NEW YORK — You would think Jennifer Lopez would shy away from co-starring opposite her famous husband in a film but, “Gigli” be damned, she goes for it with “El Cantante,” set for release August 3. Marc Anthony takes center stage in this ambitious biopic of the iconic Latino salsa singer Hector Lavoe. Playing Lavoe’s wife, Puchi, Lopez takes some dark turns as an actress. Those turns aren’t surprising in the context of the film, however, considering the tragedies that befell the influential singer and his wife.
We caught up with Lopez to talk about the film, working with Anthony and why she can’t wait to hit the road in the fall for the first time in the States.
MTV: There are some obvious parallels between yourself and Puchi. You both are Puerto Ricans from the Bronx, New York, married to famous singers. What did you make of the similarities?
Jennifer Lopez: This role was such a challenge because I felt like her life was so different than mine. Those are obvious things we have in common … but the truth is their lives were so different from ours. It was a real challenge. It was a super-hard role. I had to go to places I had never been and experience things I had never experienced. They had a lot of pain and tragedy.
MTV: Do you view it as a different kind of role for you? It’s a pretty dark character.
Lopez: It’s different. The last time I had a feeling like this was when I did “Selena,” and that’s because I think it was a real person I was playing. I had different types of material to research, her own voice on tape, 11 CDs of her speaking, things like that. It’s a different set of pressures, but at the same time, it also gives you more material to work with as an actress.
MTV: You wanted Marc to star in this for years. Tell me about finally acting alongside him.
Lopez: I always thought he’d be great in the role. I was right. It was great watching him do the role. We helped each other a lot. We knew what the mission was. And the mission was, this is an important story for our culture but it’s also an important story for the world, to expose people to who this artist was, this music and this important time in musical history. They created this amazing sound called “salsa.” They were like the underground cool. Other musicians like Miles Davis would come and watch them. It was great for us to have that mission and say, “We want to tell this in the right way, in an intense way, in exactly the way they lived.” I’m very proud of what we did.
MTV: You two have collaborated musically and now on the big screen. Does it feel like a natural progression?
Lopez: Marc and I don’t really plan things in that way. It’s always things happening organically. I was in the studio with him while he was recording his album and he said, “This song is better for Jennifer. Jennifer, you sing this song.” And all of a sudden I’m in the booth, and that was the first song for my Spanish album. It’s not like, “Let’s do a Spanish album together! This will be great!” Or, “Let’s do this movie together.” Five and a half years ago I got this script, and Marc was in a different place in his life, and so was I. I called him. I just knew he was the person to play this role. Puerto Rican singer. Glasses. The whole thing. [She laughs.] You know what I mean?
MTV: This fall you two will be touring together. What can we expect?
Lopez: I’m very excited. First of all, because I’ve never toured the United States. I’ve been on tour with Marc twice since we’ve been married, and I’ve always been on the sidelines. I think they thought, “Well, Jennifer has two albums coming out this year. She’s going to be there anyway.” [She laughs.] “You think she’ll do it?” We talked about it, and he was like, “Let’s do it.” It’s going to be great. I think people can expect an exciting show. If you’ve ever seen Marc live, he’s amazing.
Check out everything we’ve got on “El Cantante.”
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