DIGITAL COVER: DIEGO BONETA

Jacket by Dsquared2

 

Photography by: Emilio G Hernandez

Styling by: Marc Sifuentes

Creative Direction: Louis Liu

Grooming by: Benjamin Thigpen

Location: @alloy.bk @168plymouth @rebeccarobertsoninteriors

 

Some might call it fate when an 11-year-old Diego Boneta won a televised singing competition with his rendition of a classic Luis Miguel hit song “La Chica del Bikini Azul”. Fast forward 20 years later, and Boneta is not only the star of the three season Netflix hit series Luis Miguel: The Series, but was an integral part in creating the series as Executive Producer to the project. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Boneta recreated and re-recorded some of Miguel’s top hits for the series, a nearly impossible task for those that understand the complexity of Miguel’s catalog of music.  

Boneta spoke to Iris Covet Book about the time and preparation involved in playing the legendary crooner and the craft of perfecting a beloved real life character while still making it his own. Boneta also discusses the inspiration behind producing, starting his own production company, and his determination to open more doors for Latino actors.

 

Suit by TEDDY VONRANSON, Jewelry by Konstantino

 

The Luis Miguel series has been a huge hit for Netflix for three seasons, but I want to go back to the beginning and talk about your process preparing to play the role of this international superstar.

Of course. Well, when I got offered the part I knew the challenge it would entail because Luis Miguel is somebody who is still very relevant and more importantly still alive. Normally a show like this happens once the artist has passed away. I knew that there was only one way to do this right and that was to really take the preparation part seriously, even more seriously than the actual shooting. It was the first time that I worked on a movie that was a full transformative role and becoming someone else is very, very intense. 

It’s me becoming someone else, and not only acting but also singing. I basically took a year to just work on that. I had a vocal coach, Ron Anderson, and then I had my acting coach, Juan Carlos Corazza, helping me on the acting front, and I was also an Executive Producer on the series! It’s the most demanding project I’ve ever been a part of. 

Some people might not know that you originally are from a musical background ,you were in a singing competition show at eleven years old and starring opposite Tom Cruise in the movie musical Rock of Ages. Did you know that you would have to take on the responsibility of re-recording all of the songs in the series in your own voice?

I sat down with Jamie Foxx one day,I’ve been a big fan of his work and his Oscar winning performance in the movie Ray about Ray Charles, I think he absolutely crushed that movie, and what he told me was, “the key is to do everything.” You know, he told me if we recreate all the songs, don’t stop there. I needed to recreate the music videos, the album covers,even the prop pictures on the set had to be me. He was also the person to say I needed to sing in the series. You know, Luis Miguel has crazy pipes. He’s one of the best singers of all time. And I wanted to give it a shot. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it. Ron Anderson, who was the vocal coach of Rock of Ages, helped me try to replicate the sound of Luis Miguel. It was like learning how to sing again. Going from changing your vibrato, to seeing where you have to place your voice to sound closer to his tone, to how to pronounce his vowels, where he places each vowel. It was crazy, and that’s all I did for a year. 

 

Full look by Thom Browne, Jewelry by Konstantino

 

If you didn’t have the musical background, do you think you would have taken on that challenge or is that part of your personality to push yourself out of your comfort zone? 

I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it without having a musical background. Because Luis has one of those voices that, I mean, what that man can do with his voice is insane. I don’t think I would have been able to do it without having my 20 years of vocal training. 

A key part of the success was having Kiko Cibrian, who produced a lot of Luis’ records, produce this soundtrack. All the songs were re-recorded, all the instruments were re-recorded. So I wasn’t just singing over recorded tracks. Kiko made sure we re-recorded every single song. A lot of those songs were written and recorded back in the 90’s by Kiko, so it was incredible to have him as the music producer for all three seasons of the soundtracks. 

And what about Luis Miguel? Did he have any advice for you during the recording process?

Well, I met him before we started shooting. There’s actually a scene in season three that recreates when we met. He shared some very personal stories with me and he told me ‘this is just for you for no one else, use it for your interpretation’. We hung out a few more times and he got to listen to the songs. He was extremely nice and very supportive. After seeing the show he said, ‘Man, you killed it.’ Hearing that from the person that you’re playing, I don’t think you can get any better than that. 

 

Full Look by Alexander McQueen

 

You prepared for this role for over a year, when did you feel that you had mastered the part? 

I’d say whenever we started doing rehearsals in Mexico City, before we started shooting with the director. He’s really the one that found the tone for the show. In those rehearsals, in talking to him, going over the scenes and just playing with the script, that’s where we found it. 

