A romantic story like no other took place during Hulu’s Up Here. Over the course of an eight-episode season, Lindsay (Mae Whitman) and Miguel (Carlos Valdes) realized they had more in common than they thought, prompting them to fall in love with each other to the tune of original music created by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
Awards Radar had the opportunity of speaking with Carlos Valdes, who was eager to talk about the exprience he lived while playing Miguel in the new romantic comedy. As a performer with previous experience with musicals, Valdes brought the best of his skills to the series, proving that he’s more than ready to lead any project that might be coming in his future.
Awards Radar: When you first read the script, what made you fall in love with Miguel?
Carlos Valdes: I’m going to be honest with you, I wanted a job. As an actor, ,you’re going on auditions all the time, taping yourself, learning material. This was just another project to me, but it always felt special and different because it felt as a cross pollination of every discipline I’ve worked in as a performer. I’ve done musical theater before and I have a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts, which is basically just a fancy piece of paper. I’ve been in television for a while, and I’m a musician, so it just felt like it was all coming together.
When I was reading about who Miguel is (for the audition), it felt very close to home. That’s one of the things I love about this project, too. When you read about these characters, they’re so relatable. When I read the script, I thought I was Miguel, but then I realized I was more like Lindsay. That definitely appealed to me about Miguel. He’s a person who is deeply wounded, and has a very soft interior. As a result, he’s built the exterior that protects him, but then he meets somebody that he falls for and know how to penetrate that space.
To tell that story as a straight man who is also a Lation built the context that made me feel that it was a story I needed to tell and had to be cast in.
AR: Did you ever imagine yourself involved in a project like this?
CV: Never, ever, ever, ever. For a long time, I’ve thought of myself as a character actor. I’ve always been in a supporting role, or in the ensemble. I’ve always felt very comfortable in that world. I think part of that is because I would get asked what my dream role was, and I was a Latino in musical theatre. Those roles didn’t exist, this was back before In The Heights and Hamilton and the explosion of color we’re seeing nowadays honestly.
I remember thinking that those roles didn’t exist, and that my role wasn’t the one of a leading man. Obviously, I was very young and there’s plenty of problematic internalized racism involved in that assessment. As I got older, I started thinking of myself in a different way, and when this show came along, I saw myself as a romantic leading man. But when life is showing you otherwise, you have no choice but to accept it, and that’s what I did.
AR: How do you feel about the impact the show has had on its audience?
CV: It’s one of those things, like if someone asks you if you’ve tried pole vaulting. You would answer no, but you know you’ve never tried it and you think you might be terrible at it. But then you do it, you bring your best effort to it, and now I have Diego, my number one fan!
AR: I am! That’s official!
CV: (laughs) I feel really good about it. I got into this profession to tell stories, because they allow people to look at their own lives in a different way. Or look at the world through a different perspective thanks to these wonderful mirrors that we have. I’ve never been on a billboard (until Up Here), that was a trip, to get text messages from people telling me they had seen me on the billboard and taking a picture. That’s my giant face. It’s insane to me, it’s pretty surreal. Times Square, specially, because I never thought I could be there.
I technically wasn’t, because so much of the digital advertising are marquees that are constantly rotating and changing. I had a publicist telling me it would be six minutes and twenty-one seconds until the next time it shows up. I was just standing out there waiting for Brooke Shields to cycle through to catcth the fifteen second ad. That was amazing. It’s been a surreal experience for me.
AR: How was the experience of making a musical television series different from musical theatre itself?
CV: The principles are really the same. Trying to tell a story as authentically as possible. I think the only thing that actually changed was the awareness of the audience. How far away they are and what they’re seeing. I really had to lean more into the television awareness more than anything else, because the camera is the audience. Something that I’m going to play on stage is not going to read the same way on camera.
That’s one of the cool things about this project. It’s not just committed to giving life to the extravagant color of a character’s emotional life, but it’s also interested in exploring the more complicated internal life of a character. I really found myself leaning into that a little bit more. For the numbers, those are bombastic. And Sonya (Tayeh, the show’s choreographer) was so good. The movement told the right story in a way it would feel good for the camera. At that point, we just had to rely on what she had built. She made sure it was all proportional.
With regards to those scenes, Tommy (Thomas Kail, one of the directors from the series) was so good at making us feel comfortable so we could explore it naturally. I really felt like we had the right support for being able to do that.
This interview was edited for lenght and clarity purposes. The entire season of UP Here is available to stream on Hulu.