Gregory Diaz IV grew up in The Bronx and Queens, however now he’s singing and dancing “In the Heights.”
The enthusiastic 16-year-old actor is making his big-screen debut in the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, in theaters and on HBO Max Friday. In the film, about the tightknit Washington Heights neighborhood of higher Manhattan, he performs Sonny, the scrappy cousin of Anthony Ramos’ character, Usnavi, who owns the bodega the place Sonny works.
Diaz is a New Yorker by and thru. He bought his begin on Broadway, and his earlier greatest credit score was the film “Vampires vs. The Bronx.” So, what’s it about the 5 boroughs that grabs him?
“There is just something about New York that enchants me,” Diaz informed The Post. “Maybe it has to do with the fact that I was born and raised here.”
The actor has additionally spent almost half of his brief life in showbiz. After he noticed a efficiency of “Matilda” on Broadway when he was 10 years previous — having by no means cared that a lot about musicals earlier than — he instinctively knew he had theater in his veins.
“I saw kids my age onstage dancing and acting and singing,” Diaz stated. “It was just an immediate feeling of wanting to do that and believing I could. That was the first goal I set for myself in my career — to be a part of ‘Matilda’ — and thankfully I was able to do it.”
By 11, he was hoofing and talking in a faux English accent onstage at the Shubert Theatre, and did six months on the nationwide tour. Feeling he ought to take a break from the boards, Diaz determined to make the leap to films and TV.
“There aren’t a lot of roles [in the theater for actors] my age,” he stated. “But I think once I turn 18, I’m gonna make a comeback.”
“In the Heights” is a terrific begin. The high-energy movie blends his newfound love of the display screen and his old-school aptitude for tune and dance right into a blockbuster. But the audition course of introduced on a sensation the assured, well-spoken Diaz wasn’t used to: nerves.
“Walking into a room and seeing people like Jon [M. Chu, the film’s director], Quiara [Alegría Hudes, who wrote the musical’s book and the screenplay], Anthony and Lin,” he stated, “I was fangirling on the inside. But on the outside I kept my composure.”
When Diaz left his ultimate callback, the place he read scenes with Ramos, the professional shook it off. He tries to not overthink auditions, since rejection is so prevalent for actors. So, the teen headed to the films after which to a dentist appointment. When he walked out of the workplace, simply three hours after his audition, his pocket buzzed.
“Lin-Manuel Miranda FaceTimed me on my phone!” he stated. “And I was just like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ And we just kind of chitchatted and he said, ‘Do you want to be a part of this?’”
“Of course!” Diaz replied, with out giving it a second thought.
The job was a blast for him. He bonded together with his castmates — “[Ramos] really is like a big brother to me” — and bought to movie big-budget manufacturing numbers you hardly see in films anymore. One known as “96,000,” which was filmed at Highbridge Pool. It options greater than 500 extras, synchronized swimmers, singers and dancers. Diaz has a galvanizing rap solo in the water.
“I was in the pool for two or three hours straight,” he stated of the wet three-day shoot. “You can’t complain about it, because the environment was so energetic … It feels like you’re watching an old MGM grand dance scene.”
Audiences will get to see Diaz and “In the Heights” this weekend, a yr after it was imagined to be launched, postponed on account of the pandemic. The actor was, at first, upset by the delay of his greatest mission thus far. But now, throughout the metropolis’s long-awaited reopening, he appears to be like at it differently.
“Seeing all the positive responses that we’re getting right now,” he stated, “I think the film is a forerunner to the idea that we’re coming back.”