Interview & Photographs by} John Russo
Grooming by} Michaela Limur
Styling by} Massimo Lorenzo
Location} Montage Los Cabos
Q: I have had the pleasure to see your career evolve over the years, and as cliche as it sounds, success couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. How do you manage to stay so humble and not let it all get to your head?
A: Well honestly John, it’s because of my family. And you were there, the first shoot we did – my mom was there. I know you are also very close to your family and I think that’s something that we have shared from the get-go. I think overall I like surrounding myself with good friends who are not “yes people.” I like to be around people who are honest and will call me out if they need to and tell me their honest opinions. Just people who are genuinely real. Overall though, my family for sure is my anchor and keeps me grounded.
Q: Looking back on your career, was there one chance meeting or introduction, that changed the direction of your career?
A: I have to say, there have been a couple. Rock of Ages happened because of an audition I did for Glee years before Rock of Ages, for Adam Shankman. He remembered that tape and years later and wanted me for the role in the movie. It happened again for Luis Miguel. I did a show with Mark Burnett called The Dovekeepers, and we became close family friends. I told Mark I want to get into producing that and I would love to learn from him and two years later he called me and he said “Diego, I have the perfect project for us to do, you will be an EP with me.” That project was Luis Miguel and that came from us working together on another show. There have been so many of those kind of moments but these are the first that come to mind.
Q: I witnessed firsthand at dinner in Los Cabos Mexico the acceptance and extreme embracement of your portrayal of Luis Miguel. People just love you and it’s like they believe you are him. I love that you took the time at dinner to take photos and connect with the fans that approached the table. How important are those fans?
A: I learned early on in my career that there’s no way to have success doing what I do, without having people ask for pictures. So it’s something you have to accept and embrace, otherwise you are in the wrong business. And I’m not antisocial and am not going to avoid going out to dinner just because I have to sign a few autographs. I think being humble, being nice and being kind is something that could not be more important. It sad that lose qualities are getting lost today. I always try to treat people the same way I would like to be treated.
Q: Luis Miguel is often referred to as El Sol de Mexico (The Son of Mexico) in Mexico. He is basically a God there. How do you handle the pressure playing such an iconic figure?
A: As far as the pressure, I tried not to think about it as much when I agreed to do the show. I knew the risk it entailed and accepted that pressure. I told myself I am going to give it my absolute best, I’m going put in the effort and really stuff do the research and study it. If I go to bed at night knowing I gave it my best, that’s all I can do. The rest you just have to learn to let go. I took the preparation very seriously and worked really hard with an acting coach in Spain, who is Javier Bardem’s and Penelope Cruz’s acting coach. I sang all the songs and practiced them all with my vocal coach, Ron Anderson who is absolutely incredible. I met with Luis Miguel himself and really tried to get to know him. I also interviewed with a lot of people that knew him and after I would shoot the scenes, there was not a single night that I didn’t go to bed knowing that I gave it my all. That’s was how I was able to sleep. (laughs) Seeing the reaction that the people, the audiences and the fans have had, makes it all worth it. Having people come up to me and say nice things about the show and how much they loved it is amazing. And by the way, it wasn’t just me, there’s a team behind me that I couldn’t have done the show without. The director, the writer, the show-runner, the entire cast and crew. I’m really proud of us and proud of the team that helped make it happen.
Q: I know that you and I discussed this… the younger generation believe you are Luis Miguel. (Laughs) It’s amazing and a testament to how incredibly well you portray, down to his mannerisms, the way he walks, to the way he dresses and his facial expressions. That is a testament to you and your incredible acting ability. How do you deal with that?
A: Thank you. This was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was a huge challenge in every way, it wasn’t only the acting side, but it was the producing side as well. This was the first time I was producing so I was learning a lot. And then singing, Luis Miguel is an incredible singer. He has the same vocal range as Freddie Mercury who has a really, really high potent voice. I’m not him, I don’t have his voice, I did the best I could to get as close to it as I physically could.
Q: I know your talents stretch far beyond acting. How will you balance acting, producing, your music and creating vehicles for yourself? Will one outweigh the other?
A: That’s a great question. So I started out in music and then I started doing more acting, because that’s what was happening more naturally. When I started producing, the music always found a way to sneak itself in. I started doing this because of music and I think both Rock of Ages and Luis Miguel are probably the two most important projects I’ve done, both of which have a huge musical component. In producing, since Luis Miguel I’ve felt a huge change within the business for more Latin content and more Latin stories. Acting and producing go more hand in hand than music. Music, even though it’s all within the same world, is a different industry altogether and can be difficult. When balancing music and producing, directing, I have a production company with my manager Josh Glick and best friend David Bernon. My sister is also helping as well and we are all overseeing the projects together, pushing them along. They all are at different stages in development so that when I’m shooting one project, everything is still moving along. Things take time – things fall apart, and come back together again. Music is something that, like I said, is tough to do, but producing, acting and singing at the same time, it’s impossible.
