Blue Beetle Interview: Director Angel Manuel Soto on Family & Xolo Maridueña

Blue Beetle
(Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Hispanic Heritage Foundation)

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Blue Beetle director Angel Manuel Soto about the DC Studios superhero movie. The director discussed the importance of family and his affinity for Xolo Maridueña. The film is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD.

“Jaime Reyes suddenly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology called the Scarab,” reads the film’s synopsis. “When the Scarab chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he’s bestowed with an incredible suit of armor that’s capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the superhero Blue Beetle.”

Tyler Treese: What’s so exciting about Blue Beetle is that it was a real star-making performance for Xolo Maridueña. We’re seeing both the actor and his character grow at the same time. How exciting is it to see such a bright future for both the character going into the DCU and for Xolo as a leading man now?

Angel Manuel Soto: I think that’s a great question. Given that Xolo cannot promote the film and the actors cannot promote the film, I love that you start with that question because it is very important for me to see him shine. When I met him, he had only done … I think, the first season of Cobra Kai. I never saw the show, but I loved his personality, and I love the way he is with his family, you know? Like his family is always with him. So being able to see him come from Cobra Kai fame, step onto the plate, and embody the character of Jaime — because Jaime is very much him. That’s the beauty of it when we cast him. Xolo and Jaime Reyes, before getting the superpowers, are very, very similar in their personalities and the way they mingle with their families.

But seeing him step up — not just to be a leading man, but also to be a superstar in the way of action — demands it, and to have the vulnerabilities and the emotionality that I like to see on this type of character without being unabashedly himself, but at the same time, given that wish fulfillment. Him and his family were very close, and he also stays true to his origins, his family, and his beginnings. It just shows you that the heart of Jaime Reyes and the heart of Xolo are almost the same.

Jaime is obviously the main character and the star of Blue Beetle, but it’s not all about him. The family all gets so many great moments, and it really shows that Jaime is amazing — he also has this incredible support system. How important was it to show that it’s not just the man that makes the hero: it’s also that community and family that really propels him to be all that he can be?

We have grown to love a lot of these movies that are exciting, and the tropes are there, but they’ve always been based out of a certain individuality. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The whole idea of keeping your identity a secret is for the protection of the ones that you love, so there is a reason for that existence. But there’s also another part to the story that, for us, at least — growing up in our communities — we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are if it wasn’t for the people that came before us. It was our ancestors, our parents, our family, and our communities that have helped us get to a place of safety and a place of being able to do the things that we want to do in our lives because they care.

That is our experience. Growing up, my community was always … if something happened to your dad — God willing, nothing happens to your dad — but if something were to happen to your dad, you have a place to sleep, you have a place to eat, you got work, you’re taken care of by the people around you. For me, it was like, “How can we celebrate one of the many things that makes our community special by including the family as part of what makes a hero?” They’re not just … we didn’t want them to be a backdrop, right? We didn’t want them to be props.

We didn’t want them to be one-dimensional because it is not authentic to how we picture family and how family has helped us be where we are now. At the same time, we wanted to give them all heroic parts. We didn’t want them to just sit there in the back and just be people that give you the speech to boost your morale. No, no, they actually take action. They’re active participants on this story and without superpowers, they’re still superheroes in their own right. So we wanted to honor our ancestors by giving them a chance to be the ones that save Jaime so that he can become the hero we want him to become.

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