A New York City actor is hitting the silver screen in the highly anticipated film “In the Heights.”
Gregory Diaz IV had his interest piqued in musical theater when he was young. The 16-year-old says that his parents took him to see “Matilda the Musical” on Broadway as a kid and that opened his eyes to performing on stage.
“This was the first that stuck with me because I was watching kids on stage that were my age and kind of looked like me,” said Diaz. “I had this immediate feeling of wanting to that and believing I could do that. I made it my first goal was to be a part of ‘Matilda.'”
Diaz auditioned a few times before securing a spot in the ensemble of “Matilda the Musical.” He was able to tour with the “Matilda” US Acrobat Tour as a part of the ensemble cast as well.
“When I was younger I didn’t really understand that, reaching that goal and what it meant. It was an amazing experience,” said Diaz. “I did it on Broadway and did the national tour for 6 months. Being able to travel around the U.S. was amazing.”
Diaz has since gone on to pick up roles in off-Broadway productions and film and TV roles, including Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Vampires vs. The Bronx.” Diaz can be seen in the upcoming film “In The Heights,” based on the award-winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and later in theaters and HBO Max.
“I discovered ‘In The Heights’ through all the hype for ‘Hamilton.’ I fell in love because it just sounded like the music I listened to every day out in the street,” said Diaz, who grew up living in the Bronx and Queens. “It’s not your stereotypical musical theater music. I found out about the storyline, read about it fell in love immediately.”
“In The Heights” follows the story of Usnavi, played by Anthony Ramos, a bodega owner who hopes for a better life and his interactions with his fellow Washington Heights residents. Diaz plays Sonny, an undocumented immigrant who serves as comic relief but also has a plight for social justice. He has his own verse in the popular tune “96,000” in the film that has garnered positive reviews from critics.
Diaz heard about the role through the grapevine and decided to give it a shot.
“I think if you are a Latinx and in the business, there was no way you didn’t hear about ‘In The Heights,” said Diaz. “Sonny is this rascal around the neighborhood. He’s streetsmart, politically smart, he’s big on the political climate and social change. What ties in with character really well is a new aspect, now he’s a DREAMer.”
For Diaz, it was a dream come true to play Sonny and the music regularly gets stuck in his head, particularly “96,000.” He hopes that those who come to see the film (or watch from home on HBO Max) can see themselves in the characters and story.
“I really want everyone to walk away kind of connecting with the piece of the film, there is something for everyone,” said Diaz. “I want the Latinx community to feel represented, feel the authenticity of the film and walk away proud.”
“In The Heights” will open at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 9 and then premiere in theaters and on HBO Max on June 11. Stay up to date with Diaz by following him on Instagram @gregdiaz4 or on Twitter @gregorydiaziv.