A still of 'Blue Beetle'
A still of 'Blue Beetle' featuring Xolo Mariduena as the Latino superhero Image Credit: Warner Bros

Let’s face it, superhero fatigue is real. Extraordinary Americans on call to save the world from a catastrophic and global-scale event is a tired trope in most fantastical Hollywood films, but actor Xolo Maridueña believes his new movie ‘Blue Beetle’, boasting DC’s first Latino hero as the central figure, has bucked that trend.

In an exclusive interview with Gulf News conducted before the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the ‘Cobra Kai’ star maintains that ‘Blue Beetle’ is likely to be Hollywood’s most relatable superhero flick and will re-write established superhero narratives.

“We wanted to make sure, from day one, that our hero isn’t supposed to save the world from an alien explosion or some bomb exploding the planet. Often, that’s the part that’s un-relatable and [I didn't want to] go down that road,” said Maridueña.

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Xolo Maridueña in a scene from 'Blue Beetle'. Image Credit: AP

Directed by Puerto Rican Ángel Manuel Soto and written by Mexico’s Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, ‘Blue Beetle’ dwells on an endearing Latino family crumbling under a mountain of debt. Jaime Reyes’ (Maridueña) family is in danger of losing their house, while he has just graduated from a law college. A mountain of debt stares at them bleakly.

“With Jaime’s family, the issues he’s dealing with, like his family on the verge of losing their house or certain family members having health problems, are palpable and affect us all on a day-to-day scale rather than if an alien invasion were to take over,” pointed out Maridueña. He even jokes that sometimes an extraterrestrial ambush might be more welcome than being “swamped with college debt”.

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Elipidia Carrillo, George Lopez, Xolo Maridueña, Belissa Escobedo and Damian Alcazar in a scene from 'Blue Beetle'. Image Credit: AP

“And that’s really what made the story of ‘Blue Beetle’ grounded from day one.”

The tale of an earnest Jaime Reyes, who is handed over a stolen scarab hidden in a fast-food box, discovering a beetle with a mind of its own, forms the spine of this wildly escapist fare. Jaime is suddenly granted the ability to fly, heal, and create weapons. The best part? His family is witness to his transformation and isn’t kept in the dark.

This project also spelled a series of firsts for the actor and the crew.

Apart from ‘Blue Beetle’ officially being the first superhero of DC Studios’ revamped cinematic universe led by James Gunn, this film is high on authentic casting and Latino representation.

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Javier Guillen and Susan Sarandon in 'Blue Beetle'. Image Credit: AP

“I was most excited about getting to show this movie to my own family because they felt the story resonated with them ... To see family members that look like them, spoke like them was a big deal ... The idea that Jaime is gaining his powers in front of his family went far above ethnicity. There’s no hidden alter ego for Jaime. His mom and dad are experiencing it with him.”

What truly pleased him was that representation in this film wasn’t skin-deep and superficial.

“Even more than in front of the camera being representative, to see a director and writer who were Latino ensured that we came from a super authentic space ... Nothing looks forced nor are we pretending to be authentic. They are speaking from their own experiences ... The microphone and the camera are being put into the hands of people who are able to tell the stories they need to tell.”

So did the 22-year-old star audition for this dream role? Mariduena, best known for playing the budding karate champ in the highly entertaining ‘Cobra Kai’, believes his family and his relationship with them helped him secure the role.

“Years before booking the project, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the director at a dinner and he remembers the love and essence I brought to my own family back then ... What I love about ‘Blue Beetle’ is that he’s a kid amongst his family … And he’s definitely a reluctant superhero. It was so gratifying to play him.”

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A scene from 'Blue Beetle'. Image Credit: AP

The movie, which opened to favourable reviews, is also a big win for representation and diversity in Hollywood.

“In ‘Cobra Kai’, I was Ecuadorian and the specificity of making my character Ecuadorian meant that people understood that all Latinos are Mexicans … Specificity matters. And that visibility and seeing yourself on screen is real change and can elicit real change. I have been grateful that I got the chance to play uplifting and empowering roles. With minorities, sometimes only their trauma and strife that they endure is highlighted. And sometimes, it’s good to tell those triumphant, positive stories.”

He believes ‘Blue Beetle’ will drive the blues away.

“When you go see this movie, it will make you feel happy.”

Quote Unquote:

“If I had a superpower, I want to have the power of teleportation. I am a big foodie, so a superpower to make food appear in front of me is a big one.”

Did you know?

In one of the scenes, Xolo Maridueña had to be a part of a scene that required him to show his sculpted body.

“I knew I wasn’t going to embarrass myself, but this was more of a physical challenge. I had a whole team who told me to eat chicken and broccoli. But they knew I am a Latino who eats a lot of Mexican food, so they worked around that. And that was cool.”

Don’t Miss It!

‘Blue Beetle’ is out in UAE cinemas on August 24