Few creatives have made as meteoric a rise as Lin-Manuel Miranda has since the start of the 21st century. After breaking out with his Broadway hit In The Heights in 2007, he became a one-man phenomenon thanks to the spectacular success of Hamilton, and since then his career has made incredible strides as he’s proven to be a true renascence entertainer. This past month, for example, has been massive for him, as he has not only released his directorial debut, Tick, Tick…Boom!, on Netflix, but he also had a key role in the creation of Encanto, the latest film from Walt Disney Animation Studios.
He’s built an incredible level of clout in the entertainment industry, and while it’s clear that filmmakers and performers love working with him, it can also be a creatively intimidating experience, as I recently learned talking with the stars behind the lead characters in Encanto.
The new animated film is a project that Lin-Manuel Miranda had a direct hand in creating from very early stages (creating a distinction between it and his work on Moana), and that work included writing a full soundtrack of songs. These tracks are in a variety of genres and demand extreme range from the performers, and that, as you might imagine, put the actors back on their heels a bit in the recording process.
Stephanie Beatriz, who plays protagonist Mirabel Madrigal in Encanto, made a clear distinction between her time recording dialogue versus recording music, and emphasized the enhanced degree of difficulty in the latter. Beatriz has experience working with Lin-Manuel Miranda, as earlier this year she was featured in Jon Chu’s big screen adaptation of In The Heights, but even still she acknowledged the advanced degree of difficulty that came with the job:
Anxiety inducing as it may have been, Stephanie Beatriz explained that she had a secret weapon against it in the making of Encanto: preparation. Being honest about her dedication to her craft, she explained that taking on a project means making sure that she is in the best position to do the best job that she can, and working that hard took the edge off of a hard gig. She continued,
Diane Guerrero, Jessica Darrow, and Wilmer Valderrama – who respectively play Isabela, Luisa, and Agustin Madrigal in Encanto – were grouped together for our interview, together they all echoed many of the same sentiments of Stephanie Beatriz when I asked about the pressure inherent in collaborating with Lin-Manuel Miranda and recording music that he has written. They particularly highlighted the challenge that comes with Miranda’s tendency to blend styles together, making each song a different kind of effort. Said Guerrero,
Continuing Diane Guerroro’s thought, Jessica Darrow added that recording the soundtrack for Encanto meant accessing skills she didn’t know she actually had prior to the making of the film, saying,
As for Wilmer Valderrama, he plays a character who doesn’t have his own song in Encanto, which is something true for both Diane Guerrero and Jessica Darrow, but he had his own intimidating experience recording the music, acknowledging not only the complexity of the songs, but also performing them right in front of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Said the actor,
Bruno Madrigal, the black sheep of the family at the heart of Encanto, is another character that isn’t made to be a prominent voice on the soundtrack, but that didn’t totally excuse John Leguizamo from the music half of the assignment in the creation of the Walt Disney Animation Studios film. The beloved character actor has a fantastic rap in the movie, and he egoless-ly explained that the recording session for that part took far longer than one might expect:
Also starring María Cecilia Botero, Mauro Castillo, Angie Cepeda, and Carolina Gaitán, Encanto is now playing in theaters everywhere, and you can discover everything else heading to the big screen and streaming in what remains of this year by checking out our 2021 Movie Release Calendar.
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.