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Director Ángel Manuel Soto Brings DC Comics’ First Latino Superhero to Theaters in ‘Blue Beetle’

We sat down with the director in Austin, ahead of the movie’s release this weekend

Ángel Manuel Soto doing press for Blue Beetle.
Ángel Manuel Soto (Photo courtesy of Fons PR)

Amid the ongoing strikes and a recently tense transition in leadership at DC Comics, emerges a newly inaugurated Latino superhero: Jaime Reyes — famously known in comic book realms as the Blue Beetle.

The film, directed by Ángel Manuel-Soto, follows Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), a college graduate who undergoes an extraordinary transformation after an encounter with an alien relic turns his life upside down. Jaime is forced to quickly navigate his newfound powers through a complex series of challenges in order to protect himself and his loved ones.

However, this tale is not that of your typical comic book trope. Instead, it’s a story that intertwines genres of film captivating its audience through strong themes of kinship, courage, and at the center of it all, a fallible character full of heart and humility.

behind the scenes of Blue Beetle (photo courtesy of Fons PR)

Authenticity in Every Detail

Though Jaime Reyes originates from Texas in the original comic book series, Soto believed the emerging hero deserved a fresh and colorful cityscape upon his revival.

After all, every superhero needs a home in which they’ve established their humble beginnings.

While Batman watches over Gotham, and Aquaman guards Atlantis, Blue Beetle now has Palmera City to protect.

The fictional metropolis debuts a modernized 80’s Miami-synth wave vibe, rich with neon lights and giant skyscraper buildings, but this isn’t the only scene that tells a story.

Soto and his team are able to capture an authentic Mexican-American household upon first glance. From religious figures framed in the living room to plastic wrap on the sofas, and a great ordeal of conflict occurring in the kitchen, no stone is left unturned when it comes to set design.

George Lopez as Uncle Rudy and Xolo Maridueña as Jaime Reyes.
Blue Beetle (Photo courtesy of Fons PR)

Love from Latinos: A Community United Behind Blue Beetle

Although the ironclad cast – consisting of rising star, Xolo Maridueña, George Lopez, and Academy Award-winner, Susan Sarandon – haven’t been able to promote their upcoming film (due to ongoing Hollywood strikes) the Latino community has been swift to show their support.

An open letter signed by 27 Latino Hollywood organizations such as the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI,) calls for the collective to watch the film and “amplify the work that countless Latino artists have worked so hard to create.”

Much like the Reyes family rallies behind Jaime throughout his journey, Latinos are doing the same for their own tribe.

Taking the reins of the film’s press tour, Director Ángel Manuel Soto is traveling city to city to promote the story he’s poured his heart into. Recognizing the sacrifices of his cast and crew for the greater good, he’s working to ensure their passion and creativity reach as many people as possible.

Angel Manuel Soto (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Warner Bros Discovery)

Meet Blue Beetle Director Ángel Manuel Soto

Tribeza sat down with Puerto Rican director, Ángel Manuel Soto during his visit to Austin for the film’s press tour. The director discussed the formation of the film, his vision for the character, and offered advice for those hoping to pursue a similar career path.

How did you get involved with this DC project?

It came out of the blue. After Charm City Kings premiered at Sundance, one of the DC executives had seen the movie and they’d been working on the script with Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, who is Mexican from Querétaro — like authentic Mexican.

So I got that call, and at first, I was hesitant because of the history with Hollywood and Latinos. I didn’t want to be the guy that brown-washed something or was told how Latino we could be.

I am myself. Don’t tell me to not be myself.

But I read the script and it just felt so authentic. Not only to the Mexican culture but to the whole pan-Latino experience, because a lot of these things are also very Puerto Rican. 

We can all connect and hone in on who we are, authentically ourselves. 

Much like the Scarab chooses its host in the film, It’s my understanding that Xolo Maridueña was chosen for the role. At what point did it click that he was your Jaime?

Yes, he was. When I got the call, they asked, “Who do you want to cast?” and I said Xolo for multiple reasons.

Not only does he look verbatim like Jaime Reyes in the comic, but a lot of his characteristics, personality, and humanity are very similar. Of course, add to the mix that he has martial arts experience from Cobra Kai and it felt like a no-brainer.

But it clicked when we saw him with the suit on.

From that day forward it was like, Xolo? Jaime? Same thing.

Is there anything you can tease us about the future of Blue Beetle?

Our vision is big. Minimum, a trilogy.

Jaime’s story is just starting and this is an introduction to the character.

An introduction with a lot of heart, and love. It’s a family adventure that your youngest sister to your oldest nana can come to enjoy and see themselves as heroes of this story.

It’s a love letter to the people that came before us and a love letter to who we are.

The story of Jaime is not over yet. He has a lot of adventures ahead of him, plenty of villains to face, and potential collaborations with other superheroes, too.

We know that Austin is a place of beginnings for you and your career. What’s it like to be back here and celebrate with the community?

It’s beautiful to be back and give to the city that pretty much launched my career.

It was the first city that I did commercials in, outside of Puerto Rico — not one but two.

The first big job I’ve ever had was here, working at Fantastic Fest.

Then returning in 2015 with my opera prima it’s where I met my manager and agent, and it all really picked up from there. I was at South by Southwest, then did Charm City Kings, and we were going to be at South by, but the pandemic hit.

So now doing Blue Beetle, I was like — it has to be here.

Austin is such a special place, and I’ve had so much fun here. I can’t wait to be back more often.

Do you have any advice for up-and-comers in the film industry?

As cliche as it might sound, never give up, and don’t take no for an answer.

If there’s a lot of traffic in that lane or if there’s no lane, feel free to create your own and ask for forgiveness later.

Don’t get discouraged.


Blue Beetle (photo courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Blue Beetle, releases in theaters everywhere on Friday, August 18. Find showings at your local cinema here.

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