Eugenio Derbez ventures into drama with ‘CODA’, a film about the children of families of the deaf

Eugenio Derbez receives instructions from director Sian Heder during the filming of CODA.

Photo: Apple TV + / Courtesy

We are used to seeing Eugenio Derbez in comedy roles, but a beautiful movie has recently been released in which he plays a dramatic role. We talk about “CODA”, One of the most interesting films of the year, which swept the last Sundance festival and is now available in theaters and on Apple TV +.

“CODA” tells the story of the Rossi, a family of deaf people who manage a fishing boat in Gloucester, Massachusetts.. The only hearing-able person in the family is 17-year-old Ruby (played by Emilia Jones), who spends most of her life interpreting for her parents and brother on a day-to-day basis. But at High School, Ruby discovers her love for music and singing. The choir director (Derbez) encourages her to study music at the most prestigious school in Boston. Ruby will have to decide between continuing to help her family or pursuing her dreams.

“It is a different film, on a subject that I had practically not seen. But he also has a lot of heart. And a lot of humor, because there are times when you laugh ”, Eugenio Derbez tells us in an interview for LA OPINIÓN.

“The script made me cry when I read it… It’s one of those movies that are like a roller coaster: that make you think, that make you laugh, that make you cry … It is the type of film that I would like to see as a public ”, assures the Mexican actor, who also highlights that it is a film to watch as a family.

“Now everything is violence, sex … This is not for small children, but you can see it with a 10 or 12-year-old son,” he says.

The actors who play the Rossi are deaf, which was a novel work situation for Derbez. To communicate with them, the film’s production hired interpreters CODA (acronym for Child of deaf adult, that is, son of the deaf).

“All the interpreters were CODAs. And they told us: ‘How good that they are finally opening this door so that these stories are known.’ Because it is very hard for them. The children of deaf parents dedicate their entire lives to interpreting, to translating, because they are the only link between the world and the family ”, explains Derbez.

“At the moment when they have to continue their life and pursue their dreams, they are at this crossroads and they feel guilty about abandoning their family to make their life,” he adds.

Eugenio Derbez in another genre

Although it has humorous strokes, the film and the character that Derbez plays are definitely dramatic, another first for the actor who has just turned 60 and has a long career as a comedian behind him, especially in Mexico and Latin America.

“This is one of the few dramatic projects that I have done in my career. Love it. I like as an actor to try different things. But it is also that comedians do not take us seriously ”, explains Derbez.

Emilia Jones and Eugenio Derbez in a scene from CODA.
Emilia Jones and Eugenio Derbez in a scene from CODA. / Photo: Apple TV +

“They say that it is more difficult to make people laugh than to make them cry. However, people do not understand what is behind a comedy. Now that I see the relevance of a dramatic film, I love it. That’s why I think a lot of comedy actors like Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, and others jump from comedy to drama. In drama, you have the opportunity to be nominated for an award, “he adds.

Precisely “CODA” was the most outstanding film at the last Sundance Film Festival, where she became the first in the history of the contest to win the three main awards: the jury, the audience, and the Best Direction, which went to the director and screenwriter of the film, Sian Heder.

Heder adapted the script for the 2014 French film “La Famille Bélier”. The filmmaker learned American sign language for this project and made a commitment to include deaf actors in the cast, including Marlee Matlin (winner of the Oscar for Best Actress in 1987 for “Children of a Lesser God”), Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant. The “Coda” actors also won the Best Cast award at Sundance.

“I did not know there was such a large community of deaf actors, and they are wonderful,” says Derbez. What’s more, Due to his condition, his ability to communicate an emotion, a feeling, simply with his gaze, with his eyes, is shocking”.

Marlee Matlin (right) and Emilia Jones at CODA.
Marlee Matlin (right) and Emilia Jones at CODA. / Photo: Apple TV +

The film is also a call for diversity and inclusion, which is not always a matter of gender or race.

“It makes you wonder why you can’t give deaf actors more roles,” reflects Derbez. We Latinos have complained that they only offer us the roles of criminals, drug traffickers, or in the best of cases, the gardener; and that they never think of one for a lawyer, an architect… ”.

Why not hire a deaf actor even though the role has nothing to do with it? I also think that it would be important to talk about inclusion and diversity, ”says the Mexican actor.

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Eugenio Derbez ventures into drama with ‘CODA’, a film about the children of families of the deaf