IN CONVERSATION WITH XOLO MARIDUEÑA
Interview by Jana Letonja
Xolo Maridueña stars as DC’s newest superhero in ‘Blue Beetle’, which hits the theaters today (18th August). Prior to landing the role in the newest DC installment, he starred in Netflix’s series ‘Cobra Kai’ and NBC’s series ‘Parenthood’.
Xolo, we’re currently able to see you in DC’s 14th installment ‘Blue Beetle’. How did you get cast for this film?
I knew Angel Manuel Soto, the director, before coming to the project and we spent a lot of time having discussions together, years before he started working on ‘Blue Beetle’. I got to form a relationship with him and my wonderful team vouched for me to play the part. I think my 21 years of life was the audition process, from what Angel has told me. The main crux of Jaime’s journey is his love for his family and when Angel and I met, he could tell I had that same love for my own family.
Tell us more about ‘Blue Beetle’ and your character Jaime Reyes.
It’s a story about my character, a young man named Jaime Reyes, who graduates from college and returns to his home to his family when he comes in contact with an ancient relic that turns him into the superhero Blue Beetle.
On a deeper level, it’s about someone who feels he is unfit for the opportunities that the universe has presented him with and tells the story of how he rises to the occasion, all because of the love and support of his family.
With this role, you became the first Latino superhero to headline a film. How does it feel to portray the first live action Latino superhero, and in a DC film nonetheless?
I take it with a lot of pride. It’s not lost on me that this opportunity is one of the largest we’ve seen of its kind. The opportunity to bring more diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera is the most important thing to me. I hope that it is an example that our people deserve to be superheroes too and I hope it only encourages other filmmakers and other creatives at the top of their game to express themselves as well.
How do you think the diversity and representation have changed in the last few years in the acting world?
It’s an ongoing effort, but having a film like ‘Blue Beetle’ shows that we are heading in the right direction. What we were so blessed with in this movie is the opportunity to see tons of Latinos on the screen and see their perspectives from not only the lead character, but from the ten people that come behind me on the call sheet. I hope that while our film is authentic to the Latino experience, it’s also authentic to many people. I think a lot of people are going to see themselves in this film, whether they are Latino or not. I hope it opens the doors for many more stories like this.
Audiences mostly recognize you from your role as Miguel Diaz in Netflix’s ‘Cobra Kai’. Did doing karate and stunts in that show prepare you for the role of ‘Blue Beetle’?
Oh, yes. I was fortunate that five years of getting kicked around on ‘Cobra Kai’ prepared me for an alien to kick my butt. Most of my flowers go to the stunt team however. They made me look so good on screen. I have so much gratitude for all of the stunt teams I have ever gotten to work with. They are the real superheroes.
‘Cobra Kai’ also helped me with the mental preparation of leading a film, which was something that I hadn’t done before. I had a really great playground to build with ‘Cobra Kai’, having just come off of working with some really renowned actors on that show. I think it really prepared me to stand toe-to-toe with actors like George Lopez and Susan Sarandon. I had to be the most prepared and come on set and set the tone. There is a responsibility when you are #1 on the call sheet and I wanted to live up to that.
You’ve been included in Forbes’ ’30 Under 30′ list and The Hollywood Reporter’s ‘Next Gen’ list. How does it feel to get such recognition for your work?
It’s an honor to be recognized alongside so many talented peers and although accolades are not why I got in this industry, I feel very grateful that the work I have been a part of has resonated with others.
Can you share with us your story of how you got into acting?
It started out as a means to pay for college. I did modeling, commercials and other small gigs as a kid. One opportunity kept leading to another and I landed the role on ‘Parenthood’. Then I booked ‘Cobra Kai’ at 16 and the rest is really history.
Which part of acting do you find the most challenging and why?
A lot of work goes into prepping for a role. I hadn’t worked on anything else since I started ‘Cobra Kai’ and at this point I know how to approach playing Miguel and I’m very comfortable with the character. When I started on ‘Blue Beetle’, I was reminded about all the work that needs to be done to develop a new character. Every character can’t feel the same. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to playing a new role and especially one that is different from yourself. That can be a demanding process.
Who are you outside of being an actor?
I love music. I love making music and listening to music. I love photography. I love eating.
What can you share with us about your future dreams and goals for your career?
I’m currently focused on sharing ‘Blue Beetle’ with the world and I am excited to be kicking off the new DC Universe with Jaime. I know Angel, our director, has future plans for this character and I would love to continue it, but for now I hope everyone sees and enjoys this film.
THIS PHOTOSHOOT & INTERVIEW WERE CONDUCTED BEFORE THE SAG-AFTRA STRIKE!
Talent: Xolo Maridueña @xolo_mariduena
Photographer: Samuel Ramirez @foxhunter
Stylist: Anastasia Walker @neoncomplex
Groomer: Sophia Porter @ Exclusive Artists using Le Domaine Skincare @thesophiaporter @exclusiveartists
Photography assistant: Dru Gannon @druuuul
Styling assistant: Four @4likefour
Film lab: That One Photo Lab @thatonephotolab
Set design: Ton Aguilar @sir_t0n
Editor: Timi Letonja @timiletonja
Cover design: Arthur Roeloffzen @arthurroeloffzen
Interview by Jana Letonja @janaletonja