“It never once felt like work to me. It just felt like I was showing up to summer camp with friends,” Gregory Diaz IV reveals about the joy of working on “In The Heights.” “They just so happened to be recording while we were singing or spontaneously breaking into dance,” he jokes. “Everywhere I looked, there was pretty much a latinx person, whether it was the cast or the crew or the caterers or the dancers. It was really an amazing opportunity to have in such a great point in my career and I think it really was a turning point,” he says.
We talked with Diaz as part of Gold Derby’s special film breakthrough performers “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with key Oscar contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“In the Heights” is the critically acclaimed adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical. Directed by Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians) from a screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes, Diaz co-stars alongside Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Jimmy Smits. Delayed almost a full year by the coronavirus pandemic (it was initially set to arrive on June 26, 2020), the film follows a similar plot to the Broadway musical, telling the story of a a bodega owner in the Washington Heights neighborhood in Manhattan, New York and the community around him, all of whom dream of a better life.
Although Diaz is just 16 years old, he’s already a seasoned performer and a real triple threat as an actor, singer and dancer, having made his Broadway debut in 2016 in the Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s “Matilda.” While “In The Heights” proved to be the perfect transition from stage to screen for the young actor, Diaz was still so endearingly surprised when he landed the role, recalling a funny story of when he first found out.
“My dad actually got the call that I got the part of Sonny, but they didn’t tell me until like a little bit later on because Lin wanted to FaceTime me himself to let me know,” he explains. “So they were pretty much telling my dad to keep it on the down-low and just give Lin my number. I think I had just left the dentist or something and I’m in the car and I get this random FaceTime. Most of the time I’d decline it,” he says, explaining how he ultimately decided to answer the call anyway. “And then just like in pops Lin-Manuel Miranda and in the background are all these Tonys and awards and stuff. And you’re just like, ‘oh my God, like what’s going on?’ I never once had thought in that moment that I was given the role. I just thought I was getting a random call from Lin-Manuel Miranda,” he smiles. “I was very excited, but nervous. I was feeling all the emotions!”
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