Just knowing and having that confidence that there was nothing else I could have done to prepare anymore. I had done my homework and no one knew the character better than I did. That gave me the freedom and the confidence to know that I was ready.

You also put in the work to be in a makeup chair for 4 to 6 hours a day getting your prosthetics on. What was that experience like? 

That was a whole different ball game because it’s not just putting on the prosthetics and then boom you’re the part, you know? Studying him and being him for 33 years of his life, from 17 to 50 years old. Studying each of those stages of his life, changing the mannerisms and the way he spoke throughout his life. 

The hardest part was trying to understand and imagine what life must have been like for him. The prosthetics consisted of six hours of makeup, wigs and body suits everyday to become that older Luis Miguel. The team behind it was amazing. Bill Corso is a two time Academy Award winning special effects makeup artist alongside Alfredo Moda, an amazing Mexican makeup artist.The fusion between both teams was a really cool experience, and they paid attention to the smallest details

 

Full Look by Zegna

 

This series is your first project as an Executive Producer, and I was reading that Mark Burnett called you and threw out the idea. Had the thought of being an EP ever occurred to you before this project? Is that a role you were interested in?

I worked with Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages and observed how he did business and how he manages his career in-between making movies. He was always working on the next thing and working through pre-production on another. I thought that’s what I wanted to do. 

Mark Burnett and I worked together on a TV show called the Dovekeepers, back in 2014. And I told Mark I really wanted to get into producing. It’s not something that I want just to have a vanity credit. I actually wanted to learn all the in’s and out’s. So when Luis Miguel came around, he called me and said ‘I have the perfect project. There is no script but I know you’re very familiar with the music, with his life, with his story. Be a part of this production team and let’s do this together.’

Producing together was the best part of the learning experience. Fully learning before there is even any scripts, no actor, no one cast yet. Really shaping this project from the very beginning. That was the best part and I got a big satisfaction out of it.

Full look by Casablanca, Jewelry by Konstantino

So tell me more about your production company Three Amigos. What is your team’s vision? 

We see it as a media company because of our focus on television, film, books, and broadcasts. We want to find projects that show Latinos in an uplifting light. We are so excited to team up with some of the best filmmakers in the industry. At the moment, we are working on a romantic comedy with Paramount called At Midnight, it’s something of a fusion between Hollywood and Mexico. Today, with more opportunities through streaming services, the business is realizing that people don’t really care as much about the language as they do about a relatable and interesting story. Spanish is a global language. There are a lot of hugely successful Spanish speaking shows watched all over the world and we are looking forward to being a major player in bringing quality content to a global audience.

Full Look by Dries Van Noten

 

There has always been a lack of representation in Hollywood for the Latin community, and a lot of the roles that were out there leaned towards a certain stereotype. Did you ever have to confront a time where there were roles being pitched to you that were not a good fit for you as a representative of the Latin community. 

I think times have definitely changed from when I first moved to LA in 2007. There are more roles and better roles. But back then, yes, it was difficult to get good latino roles. 

There are plenty of actors of different races out there that can play different nationalities, and so can we. So yes, I think things are better today. I think they’re moving in the right direction. There’s still a lot of work to do. There’s still a lot of room to grow and improve and that’s why I’m so passionate about my production company Three Amigos, which is creating those vehicles for other actors as well. 

 

Suit and Pant by Zegna, Jewelry by Konstantino

 

Shot at 168 Plymouth, the last historic factory to residential loft conversions in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, composed of two 100-year-old paint factory buildings which have been attentively transformed by Alloy Development’s architecture team. Pictured is the new Brick and Timber model residence with interior design by Rebecca Robertson Interiors.

IN THE HEIGHTS STAR MELISSA BARRERA

Dress – Paco Rabanne

Photography by Dennis Tejero @ ADB Agency

Styling by Marc Sifuentes

Makeup by Talia Sparrow @ Kalpana NYC

Hair by Cameron Rains @ Forward Artists

Interview by Evan Ross Katz 

Melissa Barrera, one of the leads on Starz’s Vida and the upcoming film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights, opens up about her journey to success and prioritizing her Latin roots within and outside of her work.

Dress, Belt and Boots by Versace

“It feels like so much more than an acting job,” Melissa Barrera says of her starring role on Starz’s hit series Vida. “I feel like it was a gift that I was given.” Barrera stars as Lyn Hernandez on the series which was recently renewed for a third season. “Barrera’s performance in particular blooms with searing clarity,” Vox wrote. The Hollywood Reporter called Barrera’s performance “absurdly funny.” The A.V. Club called the actress “a force to be reckoned with.” 

