Stephanie Beatriz And John Leguizamo Talk Encanto, Super Mario, And Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Exclusive Interview
Disney’s latest animated film “Encanto” weaves a classic story in reverse. Whereas most Disney heroines are the most special or exceptional people anyone knows, “Encanto” focuses on Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) because what makes her special is that she isn’t. Born into the Madrigal family, a clan where every single member gains their own super power when they come of age, Mirabel stands out because her super power never came. So, while everyone else is shape-shifting, being super strong, and holding dominion over plants, animals, or the weather, Mirabel is the one who just keeps up after everybody.
However, Mirabel isn’t the only member of the Madrigal family who is an odd one out — there’s also Bruno (John Leguizamo), a man with the power of premonition who disappears mysteriously and who nobody in the family will talk about anymore. The Madrigal family protects the community around them, but who is really looking after Mirabel and Bruno?
Looper sat down with Stephanie Beatriz and John Leguizamo to talk about “Encanto,” learn why both of them wanted so badly to be a part of this project, and what super powers they might have in real life. We also talk a little bit about “Super Mario Bros.” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” because why not?
Joining the cast of Encanto
How did you both come on board Encanto? Is it just, “Lin’s doing another Disney movie.” and you’re in, both feet, or is it something else that drew you to it? Stephanie, can we start with you?
Stephanie Beatriz: Yeah, I auditioned for this film. It wasn’t an offer or anything, basically because this is a part that anybody would kill to play. But yeah, I auditioned for this role, I got with my vocal coach, and worked on a song, and turned in that song, and then turned in the scene, and then waited and crossed my fingers, and here we are. But yes, I did want to be part of it, specifically because it was the new … the 60th animated film from Disney, but also set in Colombia, and also the music was going to be by Lin-Manuel. It’s like, “This sounds like a dream project.”
John Leguizamo: Yeah. Maybe that’s where I made my mistake. I should have got to a vocal coach. I didn’t do that, and I think that was to be my mistake, but –
Stephanie Beatriz: Wrong, wrong!
John Leguizamo: But it was, it was driving me to be in the Lin-Manuel movie, Disney, all Latinx representing our culture, and all this beautiful diversity, our color spectrum. How can you say no? You would be a moron. And I usually am a moron, but not this time.
Mirabel and Bruno are similar to the actors who play them
So this song, the Bruno song. You know that one. The one about how you’re not supposed to talk about Bruno.
Stephanie Beatriz: [singing] Yes, one of my favorite songs.
It’s a great song. John, if someone was going to write a song about you, would you fare better than Bruno, or no?
John Leguizamo: If somebody was going to write a song, no. If you let my wife write it, it’s going to be, “Get rid of John, oh please get rid of John.” Got a lot to say about who I am, and don’t let her write it, please.
Stephanie Beatriz: Aw.
Okay. I’m going to commission her to write that song.
John Leguizamo: I knew it!
Stephanie, on the spectrum of characters that you have played, I wanted to know if Mirabel is the closest to you so far.
Stephanie Beatriz: Yeah, I think that’s a really astute observation, because yes, she absolutely is the closest to me. She’s the most… Vocally, she’s the closest to my actual voice, but I also think her insecurities and the things that she is going through in the film are also the closest to journeys that I’ve actually had as a person, on playing it. I think I’ve gone through a lot of… Not that everyone that I know is magical, but I have a lot of amazingly talented, brilliant friends. And so it can often be this moment of going, “Oh, everyone’s doing such incredible stuff, I don’t know if I have anything to say!” Or my teenage years, where I was just like, “I don’t know, man, this, I seem like I’m a mess. Why even try, everyone’s so amazing?” I know that.
Who is Encanto for?
“Encanto” is a very LGBT story. It isn’t directly, but it is.
John Leguizamo: Oh, because of all the colors?
Stephanie, if you want to weigh in on this, I came out, thinking, “There’s something very queer about this narrative, to me, as a queer person.”
Stephanie Beatriz: I think that’s really special, that as a queer person, that you saw that in the film. Because I don’t know if it’s been laid in by the filmmakers or not, but I think the best pieces of art are ones that you feel connected to, and can identify with. I think the thing that you’re probably maybe picking up on, is this feeling of feeling like an outsider in your own family, and feeling not accepted by the people that you want to love you the most. And I think many people in the queer community can feel that way, right?
John Leguizamo: That’s beautiful, yeah.
