Anthony Gonzalez is an Angelino child actor whose big break is a movie where he’s A) the leading man, B) he sings and C) that is already the biggest hit in Mexican box office history.
No, we don’t see his face. But he’s every bit as cute as Miguel, his character in “Coco.” And the fact that it’s a Pixar cartoon means this “El dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) comedy will be around forever means that at 13, he’s already achieved a form of screen immortality, just like Miguel’s hero, the legendary mariachi singer Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt’s voice) in the film.
“Coco” opens in Los Estados Unidos (The United States) on Nov. 22. We caught up with Anthony in Miami.
Q: So, a Pixar movie. You’re starting out on top, right?
Anthony Gonzalez: Hahaha! Yeah. I’ve wanted to be an actor, ever since I was four, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. And part of that dream has to be ‘Be in a Pixar movie,’ if you’re a kid, right? I grew up watching their movies, and it was just incredible to me that I got this chance! A dream come true!”
Q: Did you get to do your scenes with any of the other voice actors there, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Sofia Espinosa? Pixar sometimes does that to make the scenes play more realistically.
Anthony: Oh I wish. I was in a booth alone, just me and director Lee Unkrich (“Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.”) and (producer) Darla Anderson and Adrian Molina (co-director). They ran lines, and they’re awesome people that I look up to and want to be like someday.
I had no idea what the movie would look like. They’d show me bits of it. Then I saw it, this beautiful, colorful world of the dead! I couldn’t believe I was in it until I heard my voice coming out of Miguel’s mouth. I just cried when I saw it. I’ve seen it four times now, and I’ve cried four times.
Q: So what did you know about El dia de Los Muertos before making the movie?
Anthony: I thought I knew a lot about it. It’s my culture, after all. There are Mexican members of my family. We’ve celebrated it since I was six, because my grandfather, who was very special to me, passed away. He was very supportive of me and my music career. But making the movie, I learned so much more. Being in a movie that shows this wonderful part of Mexican culture makes me proud. Grandfather too, I hope.
Q: The songs (by Adrian Molina, Kristina Anderson-Lopez, Germaine Franco and others) give you plenty of chances to show off your singing. Did you have a favorite?’
Anthony: I have four songs to sing in the movie. And because it’s a musical, the songs share a message. I think I loved ‘Proud Corazon’ (Proud Heart) the most. I sing that at the end. The rhythm, the instruments and arrangements and the message are amazing. And you know, the song that Miguel’s hero Ernesto sings (his signature song), ‘Remember Me,’ is just a beautiful ballad. I got to sing that one, too, and I realized, when we were done, that it’s what the whole movie is about, “please ‘Remember Me’ after I’m dead and gone.”
Q: I cannot imagine young Anthony Gonzalez had mariachi music on his iPod before making this movie. Were you a fan?
Anthony: I started singing mariachi when I was younger, in La Placita Olvera (an LA historic district near Union Station). I love it!
Q: So, you aren’t as self-conscious as most boys your age are about singing in front of people?
Anthony: My siblings all love to sing, and they’d perform in La Placita Olvera. They looked like they were having so much fun. They’d laugh, and everybody would come take their pictures and clap along. I had to try it. You can’t be scared to step on the stage and try something that looks that much fun. That first time I stepped on stage and sang, I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Q: Ok, you already had the great singing voice. But like Miguel, do you play the guitar?
Anthony Gonzalez: Haha! Well, I took lessons for a while, but I stopped because I wanted to focus more on my singing. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m going back to taking those lessons. A mariachi has to be able to play!
Q: Record deal yet?
Anthony: Oh I wish! I hope so! Someday.