Hasta Que Te Conocí, the Telemundo series based on the life of Juan Gabriel, premiered to record viewership on Sept. 11, just weeks after the Mexican superstar's sudden death.
Produced with Gabriel's blessing, the series premiere was seen by 2.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen, making it the highest-rated scripted weekend premiere on Spanish-language television in over five years.
Mexican Superstar Juan Gabriel Dies at 66
Gabriel, who died Aug. 28 at age 66, led an unusually colorful life that included homelessness, a stint in prison and a childhood spent in an orphanage. To play him, producers cast six different actors, including up-and-comer Carlos Yorvick, who plays Juan Gabriel from 17 to 20 years old, perhaps his most dramatic time period.
We caught up with Yorvick as Hasta Que Te Conocí, which airs Sunday nights, enters its second week.
How did you land the role?
I was in Los Angeles and my manager, Joe Bonilla, wrote and told me to check my email; there was an audition. I never imagined that it was for the role of Juan Gabriel. It was nerve-racking to play someone so important. When I started to prepare, I realized there were many similarities between us; that is, between Alberto Aguilera Valadez [Juan Gabriel's real name] and myself. His birthday is January 7; I'm January 9. We're both high tenors. His second instrument is the guitar, as is mine. I'm also a musician before an actor; I sing, I write, and I play the guitar. But when I landed the role, I hired a vocal coach in Mexico and we worked every day, three to four hours a day, leading up to the filming. Some of the vocals you hear in the series are mine.
What was the hardest aspect of the role?
I had to be very careful with each thing, because there's a fine line between reality and comedy. Juan Gabriel was an artist in every sense of the word. It had to be interpretation, not imitation.
Did you ever meet Juan Gabriel?
I was actually going to meet him for the first time in his Los Angeles concert [the day before he died], but I had to go to Mexico for an interview, and I wasn't able to go. The plan was to have dinner with him September 3 in Guadalajara, after his concert there. It was very shocking to learn he had died, especially because the series finished airing in Mexico the same day. My only communication with him was through [series producer] Mary Black, who sent me his congratulations because he was very happy with how I played the role.
You manage to look a lot like a young Juan Gabriel. Did it require a lot of makeup?
Very little! I had my hair long and it was all about getting the hair in place and that was it. The first day I sat down for makeup, I closed my eyes and didn't open them until everything was done. I just sat there, mediated and said, "I don't want to see anything at all." I kept my eyes closed and had someone help me walk onto the set. I only looked at myself after we filmed and it was amazing.
You've spoken about having a connection with Juan Gabriel. How so?
I've also had to struggle in my career and I identify with that in his life. Truly, if you persevere, you reach your goals. Look at what happened with Juan Gabriel, and it was something he declared. In 1970, he sang in Bellas Artes [in Mexico] with Lucha Villa, and said, "I will sing here one day, and I'll receive a standing ovation." And in 1990, he became the first regional Mexican singer to perform in Bellas Artes. The power of the mind is amazing. Everything is possible.