Stephanie Beatriz: But also, other people can feel that way too. Depending on, let’s say, who you choose to marry. What if you are interested in marrying somebody that doesn’t quite gel with your own family? What a feeling of being an outsider, all of a sudden. Or going into a profession, we talked about this a little bit, our parents being like, “Well, maybe a lawyer.” or something. Not really understanding us wanting to be an artist.
John Leguizamo: An artist.
Stephanie Beatriz: Yeah. And so you just feel like no one in the family understands you.
John Leguizamo: And you could also represent, Mirabel can also be that outsider like Latin people are sometimes in America. We’re invisible, and not seen, and not represented, and not given the respect we deserve. And trying to scream and yell, “Look at us, we’re special, we have lots to offer.” I think she stands in for a lot of people, and that’s what the beauty of the movie is.
What superpowers did John Leguizamo and Stephanie Beatriz want as kids
What power would each of you get, if you were a kid coming of age, and you’re in the family Madrigal, what is that hope, that childhood hope, that innocent hope inside of you, that gets turned into a magical power?
John Leguizamo: Wow. When I was 13, I was such a horny teenager. I guess –
Stephanie Beatriz: I don’t know why I knew you were going to answer that, when you were like, “Wow.” As soon as you were, this was like, “This is going to be…”
John Leguizamo: I mean, if I had a special power back then, it would be…
Stephanie Beatriz: Having the ladies fall in love with you?
John Leguizamo: To be able to make out, I’d be able to make out for hours without taking a breath.
Stephanie Beatriz: Not come up for air? Interesting, interesting.
John Leguizamo: Thank you, my friend.
Stephanie Beatriz: I would’ve been … I read a book when I was a kid, and the main character was telekinetic, had telekinesis, so I could get anything from anywhere.
John Leguizamo: Oh, that could be helpful. In puberty.
Stephanie Beatriz: That would be my…
John Leguizamo: Move that over there. Okay, move it over here.
Only John Leguizamo can get a Super Mario movie right
“Super Mario Brothers,” John, you tweeted about it a little bit. Two things I want to know. One, you said, “I’m the only one who knows how to make this movie script-wise.”
John Leguizamo: Yes, I am.
What does that movie look like?
John Leguizamo: No, I’m not giving it away. I’m not giving it away for free, bro! Hell no.
Not even the elevator pitch?
John Leguizamo: I know how to fix that script, because I was in it, and I was arguing with the writers and creators at the time, going, “This needs that, and this needs this, and she should do this. And when she does that, this.” I know what that secret sauce is, but I ain’t giving it up for free, bro.
Stephanie Beatriz: John’s a prolific writer and creator, think how many shows that he’s written. Just period, just think about that. The canon of your work and the way that you know how to structure stories.
John Leguizamo: The canon? Oh my God, oh my God. It actually makes you feel really old.
Stephanie Beatriz: It’s awesome! He’s an incredible and gifted writer, and creator, and story director.
John Leguizamo: And I feel like she’s got that coming too. She’s got that, because she’s an improv artist, genius. She’s funny, she brings so much humor to this character that you haven’t seen other princesses carry. They’re always kind of square, and kind of…
Stephanie Beatriz: Square!
John Leguizamo: You know what I mean. L-7, as they say.
Stephanie Beatriz and her relationship with the Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast
Stephanie, now that there’s been some time since “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” it’s over, it’s out in the world, what’s happening as far as you continuing to work with people? Because I feel like you guys made such a great family, that’s a real group of people that feels like a lot of them will hang out for the rest of their lives. Are you going to keep doing stuff, what’s happening with you and that group post the show being over?
Stephanie Beatriz: I’m in, still, a flurry of text messages at any given time, because a lot of us are parents. A lot of us are parents, so you can get a text at 3:00 AM that’s like, “Hey, what’s up everybody, I’m just up changing a diaper!” We keep in touch a lot, because we dearly love each other. I would love to work with any of them again, and I think, I hope that they would say the same thing about me. But I think right now, we are still mourning the… I don’t know, not death of Brooklyn Nine, but the end of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It was such a special show for all of us, and it was so formative for all of us, particularly myself.
I can’t speak for the other actors, but I learned so… I didn’t even know how to hit a mark when I… I didn’t, I would miss my mark, because I had come from the theater, so I didn’t understand that “No, all the lighting is set up specifically. The camera, everything’s set up for you to hit this mark on that line. You have to do it, otherwise you’re going to put us behind.” I didn’t get it. And so, to come from that, all the way to the end, where I felt so confident on a set, working with all of those people, I would love to work with any of them again. And I can’t imagine that I won’t, because life is long, and when you find collaborators that you like, you want to work with them over and over.
Disney’s “Encanto” is now playing in theaters everywhere.