It's a subtle quality he brings to his Oscar-nominated role of Los Angeles gardener Carlos Galindo in the movie "A Better Life."
Like Galindo, Bichir came to the U.S. illegally. The U.S. amnesty program in 1986 put him on the road to a Green Card. The character he plays is not so lucky, trying to climb the rungs from day worker to owner of a gardening business while keeping his American-born teenage son from street gangs.
"It was important for me to relate to that time when I arrived in New York," Bichir told The Associated Press. "Carlos Galindo's dignity is similar to all those 11 million undocumented workers in U.S. They live their lives with ... that power and that passion, and they never give up. That's me."
The result brought the first best actor nomination for a Mexican native since Anthony Quinn 47 years ago. Bichir is up against big-name stars Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Gary Oldman, as well as Jean Dujardin in Sunday's ceremony.