Coco is a film about reaching out and seizing your dreams. Miguel is a character whose family has been keeping him from his dream his entire life, but it’s not until the events in the film that he actually reaches for it, in spite of their protests.
Portraying the character Miguel is young actor/singer Anthony Gonzalez. As a young actor, he’s a relative newcomer to most audiences, but we’re sure we’ll be seeing much more of him in the near future. LRM had a chance to sit down with the young talent, and in our conversations with him, we delved into his work in getting this role, and how it felt to achieve the dream of working on a Pixar film after literally years of working for it.
Tell me about Miguel.
Anthony Gonzalez: Well, Miguel is a 12-year-old boy who really loves music and he has to keep his passion for music a secret from his family because his family hates music because of things that have happened in past generations. They’ve banished music from their lives, but Miguel hasn’t. He has a secret passion for music and he looks up to his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, who’s a famous … The best musician of all time. And because of that passion Miguel has for music he ends up going on a magical journey through the Land of the Dead with Dante and there he meets Hector.
I definitely enjoyed your character.
Gonzalez: Thank you.
Not to mention I loved how you integrated the Spanish words without even an accent, and then you just shift to English without an accent. It’s pretty awesome.
I understand you have a history of singing.
So this came out to be like perfect, nailed it because you could actually relate to Miguel.
Gonzalez: Yes. Yes, in a lot of different ways, yeah. We both love music. We were both about the same age and we really know how important our family is and we know the importance of the celebration Día de los Muertos is. It’s just a wonderful celebration where you can take time and remember your ancestors who formed you and shaped who you are now in life. I love to celebrate it because it’s just a wonderful celebration.
How did you come across this role?
Gonzalez: I auditioned for it at age nine. It was a very long process, but I got to go to Pixar at ten. I was doing scratch voices for Miguel — scratch voices are like where they put my voice in the character’s to see how it will look like. I did that for a while until December 2016. I was 11. There it was just doing scratch voices. I went to Pixar to scratch voices. Like a regular day was like a routine. The director, Lee Unkrich, told me at the end of the day that they had a present for me for Christmas. I opened the present and it was this wonderful piece of artwork that said, “You got the part.”
Gonzalez: I know, I know. For a second I was just shocked and I couldn’t believe it that I was going to be part of a Disney Pixar movie. It’s been like my dream because I’ve been watching these movies since very little. I never thought I’d be in one. It’s just a dream come true.
Wait, so you were kind of putting in practice to see if it was a fit before you knew you were going to get the part?
Gonzalez: Well, well I was like I was auditioning for Miguel at age 11 but in 2016 they told me I got the part, so I was just amazing and it was just so much fun doing the voice of Miguel.
How old are you now?
Gonzalez: I’m 13.
So it was a process.
Wow. From what they said, this your gift, like Merry Christmas, here’s your gift. You actually took it home and waited?
Gonzalez: I opened it there. So Lee gave me the present, I opened it, and then I saw it, and then everyone was clapping and then I opened the door of the booth and everyone that was working on Coco was there on the stairs clapping. I couldn’t believe it. It was just … That’s one of my best days. I couldn’t believe that I was going to be part of such an incredible movie.
Oh, that’s awesome.
Totally, does sound really cool. So in the film, you have Dante.
You have Dante. There are also spirit animals.
I know Dante, you would say Dante would be your spirit animal, but aside Dante for a moment, what would be your spirit animal?
Gonzalez: Ooh, me? Oh. I love Dante as a spirit animal because he’s very funny and I love being funny as well. Probably a monkey, because they’re funny too. Or a cheetah. I like running. Like Pepita, she flies. Maybe something that flies too. Yeah. Like also a spirit animal can be something that’s not even an animal. It can be something that doesn’t even exist. I don’t know [Laughs].
Lots of options.
Gonzalez: Yeah, there are so many.
Do you have any stuff coming up that you’re maybe working on?
Gonzalez: Well I did recently do a film by Gracie Films. James L. Brooks produced it. I did the short film for that too but now I’m just gonna keep on auditioning and really work hard and do what I love.
Now that you did a Pixar movie, how would define Pixar magic?
Gonzalez: Oh, it’s just the best magic ever. They put so much work in their movies and they come out to be great. They put all their love and their passion and all their heart into making their films. This film wouldn’t be the same without [director] Lee Unkrich, [producer] Darla Anderson, and [co-director] Adrian Molina. They put their hearts in making this film and it’s just so amazing.
When you were recording, were you solo all the time?
Gonzalez: I wasn’t with any of the cast members but I was with Lee, Darla and Adrian. It was just so much fun working with them and other people there that were in the booth as well. It was just so much fun working along side them because they were always there. They would make me laugh. It was just so much fun working with them.
That’s good. What can you tell us about your background in music?
Gonzalez: Yes, I’ve been singing since I was four years old and I actually do get to sing in the movie. Every time I would go to the booth to sing, it’d just be one of my favorite days because I really love to sing. Yes.
Do you have anything in the works when it comes to music?
Gonzalez: Ooh, that’s a good question. Really just keep singing for the world and I want to see … I want to let people know that I can sing.
For those that are not familiar to your career as a musician, can you tell us where it came from, how it started?
Gonzalez: It really came from my siblings. I started singing because of my siblings. When I was four years old, they would do street performance in La Placita Olvera. They would sing and dance and I really looked up to them. I wanted to be like them because I saw them in the stage, they were having so much fun. I thought, “Oh, I will have so much fun. I want to have fun.” I tried it and I just knew that from the day I put step on that stage, I knew that I was going to be a musician because I loved the music. I knew I was gonna sing for the rest of my life.
Is there a specific competition where you got discovered for your singing?
Gonzalez: I did Factor X. I went to Sábado Jigante. I went to a lot of places. I just had so much fun.
For later, in the future, though, I know acting now and singing, is there one you’re leaning towards? I mean it seems like you’re enjoying both.
Gonzalez: I don’t think I would choose one over the other. I think I’d do both because I love both and they’re my passion. I would love to both for the rest of my life.
What do you do in your downtime?
Gonzalez: I love sports. I love playing soccer. I love playing basketball. I love swimming and I really love being active. I also play instruments. Yes.
Oh, what kind of instruments?
Gonzalez: I used to play the viola. I played the viola for about four or five years. I’ve been playing the violin for three years, and I also play the piano. I used to take guitar lessons and now I’m getting back to playing the guitar.