Anthony Ramos Now Starring Opposite Naomi Scott in Amblin Partners’ Sci-Fi Comedy “Distant”

Anthony Ramos is going the distant-ce with a new co-star…

The 28-year-old Puerto Rican actor, singer and Hamilton star will now star opposite Naomi Scott in Amblin Partners’ upcoming comedic sci-fi film Distant.

Anthony Ramos

Scott joins the film after Rachel Brosnahan had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts with production on the next season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film tells the story of an asteroid miner who, after crash-landing on an alien planet, must contend with the challenges of his new surroundings, while making his way across the harsh terrain to the only other survivor – a woman trapped in her escape pod.

Will Speck and Josh Gordon will direct. Spenser Cohen penned the spec script.

Ramos, who appears in the Hamilton musical film currently streaming on Disney+, originated the dual roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical.

His other credits include Monsters and Men, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Patti Cake$ and A Star is Born. And, he’ll next star in the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical In The Heights.

Rodrigo Prieto: The Cinematographer Behind the Lens of Taylor Swift’s “Cardigan” Video

Everything’s o-Tay for Rodrigo Prieto

The 54-year-old three-time Oscar-nominated Mexican cinematographer is earning rave reviews for his work on Taylor Swift’s music video for the pop star’s latest single “Cardigan.”

Rodrigo Prieto

The top-secret music video, written, directed and styled by Swift, was filmed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The dreamy video, released on Friday, July 24 alongside Swift’s new album Folklore, presents a cottagecore aesthetic and features Swift in three different settings.

The “homespun” and “dreamlike” video starts out with Swift sitting in a candlelit cottage in the woods, wearing a nightgown and playing a vintage upright piano. When the soundboard starts glowing, she climbs into it and is magically transported to a moss-covered forest, where she plays the song on a grand piano producing a waterfall. The piano bench starts to glow and she climbs into it. She gets transported to a dark stormy sea, where she holds on to a floating piano. The piano soundboard glows and she climbs in, and she returns to the cottage, where she dons a cardigan.

Taylor Swift Cardigan Video

“She had the whole storyline – the whole notion of going into the piano and coming out into the forest, the water, going back into the piano,” Prieto tells Rolling Stoneof hisfirst phone call with Swift.

Their last collaboration, on the music video for “The Man,” saw Swift adopting a male alter ego to satirize gender inequality.

From the beginning, though, Prieto says “Cardigan” was always going to be more ambiguous, and more personal: “When she called me and told me that this was more of a fantasy, I found that really appealing.”

This was in early July, when Prieto had simultaneously begun serving on a committee for the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) to conceive solutions for safely resuming film production during the ongoing pandemic.

Prieto had just finished filming a PSA for a healthcare company when Swift asked him to work on “Cardigan,” and he was well aware of the many, many layers of risks involved in the project.

“We needed to be safe, for her sake and for our sake as a crew during the shoot, but also for the future of filmmaking,” he says. “Because we want to keep working and doing what we do, and if, God forbid, someone got sick on one of the first jobs that was filmed, it would probably close down [the industry].”

The extensive safety protocols for the shoot ranged from standard – everybody had to get tested, and every member of the crew wore a mask – to outlandish: Because Swift would need to spend a large part of the shoot not wearing a face covering, the crew used a colored wristband system, determining which members of the team were permitted to stand closest to her. (Prieto, assistant director Joe Osborne, and set designer Ethan Tobman all wore one color, lighting designers and gaffers wore another, and so on.)

Prieto actually wore two face coverings – a mask and an acrylic shield – for most of the day-and-a-half-long shoot. And just to ensure that crew members crossed within a six-foot range of Swift as little as possible, the entire “Cardigan” video was shot by mounting the camera to a robotic arm, which was then controlled by a remote operator.

The “techno arm,” as Prieto calls it, is typically only used in the industry for crane shots and other establishing visuals.

“We were going to use the crane for the ocean scene,” Prieto explains, referencing the shot where the image zooms out on the wide expanse of the water before honing back in on Swift. “So then I said, let’s have it both days.”

