They say heroes aren’t made in a day but, ironically, that’s all it took for Xolo Maridueña. Fresh off the fifth season of Cobra Kai, the hit spinoff series from the legendary saga of Karate Kid, the young American actor is more than ready to suit up for Blue Beetle. The upcoming DC superhero movie will be Maridueña’s debut on the big screen following his role as Miguel Diaz in the martial arts show.
Schön! catches up with Maridueña to discuss his career aspirations, being Blue Beetle and more insights on Cobra Kai.
Xolo, how’s life been treating you lately?
The life check is going well. I’ve been busy and, honestly, I enjoy it because I just miss filming. It seems as though the time’s going so quickly, but I’m good. I’m happy and I feel like that’s all you can kind of hope for.
Your acting career started at a very young age considering you’re 21. Was it always what you wanted to pursue?
As long as I wanted to pursue a job, I think acting was always in the mix. I started off doing modelling and commercials. That was sort of a means to pay for college while also being in an industry that I enjoyed. Then Cobra Kai came along, and I think somewhere in between finishing up Parenthood and starting Cobra Kai is when the idea of being an actor — as a career for the rest of my life — really started to settle in. Now, I have interest in dipping my toes into some of the other facets of this industry.
I know this isn’t your only passion. You have an Instagram page dedicated to your photography (@xolosphotos) where you capture your everyday life. Are you looking to grow a professional portfolio?
I don’t claim to be a professional photographer or anything like that. My father loves to take photographs and, I think around season three of Cobra Kai, I started to get into photography. Sometimes it feels like, especially in this industry, everything is moving so fast and I tend to forget all these little intimate moments that pop up over either filming or just in my everyday life with my friends and family. So photography is an outlet for me to kind of capture moments that I really love, and the photography page is just to show everyone else.
Let’s break the news, shall we? You’re set to star as Blue Beetle/Jaime Reyes in the new DC adaptation of the comic. What was your reaction when you got the role?
Tears. Just lots of tears. My mom is a big comic book fan and she is a hundred per cent Chicana, so inherently she always highlighted the Latino superheroes as I was growing up. Whether that was Blue Beetle, Nova or Araña, she was a big proponent of this comic book world. Blue Beetle, was always a dream and then it started to become closer and closer my reality. It ended up happening and now we’re just waiting for the whole world to see it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to admit that, as it is the first Latino-led superhero movie ever, it’s supposed to be something bigger than myself.
You revealed that you never auditioned for the part, but have you ever dreamed of portraying a character like him?
Absolutely. Regardless of whether or not you’re an actor, everyone dreams of being a superhero. I dreamt of being Batman even though I don’t have the build. But I did look up to the Latino superheroes for sure. I think there’s inherently something really inspiring about seeing someone that looks like you, even if it’s just on a page.
The upcoming film will be unique in its own right as you will officially be the first Latino superhero in the DC cinematic universe. How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel very appreciative of DC for stepping up. For the longest time, neither studio [DC and Marvel] had the willingness to put a lead as a Latino. They understand how important it is just as I do and I think because of that, we really found a great family at DC. Say what you will about the DC Universe but I feel as if this project is going to be something special, something to remember and, hopefully just the beginning.
It’s taken DC a long time to finally represent the Latino community. Why do you think the film industry struggles to portray Latinos worldwide?
I think it’s all just a money thing. Productions weren’t as excited about doing these projects about not only Latinos, but all minorities because they didn’t feel like it was gonna make money. There’s a really big misconception that because it’s a Latino superhero or a gay superhero it only can be watched by Latinos, or it only will be understood by the LGBTQ community. Now, as we start to get into this new era of movies, I think there’s a lot more value in visibility.
How have you prepared for the role? Did the training you had for Cobra Kai make it easy for you?
There’s your usual, like working out and eating healthy but this was really the first time that I was finding different nuances. I’ve been playing Miguel Diaz on Cobra Kai for five years without any other roles in between. Luckily, there are tons of examples of Blue Beetle in comics and TV shows. That was where most of my preparation and training went into place to bring a new character to life, while also remaining authentic and honouring what was written on the page.
Who were you looking forward to working alongside the most out of the cast?
Everyone on set came with this intensity and this intention that I think I’ve never seen before, but getting to work with Susan Sarandon was truly a blessing. She’s a force. It was a great opportunity for me to just take it as a learning experience. I just wanted to be a sponge and getting to act on the other side of someone who’s so talented was the best playground ever.
Blue Beetle will have its time to shine but for now, we’re enjoying Cobra Kai with its new season. Take us back to when you first got the part. Were you always a fan of the Karate Kid saga?
I wasn’t as familiar with the Karate Kid movies. After booking the role, I had to make sure that I watched at least the first three and then eventually I got around to some of the spinoffs. It wasn’t until the first season had been released that I realised that the crane kick, ‘strike hard, strike first,’ ‘no mercy,’ are things a whole generation had ingrained in their brain.
Miguel Diaz, the character you play in the series, goes through an entire cathartic evolution from the first season to the current one. How do you relate to him? How would you like him to be by the end of the series?
I could definitely relate at the beginning to the angst and the desire to want to be distinguished. I admire Miguel’s sense of confidence because he’s been able to kind of find a little bit more about himself through karate and his relationships over the years. There’s a lot of pressure in being a high school student and I just hope that he can be happy.
For many people, the Karate Kid saga has been their entire childhood. Do you think Cobra Kai is acquiring the same status but with the new generation?
I think it’s too early to tell, but because our show is intergenerational there might be something there for us to maybe come back in another 30 years. People come for the rivalry of Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence but actually enjoy these other storylines, and hopefully, this show stays in people’s hearts.
Apart from Blue Beetle, what would be your dream role? What are your hopes for the future?
I just wanna play a creep, a freak. I would love to get down into some gritty role and, something independent that relies less on action and CGI and more on character building. There are big directors that I would love to work with: Alejandro González Iñárritu, David Fincher and Angel Manuel Soto.
The fifth season of Cobra Kai is now available on Netflix and Blue Beetle is expected to premiere in 2023.
photography + direction. Mynxii white
fashion. Branden Ruiz
talent. Xolo Maridueña
casting. Alabama Blonde
grooming. Sofia Porter @ Exclusive Artists
first ad. Craig Bullock
fashion assistant. Suzanne Correa
words. Gennaro Costanzo