Gregory Diaz IV grew up in The Bronx and Queens, but now he’s singing and dancing “In the Heights.”
The enthusiastic 16-yr-old actor is making his large-screen debut in the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, in theaters and on HBO Max Friday. In the motion picture, about the tightknit Washington Heights neighborhood of higher Manhattan, he plays Sonny, the scrappy cousin of Anthony Ramos’ character, Usnavi, who owns the bodega wherever Sonny works.
Diaz is a New Yorker by way of and through. He acquired his commence on Broadway, and his earlier largest credit history was the film “Vampires vs. The Bronx.” So, what is it about the 5 boroughs that grabs him?
“There is just one thing about New York that enchants me,” Diaz advised The Post. “Maybe it has to do with the simple fact that I was born and raised listed here.”
The actor has also invested virtually 50 % of his brief daily life in showbiz. Right after he noticed a effectiveness of “Matilda” on Broadway when he was 10 several years previous — acquiring never ever cared that significantly about musicals just before — he instinctively realized he had theater in his veins.
“I saw children my age onstage dancing and acting and singing,” Diaz reported. “It was just an quick emotion of wanting to do that and believing I could. That was the to start with target I established for myself in my profession — to be a component of ‘Matilda’ — and fortunately I was equipped to do it.”
By 11, he was hoofing and talking in a pretend English accent onstage at the Shubert Theatre, and did 6 months on the national tour. Feeling he ought to consider a crack from the boards, Diaz made the decision to make the leap to videos and Television set.
“There aren’t a great deal of roles [in the theater for actors] my age,” he explained. “But I imagine when I transform 18, I’m gonna make a comeback.”
“In the Heights” is a terrific start. The significant-strength film blends his newfound enjoy of the screen and his aged-faculty aptitude for song and dance into a blockbuster. But the audition process introduced on a sensation the self-assured, effectively-spoken Diaz wasn’t utilised to: nerves.
“Walking into a room and observing folks 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 within. But on the outside I held my composure.”
When Diaz still left his final callback, where he browse scenes with Ramos, the professional shook it off. He tries not to overthink auditions, because rejection is so commonplace for actors. So, the teen headed to the movies and then to a dentist appointment. When he walked out of the office environment, just 3 hrs just after his audition, his pocket buzzed.
“Lin-Manuel Miranda FaceTimed me on my cellphone!” he said. “And I was just like, ‘Hey, what is up?’ And we just form of chitchatted and he explained, ‘Do you want to be a part of this?’”
“Of course!” Diaz replied, with no giving it a next assumed.
The career was a blast for him. He bonded with his castmates — “[Ramos] seriously is like a significant brother to me” — and received to film major-budget manufacturing numbers you hardly see in motion pictures any more. A person is termed “96,000,” which was filmed at Highbridge Pool. It capabilities a lot more 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 a few hrs straight,” he mentioned of the rainy 3-day shoot. “You can’t complain about it, mainly because the atmosphere 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 year after it was supposed to be released, postponed owing to the pandemic. The actor was, at first, upset by the delay of his greatest project to date. But now, throughout the city’s prolonged-awaited reopening, he appears to be at it in a diverse way.
“Seeing all the constructive responses that we’re acquiring ideal now,” he explained, “I assume the movie is a forerunner to the plan that we’re coming again.”