While the theme song for “Coco” may be “Remember Me,” the outpouring of love for the Pixar film was certainly hard to forget at the 33rd annual Imagen Awards held at the JW Marriott in Downtown Los Angeles.
“‘Coco’ was just so beautifully conceived, I loved it. And wasn’t that abuela marvelous? With that enormous head of hers,” Rita Moreno, who was nominated for her work on “One Day at a Time,” said of the film that took home the awards for creative achievement, best picture, and best director on Saturday.
Character designer on the film Alonso Martinez noted that “We began ‘Coco’ with a simple thing: a love note to Mexico, for all the beauty of the people, the traditions, and the depth of love that is inside Mexico.”
Anthony Gonzalez, who voiced young guitar-strummer Miguel in the film, shared his hopes that the story of “Coco” will continue on now that Miguel can openly embrace his musical proclivities — whether that be a stage show, a live-action adaptation, or a sequel.
“If there was a chance, I would love to. I hope there’s a sequel even if I’m not in it. I’d just love to see more about Miguel — what he’s up to, what he’s doing. I want to know about his relationship with his new baby sister,” Gonzalez said.
Later on in the evening, Gonzalez performed a heartfelt rendition of “Remember Me” with Trio Ellas, leaving not a dry eye in the ballroom.
The ceremony, founded by Norman Lear, seeks to encourage and recognize positive portrayals of Latinos in the media, and Moreno explained how she’s glad Hollywood is finally waking up and realizing cultural touchstone films like “Coco,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” and “Black Panther” are giving audiences the chance to see themselves onscreen.
“We could’ve told everybody a zillion years ago. And we have been. It’s just now they’re listening because they’re seeing the green bags,” she told Variety.
During her speech for best comedy primetime program, “One Day at a Time” co-showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett cited the importance of creating positive portrayals of the Latinx community especially in “times like these,” praising those in attendance at Imagen who are “making content that is not only representing people that desperately need to be represented, but it’s changing the way people view us.”
Peter Murrieta, who was distinguished with the Norman Lear writing award, recalled how novel it was for Disney to embrace telling Selena Gomez breakout series “Wizards of Waverly Place” from the vantage point of a Mexican-American family. “The original show was called ‘The Amazing O’Malleys,'” Murrieta said. “And I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do Disney Channel. But I was amazed they ended up letting me do a show that resembled my family, which is half and half.”
Throughout the evening, honorees like Jenna Ortega for “Stuck in the Middle,” Stephanie Beatriz for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and Gina Torres for “Suits” also acknowledged that their parts originally were not written with Latinas in mind.
“My part wasn’t written for a woman, much less a Latina woman. It was written for a 60-year-old white man,” Torres said during her acceptance speech for best TV supporting actress. She and Beatriz tied for the award for the first tie in Imagen’s history. “For seven seasons I have been honored to color ’em up.”
“Grown-ish” star Francia Raisa shared her optimism that Latinx portrayals are looking up, especially in light of auditioning for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming remake of “West Side Story.”
“I really appreciate that he’s sticking to Latin people telling the story,” she said. “He literally is looking for people that do speak Spanish, not someone that has a Spanish last name. He’s looking for, do you speak Spanish, can you sing, [and] can you dance. It would be a dream if I could be a part of it.”
Moreno, original cast member and Oscar winner for her role as “Anita” in Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s 1961 version of the musical, says she is “very curious to know what’s going to happen.”
She has not received a call from Spielberg yet to appear in the film, but is unsure what role that could possibly be. “There’s nothing in there for a woman my age.”
But she does commend Spielberg’s casting efforts to find Latino actors for Latino-specific roles. “Well, why not?” she asks. “I wish him luck, and I hope it works. The music is certainly gorgeous. I don’t know what they’re doing about the dances or the choreography.”
Additional big winners for the evening were “The Long Road Home,” which won best primetime program – specials, movies & mini-series, best supporting actor – television for Jorge Diaz, best actor – television for E.J. Bonilla, and “Station 19,” which won best primetime program – drama.
“Station 19” creator Stacy McKee kicked off her speech in shock: “I can’t believe I’m standing up here. We’ve had 10 episodes. This is nuts.”