For Jencarlos Canela, giving life to his new character, Uncle Victor, in The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia was more than an opportunity to make his Netflix debut. As a musician himself, the 31-year-old singer-actor was enthusiastic about portraying someone whose musical career was given a second chance in a show, which gives a different outlook on what’s usually associated with Latinos. “From day one we knew we were part of something special,” he tells HOLA! USA. “This is a huge win for Latinos, for minorities, for any group of family that is diverse. This is a true Latin-American story.”
The show, executive produced by Mario Lopez with some episodes directed by Eva Longoria, tells the story of a 15-year-old played by Paulina Chavez, who has two PhDs and works for NASA. It’s a coming of age story in which she moves to California to live with her Uncle Vic, played by the Cuban-American actor, and makes new friends along the way.
In celebration of the comedy’s release, we caught up with Jencarlos ahead of the show’s debut on February 17. Keep reading to learn what it was like working alongside Mario, who plays his business partner in the series, (wrestling was involved!), what he liked most about playing Uncle Vic, and what he learned about robotics engineering.
HOLA! USA:What was it like working on the series?
Jencarlos Canela: “It was pretty awesome. You get the opportunity to work with amazing people, and honestly it doesn’t alway happen, but when it does it’s magical. Every single cast member is a superstar. So many ingredients, so many cultures, there are so many nationalities, and it’s a very fun show. A lot of the cast members are like 15, 17 years old, and I was always the young guy in most of the shows that I would do. Now the tables have turned, and I’m like the senior citizen on set.”
What was it like working with Mario Lopez ?
“That guy is a character. The first day on set he wrestled me down to the floor. He took me down to the ground and got me in a choker and a headlock. And to make it even better, he posted it for the world to see. He’s become such a staple for us. And [is] one of those Latino symbols that has excelled in Hollywood and the general market. It’s great to call him a friend today. I thanked him a bunch of times for the trust that he put in us.”
“He was actually gonna be uncle Vic! This show has been in the works for ten years. He was the original Uncle Vic, but ten years ago, this show, when you would bring it up to the networks, a Latino show, it was like ‘no, no, thank you, next.’ It’s changed; now they want it.”
Did you learn anything about robotics engineering?
“I learned jack squat. They had robots mimicking our movements on set. I got a chance to spend some time with the minds behind this technology, and they’re just such cool people. It was such an experience.”
You’re debuting new music in the show too, right?
“Damn right. Initially the character had nothing to do with music, and I was like alright cool, I’m doing something that’s not attached to music, something different and – oh – wrong! Turns out that the showrunner is an incredible musician. When they told me that I got the gig, I went to dinner, and he pulled up all of my catalogs and songs. He knew all the songs in Spanish better than I did!”
Was the music created specifically for the show?
“Yeah, it doesn’t reflect my sound as a musical artist or whatnot. We didn’t want it to be Jencarlos; we wanted it to be something for Uncle Vic. You’re going to hear a bunch of diverse sounds, and it’s going to reflect the way the world is moving today from every aspect.”
What did you like most about playing this character?
“I love this character because while he’s trying to be the best role model he can be for his niece, he’s not ready to take on the responsibility of raising her, but he wants it because he loves her with all his heart. Then he picks up the guitar eventually and reconnects with his long lost love for music, and it’s beautiful.”