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Talking about Day of the Dead, Working With His Daughter And His New Movie Coco With Gael García Bernal

Thank you to Disney and Pixar Studios for hosting me during the #PixarCocoEvent.

I started watching Mozart in the Jungle after Gael García Bernal won his Golden Globe for Best Actor in 2016. His acceptance speech was just that charming. Little did I know that I would see that charm in person over a year later when we sat down to talk about his new role in Pixar’s Coco. And did I mention how charming he was? Because he was definitely charming.

Why did he want to be a part of Coco?

From the beginning…the email said something like, ‘Pixar wants you in a movie about day of the dead.’ Of course I want to be in it! I went into a meeting with Lee and Adrian and Darla and they told me what the movie was gonna be about and [it was] a really wonderful meeting… They just told me what the movie was about, they told me the movie because there was no script at that point, still.  They showed me some little images of who the character was gonna be, [what] he was gonna look like… Also they showed me a little clip, this is one of the ways that they do a casting around who they want. They animate certain interviews or shows or films you’ve done and they put those dialogues into Hector, you know? And so there’s this interview I did with-I think it was with Chelsea Handler… And they put it as if Hector was going into the show of Chelsea, you know?  So, they showed you that and I mean it was really funny, it worked, you know?

Where there challenges with the role?

It was daunting, the fact that I had to sing, but I like the challenge of it… I was counting on my postal code, you know? I mean coming from Guadalajara…I think that’s why we are able to do those shouts, you know, those mariachi gritos because…if you’re not from there it’s very difficult to do it. 

©2017 Disney•Pixar

What would he like people to learn about the Mexican culture from the film?

The day of the dead celebration or tradition is a very open and very….transversal.  Yeah, [a] transversal kind of celebration, because anything you want to put into the alter is welcome.  It invites a very personal point of view, the Day of the Dead, because it’s a reflection on death and nobody has the definite answer on what happens after you die, no?  So, it is a reflection on death that we all engage in it on a very personal level.  We all put our dead people, we put ourselves there,we put ourselves in as a calaca, little skulls…as a little skull with your name on it, and you put yourself on the same level and stuff to reflect on death and life and a very kind of…just really like an open question… They grabbed little aspects from each region in Mexico, not trying to get everything in, but having a very personal point of view around it… Because ultimately this reflection leads you to be a better human being, leads you to build a better society, leads you to build a better future as well to live life in a much more essential way.  And that’s what I think this film shows about Mexico.

What day of the dead traditions does he celebrate with his family?

It is a very open ceremony.  I mean you start building the alter, for example, you put your dead people there… We put some books that we like, we put some toys, we put up a lot of food… A lot of little pieces that we found, Lego pieces, , stuff like that…  And they start to reflect on them when they invite their friends to see the alter and stuff and they start to explain it to them.  It is really interesting what they tell them about what goes on. And also that knowledge, that security that there is no concrete answer on what happens when we die, you know?  So it is a really great way to engage into that conversation with kids, as well.

How does he feel about the movie’s phrase “seize your moment”?

This is a very personal opinion about seizing the moment.  I think that what’s nice about the movie is that it shows De La Cruz having that-let’s say that flag-carrying the flag of seizing your moment and I think it has been one of the most damaging aspects of western society, the notion of seizing the moment. It has made us burn the forests that we have in front of us, it has made us live the now as if there was no tomorrow.  As if we’re not engaging with a responsibility that freedom gives us to know that there’s a future and there’s people that will come after.  And it is not a rush, life is more a craft. Little by little, it’s built little by little and seizing the moment sometimes makes you fall into trap that it is now or never, you know?  And there’s moments that it is now or never, but you know when that is, it’s not that there’s a rule that you have to follow that path.  I think it has very been very damaging, that notion.  And it is interesting that in the film it kind of comes in play.

©2017 Disney•Pixar

What was it like to work with his daughter?

Ah, it was beautiful, it was beautiful! Acting definitely gives you…moments that you think, ‘We’re so lucky…I’m so lucky we’re doing this job.’  I never thought that I was gonna dedicate and do and live off the job I love doing, or this experience that I love doing.  And then you get a chance to have a beautiful postcard for life… This is gonna be something that my daughter one day will see when she’s, I don’t know, sixty.  And it will be really, really fun to her to remember and to hear ourselves there, and it was such a great opportunity.

Follow along with all of my #PixarCocoEvent coverage for more exclusive interviews and behind the scenes information!

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history. Directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”), co-directed by Adrian Molina (story artist “Monsters University”) and produced by Darla K. Anderson (“Toy Story 3”), Disney•Pixar’s “Coco” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2017.

As The Bunny Hops®