Congratulations to Ruben and Robert Velasquez for their appearance in “Father of the Bride.” The HBOmax film features Andy Garcia, Gloria Estefan, Diego Boneta and a whole slew of top notch Latino actors and actresses.
I had a chance to catch up with Ruben via phone recently and here’s what he had to say about his experience:
Cynthia: Congratulations Ruben. I’m super excited for you, Robert and your mariachi group for your work in “Father of the Bride.” Several people recommended this film to me and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw you and Robert playing mariachi music in the wedding scene.
Ruben: Thank you Cynthia. We didn’t expect all of this to be such a big thing for us. When we first started, we thought it was going to be something small and it’s turned out to be something way bigger than we ever imagined.
Cynthia: How did this all begin?
Ruben: As a hobby, I work as a background actor. They sent me a casting notice for the movie back in May last year. I responded but I didn’t get a call back right away. A friend from L.A. who works for Neophonic (Janet Lopez) provided more information on what they were looking for so I pulled together a mariachi group. They originally wanted 3 musicians and this changed several times to 7 and then 12. They finally settled on 6 people. We got the job and began filming in our home base of Atlanta, Georgia on July 13, 2021.
Cynthia: I’m surprised this film was shot in Atlanta.
Ruben: Atlanta has been a hotspot for filming over the past five years because of the tax relief incentives the city provides to filmmakers. A film crew can get anywhere between a 10-30 percent tax break in Atlanta. This is why we have some of the best studios in the world like Tyler Perry Studios and Trilith Studios – one of the primary studios for Marvel. The filming started at the end of June last year in Atlanta and finished in July. Then the production was moved to Miami.
Cynthia: How was your experience?”
Ruben: When they hired us, the crew (mostly from LA) didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in our group. They weren’t expecting us to deliver a great performance, but by the end of our 4th day of filming, they were impressed and asked us if we could shoot another day. So everything that ended up in the last scene was shot in 5 hours which is really fast. They were very surprised in our performance and musicality and wanted us to stick around longer than planned. I told the group that they don’t want a regular mariachi group, they want a show, and we put on a show.
Originally, they sent us a few songs for the group to learn but we never had a chance to play most of them. The schedule changed throughout the 4 day period. They recorded the whole ending of the movie on the 4th day of the shoot and then wanted the group to play the song “Get Lucky.” This was not originally planned but they wanted something upbeat and the group started practicing the song during the filming. They filmed it live for a couple of hours and then suddenly, everyone gathered around, and some of the crew members like Andy Garcia started dancing. Soon after, Gloria Estefan joined in. All of a sudden everyone was dancing and it was totally spontaneous and everyone was having a great time. Watch here:
Originally, the producer of the film just wanted us to record the track, but once he saw everyone dancing, he wanted to film the whole thing. I’m very surprised on how this all came together. It was Gloria Estefan’s favorite part of the entire film. Watch here:
Cynthia: Who impressed you the most on the set?
Ruben: So, keep in mind, when we originally responded to the casting call, I had no idea what we were getting into. It was a complete surprise when I learned that this film would have so many A-list Latino actors and actresses.
On the first day on the set, I met Diego Boneta. This guy has the whole package. He can sing, dance, act, and had a great personality. He’s got the looks on and off camera. He’s also very down to earth. He hung out with us every day on the set and he talked to us like we were friends. He ate with us and he spent a lot of time with us the entire 5 days on the set. We were very happy with him and then we met Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan and they were equally as kind, nice, supportive and encouraging.
Cynthia: Who are the members in your mariachi group?
Ruben: I put together this group of talented musicians who could play well. I was also looking for musicians who could read music and had a good presence. I also needed a group of guys who were patient and disciplined because anything could happen while working on a set. Here are the members that came together as “Los Mariachis” for this shoot:
Ruben Velazquez is originally from Mexico City and serves as Director, Guitarist and Lead singer
Roberto Velazquez is originally Mexico City and serves as 1st violinist and 2nd voice
Humberto Perez is originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco and plays 2nd violin
Marco Teposte is originally from Los Angeles, California and plays trumpet
Luis Vazquez is from Mexico City and plays vihuela
Jose Lara is from Guadalajara,Jalisco and plays guitarron
Cynthia: How long have you been acting?
Ruben: I started acting in 2015. I was gigging in a Hispanic plaza and I saw a paper that had an ad looking for Hispanic actors for a movie with Tom Cruise. I responded to this ad and eventually got called in for a screen test. I was casted for the movie “American Made.” I’m a movie lover and I love studying the various roles of directors, film crews, actors and actresses to see how they work and how movies all come together.
I’ve appeared in about 60 movies up to date including Spider Man, Captain America: Silver War and 3 films with Clint Eastwood – the best director ever. I’ve shared a scene with Tom Hanks in Sully and my son and I will appear in the upcoming superhero film Wakanda Forever (Black Panther 2) that will be released in November this year.
I’ve played the role of a musician in other films that have included:
“Promised Land” (played the role of a member in a tango band)
“Vacation Friends” with John Cena (played the role of a street musician)
“Superintelligence” with Melissa McCarthy (played a mariachi)
“Respect” with Jennifer Hudson (played in an orchestra)
Cynthia: What is next on your agenda?
Ruben: There is always filming taking place here in Georgia and people know our name here in Atlanta. We’ve made some great connections during the filming of “Father of the Bride.” After we finished filming in mid July, I received a call to record Tatuajes and Get Lucky. I recorded with Aureo Baqueiro who is a very famous Latin music producer, singer-songwriter and composer. He directed my brother and I on these two songs while he was in L.A. and we were in Atlanta and everything was recorded via the web. I’ve recorded over 100 tracks in my lifetime and this was one of the most amazing experience I’ve had in my career so far.
I’ll continue acting and playing with my group “Los Mariachis” in Atlanta. We have gigs every weekend. One of our clients is the Atlanta Hawks and we’ve played regularly during the games for 3 years. We do a lot a work for some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. that are based in Atlanta like Coca-Cola, DHL and Home Depot.
In regards to mariachi, I play the guitarron and I’ve developed a guitarron method book. I’m currently working with Mariachi Education Press to get this published.
Longterm, I want to be a musician broker. There’s a lot of talent out there and there’s also a lot of people that want Latin entertainment. I want to be able to provide talent for the film and entertainment industry.
Cynthia: Thank you for your time this afternoon Ruben. Once again, I’m really proud of you and Robert and your entire group for your appearance on “Father of the Bride.” Much continued success to you!
Ruben: Thank you Cynthia.
Ruben Velasquez was born in Mexico City and has lived in and out of the U.S since he was 5 years old. Prior to making Atlanta his permanent home, he lived in Denver, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Ruben and Robert played mariachi music with San Antonio’s Campanas de America from 1995-1997 and 2004-2010. I had the pleasure of traveling to Kumamoto, Japan with Ruben and Robert in 1995 when they were members of Campanas de America. At the time, Mariachi Campanas de America was invited to perform for the opening of the International Center in Kumamoto – San Antonio’s sister city.
Ruben is the director of “Los Mariachis” in Atlanta, Georgia.
Great article! ¡Felicidades a la familia Velasquez!
Thanks Juanita. It was a fun story to write not only because I’ve know Ruben and Robert Velasquez for for nearly 30 years but just because we (the mariachi community) can all be so proud of their accomplishments.
Great story! I loved it and learned a lot.