trainer.

He calls his transplant his “Christmas miracle.”

“I almost have to just pinch myself every day that like, wow, this really happened,” he told AsAmNews.

He spent the first week after the transplant completely bedridden, but shortly after began to walk around the house. He describes himself as
“doing great, considering.”

“I’m feeling super grateful and just happy to be alive.”

For the next month or so, he’ll be staying in Phoenix near his doctors so they can keep tabs on his recovery. After that, he hopes to be home in Los Angeles but expects to return every two weeks to a month for medical examinations.

He recalls admiring a double rainbow while lounging on a Hawaii beach when he received a phone call from Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

After six years of going without a kidney match, he stopped waiting for the call that happened that day.

“You know, at a certain point, you kind of have to put it out of your mind, because it’s a waiting game. And you don’t want to be sitting around every day going, ‘Oh Is today the day? Is today the day?’ It was the last thing that I expected when we were sitting on the beach in Hawaii. It was pretty much tears of joy. I really couldn’t believe it.”

via Go Fund Me

For six-and-a-half years, he would get up at 4:30 in the morning three days a week for his dialysis treatment. He chose an early appointment so he could make his studio call times later in the day. A lot of people go home and rest after dialysis which took an average of four hours each visit. Not Reyes.

He said he had two children and a wife to support. It took him a month to build up enough strength after starting dialysis for him to be able to go straight to work, but he did it.

“When I first started dialysis, I couldn’t even jump rope. I just kind of slowly began to build my stamina back up. And that kind of thing. Yeah, I was exhausted. You mean, not only exhausted, but you have all kinds of symptoms, right? Kind of dizzy and you’re, you know, you’re feeling washed out,” he said.

Reyes younger sister Destiny considers her brother an inspiration. Not only because he’s bravely battled kidney failure, but because she says he’s carved a path for so many other Asian Americans in Hollywood.

“My brother Ernie has inspired so many people, especially, you know, from a very, very young age, he kind of paved the way for the rest of us, the rest of our family, you know, being kind of like the hero or the start of an Asian American in the entertainment industry, in the film industry, and in martial arts,” she said to AsAmNews.

Reyes is best known for his roles in the Teenage Ninja Turtle series.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secret of the Ooze – New Line 1991

For now, Reyes is off work during his recovery period. Destiny has launched a Go Fund Me campaign to help with her brother’s medical bills and to make up for some of the loss of income while he is on disability.

The campaign has so far raised $34,000 of its $75,000 goal. Hundreds of people have donated to the campaign. Most only know Reyes through his movie and TV roles.


“That’s an amazing feeling to know that, man, you must have made an impact on people enough, that they’re willing to, you know, give their hard-earned money in these turbulent times that are uncertain for everyone, and try to help you out. There’s nothing better than that feeling to know that you have the love and support of people from all around the world. You really, it’s just like mind-blowing.”

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