Stephanie Beatriz & John Leguizamo Interview: Encanto

Encanto, Disney's latest entry into their animated canon, arrives in theaters on November 24. The film takes place in Colombia and utilizes the rich literary genre of magic realism to introduce a world where mystical candles can provide one family with a refuge whose gifts last generations. The Madrigals have built a community thanks to their casita, an ever-expanding home that presents each child of the household with a magical power when they come of age.

Every child except for Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz, In The Heights), whose normalcy threatens to make her the black sheep of the family even as she does her best to be of service. But when the house itself starts to show signs of wear and tear, she is the one who must take on the task of uncovering the cause of its ailment. And what better way to do that than embark on an epic quest to discover the whereabouts of her long-disappeared uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo, When They See Us), whose own gift was terrible prophecy?

Related: Lin-Manuel Miranda Interview: Encanto

Beatriz and Leguizamo spoke to Screen Rant about exploring the complicated dynamics of the Madrigal family, relating to their characters, and their preparations when singing the film's musical numbers.

Screen Rant: I actually love that you two are paired together because I feel like Mirabel and Bruno really parallel each other in the story. Can you each talk about feeling like an outsider in the family that you love?

Stephanie Beatriz: There's many times that I felt like an outsider. One of the first times was really understanding that my family didn't look like all the other families around us, and that's because my family immigrated to the United States. I started paying attention and going, "My parents don't sound like everybody else's parents." And that was one of the first times.

But then later, in my own family, being a member of the queer community; being bi and coming out and thinking like, "Well, no one else in the family is talking about this at all..." And then on top of that, the next part was going into theater. I started my career in theater, and it was like, "Oh no, there's no one! Where are we? We're nowhere." We [Latinos] were gaining ground, but it often felt like I'd read a role and look at the leading lady role and think, "Oh, this is an incredible role, and I would never get cast as that role." It only started happening really later in my career.

John Leguizamo: I feel the same way that Stephanie felt in so many ways. And yet again, within your own family, being an outsider in your own family. I was always the one that was a little bit aggro in the family. And I always would say what nobody wanted to hear, like Uncle Bruno. And I'm gonna get ostracized for that; for telling the truth, and for things coming true that are negative. I had a little bit of that negativity going on.

But I've gone to therapy now; I'm a lot better. We'll see this Thanksgiving. That'll be my test.

Stephanie, what is your preparation when it comes to singing in character? How is that different for you from acting?

Stephanie Beatriz: I think a lot of it is: what is the character trying to express in that moment?

Musical theater has this incredible tradition of telling stories through song and actually allowing you to glimpse inside the character's journey through song. Musical theater and, at the same time, musical animation have taken that and taken it to a different level. Because in animation you can do stuff that you can't do necessarily on stage.

But I think, preparation-wise, it's really: what is the story telling you? What is the language telling you? And for music it's: what are the notes telling you? How is the structure of the song informing what this person is dealing with and going through right now?

In one of Mirabel's songs in the film, she speaks and sings so fast. And it's really because she doesn't want to turn the lens on herself; she wants to keep talking about how great everybody else is. And so, what do you do when you're trying to get out something? You kind of talk as fast as you can. I think it's just that the music often informs what you need to do, performance-wise.

John, as Bruno, you get to have this red carpet of mythology laid out before you come onscreen. Was there any thought to how he's perceived versus how he is when you go in to record your performance?

John Leguizamo: To create this uncle who had to be ostracized because his magical power was what people didn't want to hear, we had to create this really quirky offbeat guy who had bad social skills, basically. He has to hide away - I'm trying not to give away [spoilers].

It was interesting to try to create this character that was just awkward. He was an awkward dude. How do we create this awkward dude? Jared [Bush] and Byron [Howard], the directors, were really helpful in letting me go to the weirdest places because my intonations are really bizarre and offbeat.

And for my singing, I basically did what I do for karaoke. I asked Lin [Manuel Miranda] if I could get drunk, and then just go crazy, and then you put it together and fix it in post.

Another awesome parallel that feels like it's recurring throughout the family is that you each have two siblings with whom you have complicated dynamics. Can you talk about your sibling triads?

Stephanie Beatriz: You know what's funny? For Mirabel, she's the youngest, and she's got that. But the middle sibling would have the middle thing, or the oldest sibling has the oldest thing. The cool thing about Encanto is that, because it centers around a family, it really explores these dynamics that we have inside of our families. You identify with it so much as you're watching the film because every single person you know has a family - everybody's got a family, even if it's their chosen family - but the dynamics in that family can sometimes feel really restrictive.

It's like, "I don't want to be the baby, just because I'm the youngest. I don't want to be the responsible one, just because I'm the oldest." And what's cool about Encanto is it allows these characters to explore, "What happens if I try to break out of these family roles? What happens, for Bruno's character, if I'm not what everybody thinks? What happens then?"

There are so many family members that you could spend time with and that I would love to have a whole spinoff about. But if you each had to pick, who would you want to spend more time with or have more scenes with?

John Leguizamo: Well, obviously Mirabel was the most fun I had in the movie, and I don't really interact with anybody else 'til the very end.

I think I like the strong sister [Luisa]; the one that carries all the mules and the piano. I loved her, and her voice is so great. She's got this really baritone-type voice for a woman. I love that voice. And she sings in that voice too!

Stephanie Beatriz: Gosh, I don't know. That's such a good question. I think the sisters - the three sisters. I would love to see more scenes between them, Luisa played by Jessica Darrow and then Isabela played by Diane Guerrero. I think the three of them, their dynamic is really interesting. I'd love to see them.

John Leguizamo: Encanto 2! There we go.

More: Everything We Know About Disney's Encanto

Encanto will be released in theaters on November 24th and on Disney+ on December 24th.

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