“It’s important to see Latin stories out there and to see the dreams that our people have and how hard we work. There’s more to us than just the negative things you see in the media or what certain people want to say about Latinx people.” But it’s not just Barrera’s work on Vida. Whether her upcoming role in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical In the Heights, her time on popular telenovelas like Siempre Tuya Acapulco and Tanto Amor or in regional theater productions in her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, much of the conversation with Barrera seems to circle back to her Mexican roots—and it’s no coincidence.  

“I’m Mexican. I’m fully Mexican. I was born and raised in Mexico and now I happen to work in the United States. And I am proud to be a part of this Latinx wave of shows and films that are finally starting to get made and people that have never seen themselves represented on screen are finally getting to see themselves and I get to be a part of it. So I feel that it is important to wear my identity on my sleeve and be one of the faces of this movement and help people see themselves because a lot of people have felt erased in their stories or their stories are never told. I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine to be a voice for those people who have not had one for so long. And I want to.” 

Dress by Off-White

It’s this passion that emanates from Barrera, who thinks long and hard before responding to questions, constantly aware of the possibilities and pitfalls of a first impression and desiring to represent both herself and her roots with pride. This, according to her friends that I spoke with, is the Melissa they’ve always known. 

Though acting and singing seemed like the natural trajectory from an early age, Barrera did not limit her possibilities. “There was a point where I wanted to be a doctor,” she says, adding that architecture, interior design, even biomedical engineering were all career aspirations at various times. “I even at one point wanted to be a secret agent. I’ve wanted to be so many different things throughout my life. But that’s the thing about being an actor, you get to be everything.” 

She started auditioning for local regional productions in high school and was quickly cast in a musical version of Romeo and Juliet in Monterrey. That was her first taste of the rigor of the theater: working six days a week, with two-shows a day often the norm. It didn’t dissuade her, only making her hungry for more. She furthered her education attending New York University to study theater. She left New York University’s prestigious CAP21 musical theater program two years in after making it into the top 20 on La Academia, a popular Mexican competition reality series that catapulted her star meter. 

“That show definitely prepared me for the industry. It was a very difficult experience because it brought all my insecurities to the surface. It made me doubt if I had what it took to be in this business. It made me fight for it really hard. I’m very grateful I had that experience, even though sometimes I have PTSD about it. Whenever I have to sing in public I get stage fright and I never feel good enough because of all of the harsh judgments I had while I was on that show.” But she’s careful to stress the positives that came from it, like learning to fight for her dream. It’s also the place where she met her future husband, musician Paco Zazueta. 

Dress by Georgine

That show proved a career springboard, landing her roles in a number of popular telenovelas. “I’ve always felt that telenovelas, especially in Mexico, are looked down upon as a genre….but I personally love them,” she says, describing the rigor of the production process as boot camp. “It’s literally shooting 30 scenes a day, one after the other, and it forces you to go through a crazy rollercoaster of emotions, more so than anything else I’ve ever done. I think because of that school of telenovela, it made everything that’s come after much easier for me.”

And thankfully, the “everything” that has come after has been plentiful, from Vida to a recently-announced contemporary reimagining of the opera Carmen opposite Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan, to the upcoming In the Heights, a role Barrera has been eyeing for over a decade before she was cast. “I remember going to see it on Broadway at least ten times. I remember the first time that I saw it, what I felt, it was as though my heart was going to explode with pride and hope. All my dreams of being on Broadway after seeing that show just felt so much more tangible.” From there, she set out to be casted, attending open calls for the show, but never quite landing a spot…until now, nearly a dozen years after the show’s first bow on the Great White Way. 

Dress by Tom Ford

“It’s going to be very different from the stage version,” she says of the movie, set for release next summer. “It’s been updated to reflect the situation of immigrants today, so it has appropriately been adapted to take place in 2020.” For Barrera, it’s about leveling out the audience with the content, noting the disparity between Latinx content consumption and shows casting Latinx actors, created by Latinx people and/or telling Latinx stories. To that end, Barrera says she hopes to begin producing her own work down the line. “Because [Vida creator] Tanya [Saracho] gave opportunities to people like me, I’m going to make sure that I follow in her footsteps.”

And with that, Barrera is back to set to shoot the final week of filming In The Heights. Though she’s not filming any scenes on this particular day, she says she just wants to be around it all, near the cast, watching the process unfold around her. Like much of the pride Barrera so often spoke about, it’s not necessarily about her, but about who she can be to and for those who come after her.

Dress by Victoria Hayes

 

Interview from Issue 12 of IRIS COVET BOOK available in stores and online by clicking —> HERE!