Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tío Louie Reporta: LUNA VÉLEZ keeps ADRIFT

HOLA is proud to present Tío Louie Reporta, where filmmaker and Executive Producer of Prime Latino Media, Louis Perego Moreno (affectionately known as Tío Louie) interviews actors and multimedia-makers in the business of show.

In this edition, Tío Louie talks to actress, producer, and former HOLA Award honoree Lauren Luna Vélez, where she talks about her life and career and her two latest projects– a recurring role in ABC's "How To Get Away With Murder" and starring in and producing the Christopher James López feature film Adrift.

Known as Luna Vélez to many of us in New York City – and to many across the nation as Lauren Vélez – this great Puerto Rican actress belongs to us here in the Big Apple. She was born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, and has graced fine stages in Manhattan. From first winning a scholarship to study at the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, over a 30-year career span she has gone on to play on Showtime’s "Dexter" and is now on the third season of ABC’s hit series, "How to Get Away with Murder". But most recently, she was at the world premiere for Adrift, a film she stars in and helped produce that screened at the 6th International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival (IPRHFF) on the same night that she received the film festival's Lifetime Achievement Award. I spoke to her before she left for the Los Angeles premiere of Adrift over one of the year’s highest grossing weekends in U.S. theatrical distribution, Thanksgiving.

Left to rightactor Ed Trucco; producer
James Manos, Jr.
actor-producer Vélez,
Christopher James López.
Tío Louie: What initially spoke to you about making this independent film, Adrift?
Luna Vélez: [At the same time that I received this script,] I had just lost a cousin of mine and I saw the impact upon his mother. These are people I love dearly and I myself was grieving. This film project came to me at the perfect time and it gave me the opportunity to channel that energy. As an actor this can be very beneficial and can be cathartic. And since the director (Christopher James López) had gone through similar variables with a relative, we bonded and it made the project all the more compelling.

Left to rightVélez and co-star Olga Merediz.
TL: In order to inspire others, when undertaking an independent project and realizing that our career is comprised of a series of building blocks, what prepared you to do Adrift?
LV: Because of the circumstances I experienced personally with my family I was drawn to this project, but I was not prepared for doing a play and a film simultaneously. However, my background in film, theater and TV prepared me for this. You build a foundation and you build on it. It took six months to recover and to get a hold of my emotional wellness. Once you do these kinds of roles, it takes a toll. But it was worth it. You are always preparing to do this kind of work and just hope to do it.

Left to right: Producers Taso Mouhteros;
Vélez; James Manos, Jr.

TL: How was it juggling being both the lead actress & one of the Producers on Adrift?
LV: It was challenging (chuckling) and rewarding. I learned so much about the process of filmmaking. I came on board because I loved the project and I wanted to see this made. I called my manager and said I also want to be producer [on this project]. I called the creator of "Dexter", James Manos, Jr., and he came on board and he brought along his Creating Producer, Taso Mouhteros. These are people used to doing productions on much larger projects. I wanted to learn. This is not the first time I have produced, but the first time I produced a film. I was also doing a theatrical production at the Cherry Lane Theater in Manhattan of Catch the Butcher simultaneously. I sat down with Angelina Fiordellisi who is on the Board of Directors of the Cherry Lane Theater, my manager, and the writer-director of the film, Christopher James Lopez, to see how we could manage schedules. You don’t often get great roles like this and I had two at the same time. The play involved a comedic and emotional character that was on stage for 90 minutes with only two other people.

Left to right: co-star
Tony Plana and Vélez.
TL: In doling out your $0.10 worth [originally
2¢, but increased by Tío Louie for inflation] 
of advice for actors, what suggestions do you have for portraying someone’s life or family members when a project involves deep and painful issues?
LV: I hope that people see in my character, Cecilia, the drug addict’s mother, that this is a mother struggling to keep a family together and to save her son. This film is loosely based on the director’s experiences. I met some of the family members who were part of the story. You have to start off with respect. You have to respect the person and their lives, including their family. You have a responsibility to yourself and the family whose story is involved. It requires sensitivity, research, compassion and objectivity. Then at the end of the day, step back.

TL: After seven seasons on the Showtime series, what do you miss most about not doing "Dexter" any longer?
LV: I don’t miss "Dexter". I had such a complete journey with "Dexter" as María LaGüerta and she died. She fought for her ultimate purpose in life. My journey with that character was complete. It ended for her when it was supposed to and I am simply grateful for the experience.

TL: What drew you most about being involved with “How to Get Away with Murder?”
LV: Working with Viola Davis and working with her on a Shonda Rhimes show.

Vélez, in character, as La Lupe.
TL: Talk to me about turning your theatrical production into a film project on the life of the over-the-top Cuban singer, La Lupe?
LV: I have been drawn to her since I was a kid ever since I heard [her song] "Que te pedí". It was the rawness of it that drew me. Growing up I saw these elements in women who surrounded me who were strong. I was in a car with the late playwright Jerry Rodríguez, and he asked me about her and I said, "I am going to do her in a movie", and he was like, "Really?" This has always been in my heart. But I first took it the route of a play. The great Puerto Rican director, Luis Caballero, wrote it for me and I did it. The idea for this movie had a life of its own. Miriam Colón at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre had a play about La Lupe going on and I met Luis there and he said, "You are La Lupe and I want to write it for you". I felt in the interim while trying to develop the film that this would be an opportunity to test the character at Teatro Círculo. Then it went on at the Public Theater as part of a series with the LAByrinth Theater Company and then James Manos, Jr. got involved and collaborated with Caballero. It then went to Teatro LATEA and this is how I met Verónica Caicedo, who directed the piece. I wanted to see how it would be working with a woman developing and finding this character. It was an extraordinary character. James wrote an incredible script and we put it on Kickstarter and raised $100K. That is the beginning of raising money to do the movie. But we also realized that we could not make a film on $100K. We are still in the process and committed to seeing this film done. It can be made and we can make it for $250K, but I don’t care. I am ready for the challenge. Every day I say, Keep moving for your goal. Sometimes you know what you were born to do and I know I was born to do it.

For more information about the feature film Adrift, check out its Facebook page by clicking here. To see its trailer, click on the video below.

Louis E. Perego Moreno (Tío Louie)Founder & Executive Producer of PRIME LATINO MEDIA, the largest East Coast network of Latino multimedia-makers, actors and musicians in bilingual Latino and mainstream media, digital and entertainment. An interactive Content/Impact Producer and Educator who for the past 34 years has owned Skyline Features, a bilingual multimedia and educational production company developing documentaries, television programming and advertising commercials featuring Latinos, Blacks, Women, Urban Youth and LGBT.
Facebook (personal page): Louis E. Perego Moreno
Fan page: Tio Louie
Facebook Group: Prime Latino Media
Twitter: @TioLouie
Twitter: @PLMSalon
Instagram: ElTioLouie

No comments: