The new DC action movie, 'Blue Beetle', is the first to feature a Latino superhero as the protagonist. The film tells the story of Jaime Reyes, a recent university graduate, who returns home to Ciudad Palmera when he comes into contact with a Beetle
Starring Xolo Maridueña, (Cobra Kai), Scarab chooses Jaime to be his host, fusing with his spine and granting him a blue armor capable of all kinds of incredible powers. Jaime chooses to use his new abilities to protect Palmera City by becoming the superhero Blue Beetle.
Maridueña spoke about the possibility of deepening Latino representation in Hollywood by making not only Jaime, but the entire Reyes family the focus of a superhero movie. Along with Maridueña they appear in the film Adriana Barraza (Rambo: Last Blood, Thor) as Jaime's grandmother, Damían Alcázar (Narcos, Narcos: Mexico) as his father, Elpidia Carrillo (Mayans M.C., Predator) as his mother and George Lopez like Jaime's uncle. Born and raised in L.A., in a Mexican American household, Maridueña went to El Sereno Middle School and graduated from Cathedral High School. His mother is Mexican American, and his biological father is a Cuban Ecuadorian American. He expressed interest in acting at an early age, despite having limited T.V. Xolo grew up in a home where faith has always been important. He and his family practice the Ifa/Santero tradition. The religion is practiced in several different parts of the world but is most commonly found in West Africa, South America, and the Canary Islands. (This interview was realized in March before the strike of actors)
Q: Is it important to incorporate elements of Spanish culture into the adaptation of the Blue Beetle character?
A: I am very nervous. In fact, I get excited with the presentation of the movie. It's wonderful to show our culture and do it with what I consider the best actors in Mexico City, who are Adriana Barraza and Damián Alcázar. Working with people that I respect, with actors who were in the movies I saw growing up, inspired me in my acting.
Q: The film reflects the experience immigrant families face in the United States.
A: One of the things we wanted to do was to be as authentic as possible. We wanted to take advantage of the three generations. We wanted to see the first immigrant family, how they educate their children and grandchildren. This is the first of many movies. I want other communities as well to be able to tell their stories in a real way, with the voices that should be telling those stories, with the respect and honor these communities deserve. Giving immigrants a voice makes us understand each other better. Starting a global conversation and accepting our differences is exciting.
Q: The importance of family and authenticity are also very present from the perspective of the film.
A: We see how some of the other superheroes tend to hide their family. But Jamie's family is with him in his first transformation. Going on that journey together is something we haven't seen in superhero movies, and it's at the heart of this movie. Although this was the first time I've become a superhero, I think it's a character, whether Latino or not, that transcends ethnicity or skin color because it allows us to identify with his idea of family. We will all understand Jaime because the problems he faces are problems we know about.
Q: The film approach gives underserved communities more film exposure.
A: I am like everyone, I am as special as everyone. My culture is not a buzzword. We exist and we coexist, and for me, being able to integrate those things that make us special adds flavor. It's like laughter. People laugh differently, but it's still laughter. We deal with grief differently, and we deal with loss differently, but it's still loss. It's always nice to see something we're used to seeing, with other superheroes we love and appreciate, but this time, we're seeing it our way.
Q: Do you think this film can have a cultural impact on society?
A: That remains to be seen. I think it can impact the superhero genre. I want to invite the audience to not be scared and join the party. Latino is not a generalization or buzzword. This is a superhero movie that has Latinos at the forefront. Being able to see my movie in theaters is the best gift possible.
Q: Did you know the history of the character?
A: No. Getting to go into the comics during pre-production and defining who Jamie was as a character, gave me confidence. If everyone helps us out and this movie becomes a big hit, we're going to see a lot of Latino superheroes. That is what must happen. If we want to see more variety in cinema and really celebrate differences, the only way to do that is to support a movie like this. I like to see movies and series that reflect the communities in which they develop, especially when they tell stories aimed at the Latino community.
Q: Do you speak Spanish?
A: Yes, sure. My mother is Chicana. Spanish has always been spoken in my house.
Q: Any favorite Spanish author
A: I couldn't tell you one right now, but I do have a favorite Spanish tennis player and it's Rafael Nadal. I love tennis.
Q: Your acting career started at a very young age considering you're 21. Was it always what you wanted to pursue?
A: As long as I wanted to pursue a job, I think acting was always in the mix. I started off doing modeling and commercials. That was sort of a means to pay for college while also being in an industry that I enjoyed. Then ‘Cobra Kai’ came along, and I think somewhere in between finishing up ‘Parenthood’’ and starting ‘Cobra Kai’ is when the idea of being an actor as a career for the rest of my life, really started to settle in. Now, I have interest in dipping my toes into some of the other facets of this industry.
By María Estévez