Childhood & Early Life
D.J. Cotrona was born Donald Joseph Cotrona, on May 23, 1980, in New Haven, Connecticut, to Donald and Sheree Cotrona. His father worked in a recycling company, while his mother worked as a teacher. Cotrona has a complex ancestry, as he is of Italian, German, Hungarian, Polish, Austrian, and English descent.
He has been a health-conscious person ever since he was younger. He spent a lot of time skateboarding and keeping himself fit. He was also hugely interested in films and storytelling. He, along with his friends, made a lot of short films as a kid. Despite that, the thought of working in the film industry never quite crossed his mind until much later.
He aspired to become a lawyer instead. Following his high-school graduation, he moved to Boston and joined the ‘Northeastern University’ to study law. He did a summer internship at a law firm in his first year. It was then that he realized that he did not want to become a lawyer and that his true passion lay in films.
During his sophomore year in college, he began acting in theatrical plays. Soon, he became sure about pursuing a career in acting and moved to Los Angeles to visit a friend of his. He never returned to college and began auditioning for TV and film roles instead.
Continue Reading Below
In 2003, at the age of 23, he made his acting debut, starring in an episode of the police-procedural series ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’ titled ‘Grief.’ He appeared as ‘Donovan Alvarez’ in the series.
The same year, he was selected to play ‘Adam Roam,’ a key role in the TV drama series titled ‘Skin.’ He appeared in six episodes of the series. However, the show was canceled after three episodes due to poor reviews. Nevertheless, all episodes of the series were later telecast on ‘SOAPnet.’
In 2003, he was also almost finalized for the role of ‘Ryan Atwood’ in the series ‘The O.C.’ However, he was removed from the series at the last moment. By then, his acting prowess had already been proved in ‘Skin’.
In 2004, he played a main role in the pilot of ‘Hollywood Division,’ but it found no buyers.
In 2005, Cotrona made his film debut with the horror film titled ‘Venom,’ playing ‘Sean.’ However, the film turned out to be a bad deal, both critically and commercially.
His next film project was the 2006-released ‘Love is the Drug,’ which was previewed at the ‘Slamdance Film Festival.’ The film received mostly positive reviews but was a box-office disappointment. However, the performances in the film were appreciated.
The same year, Cotrona appeared as ‘Sean Mathers,’ a supporting character in the drama series ‘Windfall.’ The show was canceled after 13 episodes.
With continuous film and TV failures, Cotrona took a break from acting and did not take up any new projects until 2010. In 2010, he made his acting comeback with the supporting role of ‘Noodles’ in the war drama film ‘Dear John,’ which had Channing Tatum in the lead role.
‘Dear John’ received mostly negative reviews from critics. However, the film went on to become a box-office success. Cotrona’s performance, along with those of the other cast members, was praised. This was seen as a good comeback for Cotrona, who was struggling with back-to-back failures.
In 2010, he made his comeback to TV, starring in the police-procedural drama series ‘Detroit 1-8-7.’ Cotrona was seen as ‘Detective John Stone,’ an undercover narcotics officer who got transferred to the homicide unit. He appeared in 16 episodes of the series, after which his character was “killed.”
In 2013, Cotrona got the biggest breakthrough of his acting career when he starred in the military science-fiction action film titled ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation.’ The film was a continuation of the ‘G.I. Joe’ film franchise and starred Dwayne Johnson in the lead role. Cotrona played the role of ‘Flint’ in the film. The film was received poorly by critics but turned out to be a box-office success.
In 2014, he got his TV breakthrough, when he appeared in a key role in the horror series titled ‘From Dusk till Dawn.’ He was asked to meet the creator Robert Rodriguez at an hour’s notice, and he bagged the part of ‘Seth Gecko,’ the main lead. The series was based on the film of the same name, in which ‘Seth Gecko’ was played by George Clooney.
The series ran for three seasons (30 episodes) and received positive reviews from both critics and audiences.
In 2019, he appeared in the ‘DC’ film universe superhero film ‘Shazam!,’ playing ‘Superhero Pedro.’ This film, too, was liked by both critics and audiences.
Family & Personal Life
D.J. Cotrona dated Adrianne Palicki in 2011, but the couple broke up in 2013. He began dating Eiza Gonzalez in 2014. However, in 2016, the couple parted ways.
Cotrona once said that had he not been an actor, he would have been a writer and a director.
In his leisure time, he likes working in the garage. He also often travels and writes.