The actor, who plays belligerent werewolf Paul in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," has leaped from tiny indie films to the top of the box office as part of the worldwide sensation that is everything "Twilight."
"(Being in 'New Moon') has changed my life tremendously," the 24-year-old actor and married father of one said in a phone interview. "Before, I had to fight for auditions. I was never 'Native' enough, 'Latin' enough, 'white' enough.
"Now I'm the perfect look," he added wryly.
Meraz will appear Saturday at the Grand Rapids Griffins' "Twilight Night." He'll sign autographs for ticketed fans before the Griffs' 8 p.m. game with the Milwaukee Admirals. (You could win tickets.)
SEE 'TWILIGHT' STARS
What: 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon' star Alex Meraz will sign autographs for fans before the Grand Rapids Griffins game with the Milwaukee Admirals.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday until the game starts at 8
Where: Van Andel Arena, 130 W. Fulton St.
Tickets: $13-$30, arena box office, Star Tickets outlets, (800) 585-3737, startickets.com
• Taylor Lautner will host "Saturday Night Live" at 11:35 p.m. Saturday on NBC.
"I've always wanted to go to a hockey game," the Arizona native said. "Being into mixed martial arts, I always thought hockey was cool."
Meraz will get his chance in Grand Rapids, as well as the opportunity to visit the hometown of his "New Moon" castmate Taylor Lautner, who also plays a Quileute teen-turned-werewolf in the "Twilight" sequel.
Based on the books by Stephenie Meyer about a teen girl who falls in love with a vampire, the new film has earned more than $255 million domestically and about $500 million worldwide since it opened Nov. 20.
Lautner, the Grand Rapids-born 17-year-old who lived in Hudsonville until he was 11, reprises his role as Jacob, one of the series' main characters, in "New Moon."
"Taylor -- he, honestly, out of all the other cast members is so solid," Meraz said. "Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, myself and everyone had moments of inner conflict and doubt, but Taylor was so composed, so calm and happy and centered every single day. That guy is a different breed. It must be the water in Grand Rapids."
Having just wrapped up filming for the "Twilight" saga's third installment, "Eclipse," Meraz is reveling in newfound fame and the adulation of millions of "Team Jacob" fans whose affection for Lautner spills over to his "pack."
Of the four shape-shifting werewolves, Meraz's Paul is "the least conflicted about how he is," said the father of baby son Somak.
"He is aggressive and honest about how he feels about (being a werewolf). He's a bad boy, and I like that. It was nice to be able to play somebody bigger than life."
Meraz, who originally auditioned for the role of Sam Uley, the pack's leader, was raised in Arizona and is a Native Mexican Aboriginal of the Purepecha Nation. The fact that Meyer's plot for "New Moon" heavily involved Native American people and their culture held deep meaning for the actor, whose previous credits include a bit part as a warrior in 2005's "The New World."
"It was great to play this role," he said. "It's kind of rare to see this kind of depiction of natives. When people think native, they think wearing leather and riding a horse; they think 'Dances with Wolves.' There are so many different tribes, and people can see a different aspect of native culture, of the Quileute tribe, in 'New Moon.'"
Though he applauds Meyer's attention to the Washington State tribe's "real beliefs and culture," he pointed out one major fictional embellishment: "The Quileute believe they are descended from wolves," he said. "But only in the ('Twilight') books and movies can they turn into wolves and back into humans again."