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– by Gig Patta

We all know Peter Parker. We all know Aunt May.

In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it will introduce Miles Morales (and many others) for the first time on the big screen.

Unlike Peter Parker, Miles Morales comes from a good home with loving parents. None of the real tragic events to teaches life lessons of great power comes great responsibilities.

That is what makes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse great and unique. Creative storytelling, relatable characters and terrific animation.

The film has Shameik Moore voicing the title character of Miles Morales. He is supported by a team of Spider-Man characters from alternate universes with Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage). They will band together to stop a diabolical plan to open gates into other dimensions.

LRM was at a press junket earlier this month to speak with Luna Lauren Velez exclusively on her role as Rio Morales. We talked about her Spider-Man lore and on how she specifically wanted to bring her character on to the screen.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in theaters nationwide today.

Read our exclusive interview below.

LRM: Have you seen the movie yet?

Luna Lauren Velez: I’m still in the glow still so blown away by what I’ve seen and trying to process it, because it was unlike anything I really imagined. It’s such a beautiful movie. Not just visually arresting, but the heart and the love in the movie is just.

LRM: I know in awe from it, because it took me by surprise. I’m not even much into cartoons myself. [Laughs]

Luna Lauren Velez: Me neither. I’m not that person. I know so many people who are like, “Oh, it’s Marvel. It’s like this. And there is this character.” I’ve stopped with Spider-Man. [Laughs] I know the Hulk. My knowledge is so limited. It’s ridiculous. But seeing this, it just made me actually want to enter the world of superheroes. I just think it’s just a beautiful film period.

LRM: Well, you’re technically part of the superhero world. [Laughs]
Luna Lauren Velez: I guess so. I am part of the superhero world now.

LRM: What attracted you initially to a project like this if it was entirely something different?

Luna Lauren Velez: I always wanted to do some voice over work and animated film. It’s something that had been trying to do for awhile. Then it’s Spider-Man! I just thought, “Yes! Please!” Honestly, I didn’t thought on what it was going to be. I thought it’s an animated movie. I thought it would be like a cartoon or not entirely sure. I had no idea that it was going to be what it is.

LRM: How did they pitch it to you? How did they sold this to you?

Luna Lauren Velez: They didn’t actually have to sell at all. They just asked me to do some voice stuff and I did it. They paired my voice with Miles. Then asked me if I wanted to do and I said yes. Again, not really knowing that much about it. I just thought this is absolutely a world I want to be in with animated voice overs. As the thing kept growing, I was working with producers and their interest in what they wanted to convey. I was Spider-Man’s mom, right? He never had a mom before. So the fact that this Spider-Man has a mom. What do you want me to say and how do you want me to say it?

LRM: How familiar were you with Spider-Man in the first place? I didn’t even know there were so many versions. [Laughs]
Luna Lauren Velez: I had no idea. I knew Spider-Man. When I was a kid, my brother used to read all the comics. I knew Spider-Man, of course. When the first movie came out, I remember seeing the movie and I thought, “Wow! That was really cool. That was really great.” It kind of stopped then. I actually saw a little bit of Spider-Man 2 with Alfred Molina. That was sort of just was peripheral for me. I had no idea about Miles Morales about entering into this whole alternate universe. I had no idea it existed. So it’s all new to me and that’s really exciting.

LRM: When they pitch you that this was a Miles Morales movie–what was your initial reaction?

Luna Lauren Velez: Cool! Like, cool. Miles Morales? You’re going to have a Spider-Man that’s half-Latino and half African-American. That’s so dope! I just thought it would be really cool. Again, not even understanding the full impact of it. It’s something that just started growing as we kept working on the project. As people sent me more information, I had people e-mailing me and Instagramming me like, “This is incredible that you’re doing!” I’m like, “It is?” I just started my knowledge of it grew as the character grew and as the movie grew. It’s all been really organic for me.

LRM: So admit it. Did you do research? [Laughs]
Luna Lauren Velez: I had people send me stuff. I didn’t have to do anything. They just said, “This is what it is. This is who would be.” How do I not know any of this? I got really lucky. People sent me a lot of stuff. That being said, I felt like my role was really about being this mother and how do I convey this in an animated project like this? It’s to convey the character that I want. How do I do that? By using my voice to be this person was really a completely new thing for me.

LRM: Your character, Rio Morales, how did you want to develop her character? The fact that most people when they think of Spider-Man, they know Aunt May. People rarely even heard Rio Morales at all. How did you want to develop her?

Luna Lauren Velez: I just wanted to develop a character that was authentic. It showed people that Miles, not only that Spider-Man has parents, but he comes from a really stable, loving, nurturing, fun home. I just channeled my mom thought a lot about what the things when I grew up with or that I love so much. The phrases my mom said to me that I really wanted to make sure that I repeated to Miles. Just more of a feeling of what kind of home life and support system I wanted Miles to have.

That’s really the role that she plays. It’s funny. I have a twin sister. I thought about my relationship with him a lot. I have a stepdaughter, but I don’t have any children of my own. Although, I have 18 nieces and nephews even more. [Laughs] My relationship with him is with watching my sister and the way she is with her son. I thought about that a lot. It was like channeling a little bit of my mom. Channeling a little bit of my twin and walking my nephew. All of the things that I wanted for him in this world. Just viewing all of that in Rio.

LRM: What do you suppose that you liked about Rio as a character?

Luna Lauren Velez: Rio is…..I want to say sassy. She’s all these things. She’s very independent. She’s a career woman. She’s a family woman. All of those things that are important, but she’s so strong. She’s fierce. I feel like those are great things. She’s this fun about her. A lightheartedness about her. I think is really nice.

Typically, if you see a story with ethnic characters–it’s a broken home or one parent isn’t there. Everybody’s struggling, struggling, struggling. There’s no struggle here. We’re not struggling. We’re good. Life is good. Not struggle. I feel that that kind of lightheartedness is a wonderful component of real. All the while knowing that her son, just by virtue of being a young men of color, it’s going to have to work a little bit harder. There might have to do a little bit of a struggle. We’ve got this. You’re just going to be your best you. We’re going to give you all of the opportunities to be your best you.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in theaters nationwide today.

Source: LRM Exclusive

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.