Eugenio Derbez’s recent movie role is as inspiring as he is in real life. The Mexican actor, writer, director, and producer stars in CODA as Bernardo Villalobos, a music teacher trying to help a 17-year-old girl develop her singing voice after being the only hearing member of her family.
The star, known for movies such as Instructions Not Included, How to Be a Latin Lover, and Overboard, brings to the screen something different than comedy. “I think we all know kids who want to be something else,” the actor told NBC News. “A lot of people struggle with their passion for what they want to do and on the other hand what their parents want them to be or become.”
CODA (an acronym for “child of deaf adults”), which is now streaming on Apple TV+, tells the story of Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), a teenage girl who works mornings before school to help her parents and brother keep their fishing business afloat. After joining her high school’s choir club, Ruby finds herself drawn to her duet partner and her latent passion for singing.
“I think a lot of people are going to relate to this story,” he said, according to the publication. “It’s the struggle between someone, in this case, Ruby, who’s trying to find her voice literally in this world — and she’s torn between helping her family.”
Ruby communicates with her family by using sign language, and like many children of immigrants, she serves as a translator and interpreter at medical appointments and more. NBC News reported that Derbez said this would resonate with U.S. immigrant families who are not as familiar with English.
For Derbez, representation in Hollywood matters; therefore, he is grateful that his mom, actor Silvia Derbez, inspired him to build an acting career. “Thank God my mom was an actress. If not, I suppose I would have had a lot of trouble trying to be a comedian,” he said.
In the Hispanic and Latinx community, parents tend to be very conservative about careers; therefore, many people grow up thinking that being a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or architect are the only paths to succeed in life. “I remember when I was young, every time that I said that I want to be an actor, everyone told me, ‘No, but what do you want to do for a living?’” he recalled.