The first time Mexican star Diego Boneta performed live on television in 2003, he was 12 years old and appeared on the talent show “Código FAMA”, an “American Idol” style competition for children. from his country of origin.
“La Chica del Bikini Azul,” a lively pop song by internationally renowned singer Luis Miguel, whose full name is Luis Miguel Gallego Basteri, was the song the production assigned to Boneta for his debut.
It was a good omen: fifteen years later, in a stroke of fate that redefined her career, Boneta turned into a singer, often nicknamed “El Sol de Mexico” (the sun of Mexico), for “Luis Miguel : the series ”from Netflix. which mesmerized audiences across the Spanish speaking world and beyond when it premiered in 2018.
When Boneta, now 30, tries to describe Luis Miguel, 51, to his non-Latino friends, he refers to the musician as “Elvis Presley meets Frank Sinatra”, which suggests both his vocal skills and his larger personality. than nature.
One of Latin America’s most successful acts to date, Luis Miguel – and his cross-genre romantic hymns – have filled countless concert halls and sold millions of albums in his nearly four-decade career. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Luis Miguel’s personal life, however, was marked by tragedy, most notably the unresolved disappearance from his mother in 1986 and a troubled relationship with his father. Part of the appeal of the fictional drama, the second season of which is now streaming, is that it serves as a window into the private pains of a tight-lipped artist.
“This is the most difficult project I have ever done because it was demanding from all angles: playing, singing and producing,” Boneta said. The series, shot primarily in Mexico, was the actor’s first foray as an executive producer, a behind-the-scenes role he reprized for the topical Mexican film “New Order” (in select theaters Friday from Neon), in which he also plays.
Although Boneta never thought that a Spanish show about a Latin surname would open more doors in Hollywood than her roles in leading English-language vehicles “Rock of Ages”, “Scream Queens” and ” Terminator: Dark Fate ”, he now understands that the global entertainment landscape – and the obstacles it poses – is changing.
“I think that tells you two things: that people want to watch the best stories regardless of the language they are spoken in and the importance of the Latin market,” he said.
For Boneta, who released solo albums in 2005 and 2008 before focusing on theater, Luis Miguel has always been a major factor in his relationship with music: he was exposed to the superstar’s brilliant pop era in the 90s by his parents, and the musician was among the first Bonetas to ever see live. Luis Miguel is also the artist Boneta saw most often in concert. (He estimates it’s almost a dozen times.)
Boneta came to “Luis Miguel: The Series” before there was a screenplay or director on board. Without a line to follow, the actor plunged into the singer’s world. “I didn’t know what we were going to say, so I spent about a year getting ready, first of all watching videos of his live performances and interviews,” he said.
Boneta eventually took part in script development alongside Daniel Krauze, the lead writer, and later with director Humberto Hinojosa. The same core group, comprising producer Pablo Cruz and showrunner Carla González Vargas of MGM’s Gato Grande Productions, are behind the two seasons of the series, on which Luis Miguel himself is also credited as producer. executive. Their guiding principle was to keep the tone of the show anchored, to prevent it from veering into the realm of caricature or soap opera.
As part of his long preparation, Boneta traveled to Spain to work with interim coach Juan Carlos Corazza, whose clients also include Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz. For vocal training, he turned to Ron Anderson, whom he knew from “Rock of Ages”.
Absorbing the essence of Luis Miguel became Boneta’s sole focus, spurred on by the knowledge that playing someone who is still alive, still relevant, and still performing – especially someone so loved – was a huge risk. . “It’s very easy to go to YouTube and check if he really spoke that way or not, or if he really had these ticks and mannerisms,” he said.
Approaching the portrait with extraordinary attention to detail, Anderson worked with Boneta to change her singing style, vibrato, vowel pronunciation, cadence, and timing to resemble Luis Miguel’s as much as possible.
“He was like, ‘Diego, I’ve never done this before. I’ve never had to teach a singer to be like another singer, ”Boneta said. “It was a huge challenge, because Luis Miguel’s voice is considered one of the best voices of all time.” (Sinatra agreed: he invited Luis Miguel to do a duet on “Come Fly With Me” on his 1994 album, “Duets II”).
Separated by a three-year gap, the action in Seasons 1 and 2 covers discreet periods in Luis Miguel’s career. The first season is based on “Luis Mi Rey” by Javier León Herrera, which chronicles Luis Miguel’s life until his father’s death in 1992. The second, covering the 90s and early 2000s, required go back to the singer and people who knew him at the time to piece together the story.
During the long pre-production process, Boneta met Luis Miguel four times. They spent several hours getting to know each other and a unique trust was formed.
“He shared some things that he asked me not to share with anyone else, not even writers,” Boneta said. “‘This is just for you Diego, to help you.’ We shared this secret. It created a bond between us, and I will take the things he told me to the grave.
Boneta’s favorite films based on the lives of famous musicians are “Ray” and “Walk the Line”, as their story arcs follow the rise, fall and resurgence of their protagonists, and each one stars a very committed actor: Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles and Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, respectively.
“When I spoke to Jamie Foxx I said, ‘Dude, what advice can you give me?’ He knew exactly who Luis Miguel was. He said, “It’s very simple. Doing everything. If there’s a picture in a scene with him and his brother, it’s you. That there is no reference to the real Luis Miguel in the series. Recreate everything from an album cover to a picture in decorating the decor to singing songs. By the way, good luck singing the songs, because this guy has pipes. ”
Indeed, one of the most difficult parts of the role was singing in Luis Miguel’s original keys. “He is a virtuoso of music. He’s got a scale, which is pretty much the same scale as Freddie Mercury – he girds on some really crazy high notes. We’re talking about high Cs in just about every one of his songs, ”Boneta said. The most difficult track for him was “Ayer,” the first single from Luis Miguel’s 1993 Grammy-winning album “Aries”.
The show’s not-so-secret weapon was Kiko Cibrian, the music producer behind many of Luis Miguel’s hits, including “Suave.” He reproduced the songs from scratch 20 years later. And Cibrian did not work from the original masters. Instead, each instrument was re-recorded for the Boneta versions.
Rich in emotion, season 2 was doubly trying for Boneta, who was to play the singer in his twenties and thirties. For scenes like old Luis Miguel, Boneta used prosthetics to match the facial structure of the mature performer.
Oscar-winning makeup artist Bill Corso was in charge of Boneta’s physical makeover. Working with a team of Mexican makeup artists led by Alfredo “El Tigre” Mora, Corso created the pieces to augment and restructure the actor’s features and the Mexican team then applied them.
Luis Miguel’s “face” helped Boneta approach other visible features in a more measured way; he didn’t need to exaggerate his manners, for example. “Once I knew the timelines we were going to explore this time around, I focused on those years of his life like a microscope to really try and become him. It is not identity theft. It’s becoming the character and putting myself in his place, ”he said.
Boneta sees Luis Miguel’s life story as a Shakespearean tragedy. Season 2 is a more layered expression of the man he became as a result of trauma. This Luis Miguel is no longer a naive victim of his father’s actions but a man who knows exactly where he stands in the music industry. He recognizes the power he possesses, but also how lonely he is in the midst of greed, deception and conflicting egos.
This task meant embracing the less flattering side of a seemingly untouchable figure. And for Boneta, the elements of her performance – research, singing, physical transformation – are all tools for understanding Luis Miguel’s impulses and motivations.
“It’s an actor’s job to be your character’s advocate,” Boneta said, “and instead of judging it, justifying it.”
‘Luis Miguel – The Series’
Rating: TV-MA (may not be suitable for children under 17, with warnings for foul language and sexual content)