BRUCE R. MILLER
If you want to be a luchador, you have to have a suit that fits, right?
For “Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion,” a new Disney series about a Mexican American teenager chosen to become a superhero, physical fitness was paramount.
“They measured me from eye to eye,” says JR Villarreal, who plays Uncle Cruz, also known as Black Scorpion. “It’s an amazing process to watch. They were kind enough to ask our opinion and make sure we felt strong and confident.
Scarlett Estevez, who plays Violet, also known as Ultra Violet, says a mask can limit its wearer’s field of vision. “You can’t see directly below you… you can’t see your feet,” she said. “So it’s something you have to get used to, but it’s not that bad.”
Adds Villarreal, the star of movies like ‘Akeelah and the Bee’: “You have to know where your mark is because you’re not going to see it. It was easy, compared to Scar, because I could take the mark off. mine.” She couldn’t.
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Both were fans of lucha libre – or freestyle wrestling – which is popular in Mexico. The key to the sport are colorful masks, quick movements and high-flying maneuvers. More recently, luchadores have found success in American entertainment.
Estevez, the 14-year-old star of the ‘Daddy’s Home’ films, has a background in gymnastics which helped, but Villarreal needed to brush up on his moves. “It was a lot – a lot – of practice,” he says. “But it was so funny.”
Villarreal’s saving grace: He had wrestling experience when he was in high school.
To give the impression that they were moving as fast as possible, the producers of “Ultra Violet” had special effects. While telling the story of a young superhero, actors can also comment on aspects of teenage life.
Social media, for example, becomes a plot point. Violet’s best friend wants to capture those shining moments on camera, but often finds that “there’s so much more to life than social media,” says Estevez. “You don’t always have to be on it. (Violet) realizes ‘maybe I can just live in the moment instead of being on social media all the time.'”
Like other series produced during the pandemic, “Ultra Violet” had to take precautions with its actors. In an opening episode, Brandon Rossel, who plays Violet’s brother Santiago, sings her a song in a cafe.
Rossel, however, was not there. “We filmed at different times,” Estevez explains. “The (director is) like, ‘You guys just sit there and smile.’ And then they played the song and we all literally started crying. It was a real reaction to that song. It’s obviously so sweet…and we obviously have such a strong bond with Brandon, which makes it even more special.
While Estevez had a steeper luchador learning curve than Villarreal (he can list the names of his favorite wrestlers and the moves they can do), she had to freshen up the story. “I was aware of what they were, but I didn’t know their struggle. I have definitely been more educated.
Now the two are ready to teach others about the lucha way of life and its meaning.
“I was so happy to be here,” Villarreal, 29, said. “I totally trusted everyone around me.” And now? “I feel strong and confident in the suit.”
Estevez adds, “The costumers were super amazing because they were very, very inclusive. They were really, really great.
“Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion” premieres June 3 on Disney Channel. The first 10 episodes of the series will be available on Disney+ on June 8.