Q: Casting is key in any production. Name your dream casting of two male and one female leads, to star alongside you in a drama about current day Hollywood.
A: Michael B. Jordan and Jennifer Lawrence for sure. I would love to work with Tom Cruise again as well. Someone I’m also dying to work with is Brad Pitt. I have heard amazing things about him and I really admire what he’s doing production-wise. He is producing my next film Father of the Bride, which I just signed on to do.
Q: Have you ever stopped to think wow, look where I am in life? It must be so good to have accomplished so much at such a young age. I mean I am crazy proud of you as a friend, how do you focus on this?
A: I do that constantly. I constantly thank God, the universe, my family and my team. There’s a lot of people who have played a key role in my career. I don’t see this as MY success, it’s all of our success. My family, my team and I constantly stop and pinch ourselves. Right now I’m like holy shit, I’m producing a show that I not only star in, but am producing with someone I knew years ago. I can’t believe that. That’s what keeps me pushing forward and working so hard. I am currently running on four hours of sleep and I am working Monday through Sunday. (laughs.)
Q: How do you stay focused, because you have so much going on?
A: Josh, who is my manager and is also a partner in my production company helps tremendously. With all the projects going on and when I am constantly on set shooting, it’s really hard. Luis Miguel was a project I focused 100 percent on and I couldn’t really think about other projects or do anything else. My entire team really helps me push me and everything else along and I am beyond grateful for them. I constantly try to do everything, but I can’t. Learning to prioritize is really important and is something that I’m still learning. I still think I can do everything, and I’m sure that this happens to you too. We want to do it all but can’t. I have to learn how to prioritize things, because I hate not giving 100 percent to everything I do.
Q: I watched the trailer for your new movie, “New Order”. I was like, oh my God, that is crazy. I love suspenseful movies. In the trailer, that scene when you are at the wedding and you see people scaling the walls with machine guns, it made my heart race. It’s so scary how it all can change an instant. How was it playing this character?
A: I can’t wait for you to watch the movie. It came out in theaters last Friday and will be on Hulu and on demand in two weeks. It’s a ninety-minute movie that’s super quick and will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time. I was so excited to work with Michel Franco who directed the movie. He is the most awarded Mexican filmmaker and has won Cannes more than any other Mexican filmmaker. I was dying to work with him because he’s a super talented young director who is just an absolute genius. We started filming the movie right after Luis Miguel and I did not want the role to feel like anything I had done in the past. I really wanted it to be completely different from Luis Miguel and what I really like about the part is I don’t play the good guy. I got together with Michel many times, watched a lot of the movies that he referenced and tried to get into his head as much as possible because he also wrote the movie. As a director he almost has his own cinematic language, as far as what he does with a camera and how he directs his actors. He really has his own identity as a director so I really wanted to get in his head, so we spent a lot of time talking about the script and talking about the role. He also invited me to produce this project with him which was unbelievable. It’s weird because this is my first Mexican movie John, isn’t that weird? Being Mexican, having been born in Mexico City and this is my first Mexican movie. That being said, it was very important and was really special to me. For the role, I wanted to come out as the asshole and wasn’t afraid to not be liked. Michel was the one who really guided me throughout that whole process and pushed me out of my comfort zone. When you have a director like Michel, you just have to trust him fully and I did.
Q: So your next project that you are filming right now is Father of the Bride. I remember that from back in the day! Any of the same cast members?
A: No, this is a remake that’s being done by Warner Brothers, produced by Plan B, which is Brad Pitt’s company. The director is another Mexican director named Gaz Alazraki. It’s a completely new cast, you have Andy Garcia playing Steve Martin’s role, and Adria Arjona & Gloria Estefan. The script is amazing – it was adapted to Latin culture, and I think they did such an amazing job. It’s a classic rom-com, and I’m very excited because of the role. Its opposite of what I have done in the last couple years which I love. I don’t want to be stuck playing always the same role and I like being forced out of my comfort zone so I am really looking forward to this one.
Q: So we both share an incredible friend named Eva Longoria, who we both love to pieces. I would love to see you and her in a project together. Can we just put that in the universe? (laughs)
A: Eva is amazing and I am so proud that she is directing now. We’ve been friends now for a while. I would love to do a project with her. Let’s make that happen! (laughs)
Q: So when I mentioned to you that we would be shooting at the Montage, Los Cabos what was your first reaction?
A: I had heard amazing things about the resort and was excited to experience it for myself.
Q: What did you think of the resort?
A: It’s truly incredible. All I am thinking about is when can I go back!
To learn more about Diego follow him at @diego