Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a film with a whole lot of moving parts to it. Of course, you have the catchy animation, stellar story, and its overall diversity. It’s that last point I want to stick with. As we saw in the film, Miles Morales is Nuyorican, and throughout the start of the film, he utters a few Spanish phrases.
I remember watching the movie and being surprised at how well actor Shameik Moore was able to utter those idiomatic Spanglish words…and it turns out there was a lot of effort made in order to make it seem effortless. To accomplish this, Sony hired a soundalike actor, Juan Carlos Arvelo, to utter those phrases. And, in addition to Miles’ voice, Arvelo also had his voiced used in many other voices in the movie.
LRM Online had a chance to speak with Arvelo on the phone, where we asked him about his contributions to the film.
LRM: How proud are you that Into the Spider-verse won an Oscar? Best Animated Film.
Arvelo: And many other awards. I’m beyond words to describe the honor that I feel to have had the opportunity to work on this project. It’s a gift.
LRM: How excited were you when you heard the news? Were you watching the Oscars? Were you invited, or-?
Arvelo: Actually, I have a very fun story.
LRM: Share the moment.
Arvelo: I kind of knew we were going to win. I don’t know.
Arvelo: Call it intuition.
LRM: Gut feeling?
Arvelo: Exactly, so that day I went to Big Bear and I was snowboarding all day, so as I was driving back home from the mountain the Oscars were being held and I knew it, so, well, I knew they won it 100% sure then when I started getting texts from friends stating, “Congratulations,” and congratulating me for being part of the project, so I didn’t watch the Oscars this year.
LRM: You didn’t need to. You got the announcements via text.
Arvelo: I wanted to be there, but then that’s hard, and then I connect with nature and enjoy myself.
LRM: That’s better.
Arvelo: Yeah. So it was, yeah, great. A great way to know that they won it.
LRM: So, as a voice actor in the movie, can you tell us what was your role? I know your voice was kind of integrated with the main character, so can you explain to us?
Arvelo: So I got a little cameo, as they say, which was meant to make the main characters sound alike but using phrases, colloquial phrases from Puerto Rico and to put on to the character as they want him to sound Spanglish because his mom is Puerto Rican, so they got me in to get that done, some words here and there or a phrase that could tell something without the need of putting subtitles, basically. After all I heard and they brought [Miles Morales actor Shameik Moore] after we were recording back to the studio and he kind of recorded some lines as well, so I was at the end told by casting that my work was used with another character, whatnot, which is very exciting.
LRM: And who are some of the voices you did? Because it wasn’t just like one, right? You kind of worked with some of the other characters with voices?
Arvelo: The reality is when I went to the ADR studio in Sony Pictures, I did my work alone. Then, wherever they place the voice was, yeah, afterwards my work got done, which originally was meant to be used for the character of Miles Morales, as I explained earlier, putting the lines in Spanish here and there in the English version of the movie.
LRM: Okay, so your voice was kind of like the little magic touch in there because it was kind of wandering everywhere.
Arvelo: That’s what I heard, yeah, from casting, which makes me super excited. Yeah, that’s part of the magic of movies, right?
Arvelo: Once you get the part done, and especially voice can be tweaked and manipulated, and then they can do anything and everything with it, which is very exciting.
LRM: So how great is it that a Latino superhero broke into the universe with Miles Morales?
Arvelo: That’s amazing. It’s amazing. I mean, especially in the times we’re living, right? I love the fact of feeling throughout, feeling the idea of everybody can wear the mask. We are all capable of being superheroes. As long as we push forward and give our all to accomplishing or making whatever it is that we want to make happen, you know?
LRM: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Arvelo: For good in our lives.
LRM: And how was the experience with voice acting on this project in particular?
Arvelo: It was one of the most beautiful experiences that I’ve ever had. I’ve done ADR before for a movie that I worked in the past titled Che: Part One, and there were some sound problems. It was on camera work and there were some sound problems so they brought me in to recreate those lines. As well I’ve done voiceover for commercials in the past, but this time around, to be in a Sony Pictures ADR studio and not even that. The thing that was more mind blowing even more was the fact of seeing the main character of Miles Morales speaking out my voice as they played back what we recorded in the moment. It was just like we threw a line. They played it back to see such a beautiful project, a big movie like that, and a main character with my voice was just amazing, was like mind blowing and very exciting.
LRM: So since you’ve done the Spanish voices, who was directing you? Or was it all just kind of-?
Arvelo: Phil Lord was the one directing me because he knows. Phil Lord is the writer of the movie, and he knows Spanish. He comes from Florida and Miami, so he was the one in there, and I tell you, the opportunity to work with him was such a delight. He’s such a humble, smart, grounded guy, respectful guy to work with, so along the three, almost four hours of work that we were working together recording, we had a great time. It was very fun and very open to improvise and a very dynamic experience.
LRM: Did you get a chance to work with Christopher Miller?
Arvelo: No, I didn’t, not in this one. Looking forward to it.
LRM: I know you already said that seeing the voice in Miles, your voice, but how was it, the experience of watching the whole film? What part of the film would you say was more like was more like “Wow.” I mean, I know the whole film was.
Arvelo: Yeah, that’s a great question.
LRM: What scenes would you say-?
Arvelo: When I saw the movie I literally loved it and it had nothing to do with the fact that I worked in it, but it’s a movie that has a complete new style in animation that has never been done before, so imagery-wise, it’s delightful to see, and then some things that touch me. I would say the specific scene. Maybe I can remember it out of my head, but it is when they emphasize in the fact of you can no matter what, if you’re not ready like Miles was at some point, it’s a leap of faith. They encourage, the other characters encourage him to take a leap of faith in order to open up all the possibilities of his powers in order to be able to participate in defending his colleagues, and I don’t want to throw out too much of the movie for those who hasn’t seen it, but that resonated with me because as an artist we’re taking basically a leap of faith in life, not knowing really where we’re heading and what’s going to come out for us in the career, right?
Arvelo: And beautifully enough, that leap of faith that I have been taking and that sometimes is so hard to continue to take brings to my life the honor to participate in the movie that it’s so amazing. It’s potentially one of the best animation movies ever made in history, and that then brings forth … That felt really good to see the message that it’s given throughout the movie that it’s one that inspires and promotes people to take a leap of faith and recognize that we all have the same capabilities to creating great things. It’s all a matter of trusting our feelings for whatever it is that we want to do in life and going for it. And then the movie being a proof of it in my life, in my experience.
LRM: Yeah, so right now you mentioned something about as an artist and taking a leap of faith in what you do, and you never know where you’re going to be, you know?
Arvelo: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
LRM: When you have these projects come in, how do you make a decision whether you want to take them or not?
Arvelo: Well, it takes not much time, really. What I do is to prepare and study and train to be ready for an opportunity like this, so whenever, like this opportunity came to my hands, I immediately said yes. Yeah, it was just a no need to think this twice. They were very nice to me with actually I remember my agent calling me and was like, “Hey, Sony Pictures wants to know if you’re interested to be part of this project,” and immediately, in half a second I was like, “Yeah. Yeah, of course.”
LRM: No need to finish.
Arvelo: Yeah. I didn’t know exactly what the movie was all about because then I hadn’t read the script and I actually have … I didn’t have the script beforehand like in some projects you do. I only got my scenes for work, but I had a good feeling about it ever since the audition because the character I knew was from Puerto Rico and that touched me in a very special way because right in this side of the world, in the west side, we’re kind of very far from my home town, so most of the Latino work that is done, it’s mainly Mexican or from some country in Latin America, but not Puerto Rico, so you as a very special one to be able to perform my roots in this project. So I immediately … It wasn’t hard to decide at all.
LRM: Okay. Yeah, it makes sense. So are you going to be sticking around with voice acting or any-?
Arvelo: Yeah, that’s for sure. It’s one of my great passions. Ever since I moved to L.A. I’ve been eight years in L.A. now. I studied classical music composition in college, so I’m used to being in studios and I love the environment of a studio recording, and at the same time I love acting, so I feel voiceover is the middle ground of those two things, and therefore I look forward to doing many more projects in the voiceover world.
LRM: So any acting projects you might have coming, or right now it’s just you’re going to stick to voice?
Arvelo: Right now I did a national commercial last week. There’s a project that was released recently. There was a screening of…DJZ Is the title of the project, directed by Peter Basler, and it’s just a zombie movie in the apocalypse, and I performed a Mexican character, actually, there, which was a great experience. Let’s see where that goes, and there’s another project that is participating in the Cinefiesta film festival in Puerto Rico called Yours, where I perform a very dark character, which is a man that abuses his wife or companion. And I think it’s a very important for me in my life because I believe it’s a topic that is very important to be talked about and presented to people, even both women and men who go through the struggles of not being in control. And especially men that are aggressive against woman to see themselves in the big screen hopefully creates some awareness of how bad that is and for them and for their companions and how important it is for us to open up to talk about that in order to help them know better, you know?
LRM: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Arvelo: And find new ways to deal with their stress or their anger that doesn’t affect anybody, so those two are the projects that are out there right now that I’m really happy about, and yeah. I mean, other things are cooking, so more news once I get the news.