Jennifer Lopez has added movie producer to her lengthy resumé with the formation of Nuyorican Productions. Lopez formed Nuyorican Productions in 2003, and El Cantante is the first film from the fledging company. Starring the real-life husband and wife team of Lopez and Marc Anthony, El Cantante tells the story of the legendary Puerto Rican salsa singer Hector Lavoe.
The Decision to Produce El Cantante: Lopez says it was an easy project to decide to take on. “I just loved the idea of the first thing out of Nuyorican Productions being this type of story. Kind of musical, which is a big part of who I am. It being Puerto Rican, just the whole kind of story, a very passionate love story which I always kind of love that idea as well. It just had all kind of the makings of things that really spoke to me.”
Jennifer Lopez’ Take on Puchi: Marc Anthony described her as “a bitch on wheels” but that’s not how Lopez views the woman who inspired her character, Puchi, Hector Lavoe's wife. “We have different points of view and I think you have to when you play characters. You do have to see them from her side. For me, I do feel like she was not a perfect character by any means. But at the same time, I do feel like she loved Hector and I felt it was my responsibility to put that in there. I would always tell Marc, I said, ‘If it wasn't for Puchi, Hector would have died a long time ago. She's the one who pulled him out of it.’ We'd get into discussions like that. He's like, ‘No, no, no. She would keep doing drugs.’ But I think we both agreed on the fact that they did love each other. The door was there. For 20 years, either one of them could have walked out and neither one of them did.”
Asked how much input she had in making Puchi a more detailed character, Lopez replied, “It's funny. Once Leon [Ichaso] came onto the project and we talked about what he wanted to do with it, we had these tapes of Puchi. I think it was his decision to tell it from her point of view because we had this. We talked about it. He's like, ‘Well, I [talked] to Fania Records and I think the way I'm going to do it…,’ because he did the rewrite. He wrote the script. It's when that kind of took place. When I first got the script, I knew I was going to produce it. I wasn't even sure I was going to be in it.”
Letting It All Out in Emotional Scenes: Working opposite her spouse meant that when Puchi and Hector Lavoe squared off in the film, the real husband and wife team had to let it all hang out on the set. But Lopez says the intense screaming sequences were actually fun to work on. “Obviously, they were very intense,” said Lopez. “Really, you can't fake things like that. You have to really go there emotionally but at the same time, when we were done, I think there was a sense of satisfaction that we were telling the story or that the scene was real and that we had captured something real and gritty on screen. That's what we wanted to do. We wanted to just make these people human. The joyous things we wanted to be joyous and the funny things we wanted to be funny. Things that were funny but not funny, it was all about those nuances. It was the same thing with the screaming kind of fighting ways they would go at each other.”
Shaking It Off at the End of the Day: That wasn’t difficult to do according to Lopez. “No, not at all. Not for us. I think it was more like an adrenaline rush afterwards. We'd be going home and driving home to Long Island in a car. He was like, ‘Yo, that was great, right? That part when I pushed you, you weren't expecting that, right?’ ‘No, I wasn't.’ It was more kind of like, ‘Okay, we're doing this. We know what we want to do.’”
Playing a Couple and Being a Couple: Lopez said that it wasn’t an issue as they weren’t a couple at the time she first became involved in El Cantante. . “I got this script like five and a half years ago, you have to remember,” explained Lopez. “Marc and I have only been together three and a half years. At that time, I just called him. It might be even longer than that, maybe six years ago… But I called him right away. I knew that he was the person to play Hector Lavoe, a Puerto Rican salsa singer. They even looked a little bit alike. They really [favor] each other and I knew he knew this world. So I called him right away, I think maybe a month after I got the script, before Leon, before the rewrite, before anything. Just, ‘You are the person to play this role. Do you want to do it?’ And he was like, ‘Oh, he's my idol. I'll do it.’ I said, ‘I don't know if I'm going to even be in it, but do you want to do it?’ And he said yes.”
Helping Out with Wardrobe Choices: Lopez was very much involved in getting together her character’s wardrobe. “Actually, me and Sandra Hernandez, obviously, but my makeup artist Scott Barnes also. We really worked together on the whole look, every period, and making sure it was very specific and true to the time and everything like that. Scott did an amazing job with the aging makeup and with all the different periods and all the nuances. He just did a really great job.”
On Fame and Celebrity: It’s a lot different now then it was at the height of Hector Lavoe’s popularity. “Back then, it's like Puchi says, it was the '70s. Everybody was doing drugs and hanging out. It was music and it was rock n' roll, and it was all this kind of stuff. I think it's just a little changed now.
For me, I've never been in that type of scene so I don't know. I don't know it. For me, my fame experience was a whole different thing than what they went through. I think I still had the same kind of thing that hits you like, ‘Oh my God, what is this?’ That makes you shake and shiver a little bit and get anxiety and makes you want to escape, which I do understand. Like escape your own skin because it's such a weird experience you could never really explain it to anybody.”
On Her Music: Lopez says that part of her career is going great. “The Spanish album's doing really well. We're only on our second single right now. The first single did great and the album has been doing very well internationally as well as here. We also have my English album coming out.”