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Luna Lauren Velez & Brian Tyree Henry Interview: Into the Spider-Verse

Luna Lauren Vélez is an accomplished actress who has had many memorable roles, including Maria LaGuerta on Showtime’s Dexter, Dr. Gloria Nathan on HBO’s Oz, and Elena on ABC’s Ugly Betty. In her latest project, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, she plays Rio Morales, the mother of the new Spider-Man, Miles Morales.

Brian Tyree Henry has appeared on stage, film, and television.  He was on the original cast of the award-winning musical The Book of Mormon.  And is also known for playing Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles on FX’s Atlanta.  In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, he plays Jefferson Davis, the father of Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man.

Screen Rant: First of all, guys, this movie is amazing. This is everything I wanted from a Spider-Man movie, probably, ever.

Brian Tyree Henry: Great.

Screen Rant: And it's so innovative. So, how much of yourselves are in the characters you portray?

Brian Tyree Henry: I think a lot.

Luna Lauren Vélez: Yeah. I think a lot of-- And you know what's even stranger? Like the more we get to know each other and the more we speak, I feel like somehow we just channeled this energy. And you can see it on screen. Because it feels very natural, very connected, and just full of love.

Brian Tyree Henry: And if you're going to be the parents of this kid, Miles Morales, like you better be dope.  At the end of the day, he got that from us. So, like, you know what I'm saying? Like we made you. So, therefore—Also, when I found out that I was playing the husband to this woman right here, I was like, “You better step it up and do it now.” So, I'm very honored honestly, to play the father to Spider-Man. It’s so rare that we get to see the father, the kinship—

Luna Lauren Vélez: The parents.

Brian Tyree Henry: The parents.

Luna Lauren Vélez: Spider-Man’s parents, period.

Brian Tyree Henry: Also, the fact that he is from a bilingual biracial house in Brooklyn. We love each other. We're there. This community raised him. You know what I mean? He can't go from one block to the next block without me knowing where he's at. Or without people like--

Luna Lauren Vélez: Or what he’s tagged. [laughs]

Brian Tyree Henry: Tagging his stuff, you know what I mean?  What I really, really loved the most about this movie, is like at least five or six times in this movie, you see Miles throw his arms around his father. You see him looking at his phone to call his mom or his dad, as the first line of defense. And I think that is so special.

Screen Rant: It actually reminded me, the same relationship I have with my father actually. Because it was the same kind of thing growing up for me. My dad was almost the same kind of way. Now, obviously you guys both have a different relationship with Miles. Talk to me about the relationship each of your characters have with Miles.

Luna Lauren Vélez: Well, it's interesting. Because we get asked that a lot. But I think it's more similar than people think. But I do think that overtly, she's very compassionate, and loving, and nurturing, and all of that. And that moment where she's trying to get him to get his hustle on in the morning, like, “Got to go, let's get going,” and she's in charge of the household and making sure everything runs a certain way. But at the end, that scene where she's saying in a minute and a minute and just see, showering him with kisses. And he, which is very unusual for 13-year-old boy to allow his mom, to keep kissing him until she's had her fill. It's just really speaks to their relationship. He feels loved and he loves his mom. He loves his dad. I mean, they’re the first thing in the morning, he’s surrounded by this incredible love-fest. These two people…

Brian Tyree Henry: I want to take him to school.  I still want to take him to school.  A school that he has to sleep at. That's where he's spending his time. But it's also just like, he has this thing about feeling like he's doesn't fit in and these aren’t his people. These are your people. This is where you belong. Even though we're showing how the neighborhood is changing. I mean, this movie is such a commentary on what's going on.

Luna Lauren Vélez: One hundred percent.

Brian Tyree Henry: It's so crazy because we're New York natives, well, she's a native native. I've just lived there for 13 years. But either way, there's a sense of ownership, you know what I mean, when it comes to this city. And when you've been there and your blood and sweat is in those stalls, you know what I mean? And I feel like we are putting him out in the world to realize, “Hey, it's changing, but at the end of the day, this can still be yours.” You know what I mean? This is still yours. And it's love. Beyond anything that you get in this movie is that his parents loved him. He leaves the house with love and he comes back to it.

Screen Rant: There’s a great message in this movie that anybody can be Spider-Man. Anybody can be Spider-Man. But what do you guys want audiences to take away from this movie besides that?

Luna Lauren Vélez: I think that it's interesting. Because I think everybody does have their own superhero in them. But there was that moment where Miles is coming, finally finds himself, right? And it's a true coming of age movie.  And coming to terms with his special powers and special abilities. And I feel like I want everybody to walk away knowing that everybody has that. You all have your own unique special power, special talents, special abilities. And all you need to do is to connect to that and be surrounded by-- surround yourself with people who believe in you. And that connection is, comes even that much faster, I think.

Screen Rant: I mean, look, I watch movies and I get to interview cool people like you guys all the time. But never, at least from my modern memory, that I can think, that watching a movie and had my jaw open as a 10-year-old kid. Because this was amazing. Exactly what I want.

Brian Tyree Henry: Same.

Luna Lauren Vélez: Exactly.

Brian Tyree Henry: My 13-year-old self would be bouncing off the walls like Morales was.

Screen Rant: I just wanted to say thank you. You guys are amazing.

Luna Lauren Vélez: Thank you.

Brian Tyree Henry: Aw, man, that means the world.

More: Lily Tomlin Interview for Into the Spider-Verse

Key Release Dates
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) release date: Dec 14, 2018
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