Since he rode his motorcycle to stardom as California Highway Patrol Officer Francis “Ponch” Poncherello in the 1977 to 1983 series CHiPs, Erik Estrada has become a household name.
In an exclusive interview with 'Closer Weekly,' TV’s first Latino action star shares that at 66-years-old he is still pursuing acting and finally fulfilling his dream of becoming a real-life policeman.
Erik as Officer Francis on 'CHiPs.' (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Erik’s passion for law enforcement developed at en early age. He tells 'Closer,' “My dad was a heroin addict, and after he left, my mother started dating a cop. I was 4, and he was my idol. From 14 to 18, I was going to be an NYC police officer.” Erik shares, “He gave me his gold detective shield when he retired."
Growing up in Spanish Harlem was never easy. “I could’ve been in prison right now or dead.” Erik says. Luckily he was bit by the acting bug and landed his perfect role, playing a cop on 'CHiPs.'
Erik and his 'CHiPs' costar Larry Wilcox. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
“Before 'CHiPs' came along, I was struggling. Ponch is a side of me that I always loved as a child,” Erik explains. “You can put 'Ponch' on my gravestone.”
It seems that Erik is finally getting that chance to live his childhood dream. “Then I played a cop. Now I’ve been trying to go back to my first passion as a child, becoming a cop. I go around the country to schools, educating kids about the dangers that lurk in cyberspace, as a real cop.” Erik tells 'Closer,' “It’s a complete circle.”
For the full interview with Erik, pick up the new issue of 'Closer Weekly,' on newsstands now!