Hooking the camera up to a giant robot was the safest way to get close-ups on Swift’s face, Prieto explains. And as unwieldy as that sounds, you’d never know from watching the video that a human being wasn’t behind the lens at all times.

There was, of course, the added tangle of secrecy – the filmmaking had to be done indoors to avoid crowds, and Swift wore an earpiece throughout the shoot to lip-sync to the song without any of the crew hearing it.

The crew built three sets on two stages across one large studio, and in order to create the illusion of natural light for the outdoor scenes, Prieto and his crew draped giant stretches of white bouncing fabric on the walls and ceiling. The process took longer than usual due to COVID, with the lighting crew working in small groups and frequently taking breaks so they could remove masks and catch their breath.

“Filmmaking is a gregarious endeavor by nature,” Prieto says. “People are close to each other, so it’s really hard to remember to keep to yourselves.” Given the distancing on set, it was sometimes tricky for crew members to communicate over reference points and documents – “we had to kind of point at each other” – but Prieto attributes Swift’s clear vision for the project as a guiding light.

Ahead of the shoot, she sent him and Tobman numerous visual references for each scene – a mix of photographs for the dark ocean water and drawings for the fantastical forest sequence. One illustration, of a sword lodged into a rock formation overlooking a creek, was particularly inspiring: “That became our focal interest – we didn’t imitate it, but the feeling of it was what we went with.”

On top of that, Swift came up with a detailed shot list for the video ahead of time, with each visual accompanied by a time sequence within the song.

“The ocean water, the fingers on the piano, whatever it may be, she knew what she wanted for each section,” Prieto says. Unlike with “The Man,” Swift couldn’t be as hands-on with her direction on set – she viewed each take through a video monitor after it was shot – but Prieto was impressed by her ability to “talk with the camera” and utilize cinematic language without formal training, like with the unorthodox, zoom-out-and-in shot over the ocean. “I was blown away, because it’s all metaphorical,” he says. “This video is not just pretty images of things; she’s telling a personal story through her lyrics, her music, and now through the video.”

The video has already been viewed more than 40 million times on YouTube since its release.

Prieto previously earned Academy Awards for his lensing work on Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2006), Martin Scorsese’s Silence (2017) and Scorsese’s The Irishman (2020).

His other film credits include Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel (2006) and Biutiful (2010), Francis Lawrence’s Water for Elephants and Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo.

Yandel Releases Sequel to His Debut Solo Album, “Quien Contra Mi 2”

Yandel is back with more contra music…

Seventeen years after releasing his solo debut album Quien Contra Mi, the 43-year-old Puerto Rican reggaeton singer-songwriter has released a sequel that features 22 tracks.

Yandel

Written and produced between his home and studio in Orlando while in quarantime during the COVID-19 pandemic, Quien Contra Mi 2 features 28 different collaborations, including music with J Balvin, Snoop Dogg and Ruben Blades, Anuel AA, El Alfa, Manuel Turizo, Nicky Jam and Rauw Alejandro.

In the nearly four-minute intro, Yandel shares a motivational speech to the new generation of artists.

“I wanted to tell my story, to pump up the kids who are just starting. And, since people always say I’m so quiet, well, here’s something different,” he says, elaborating on his struggles and accomplishments.

Quien Contra Mí was released in September 2003.

Showtime Renews Paola Ramos’ Docuseries “Vice” for Second Season

The Show(time) must go on for Paola Ramos

Showtime has ordered a second season of its docuseries Vice, featuring the Cuban and Mexican American journalist as one of its correspondents.

The renewal comes shortly after the series wrapped its first season on Showtime and received a 2020 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series or Special, the first Emmy nomination on the network.

“In the most challenging conditions imaginable, Vice serves as our collective conscience, delivering vital reporting from around the world, often at great risk to themselves,” said Vinnie Malhotra, EVP, Nonfiction Programming, Showtime Networks Inc. “We could not be more proud of the work the team has done, and we’ve marveled at their exceptional investigative and in-depth reporting. We anxiously await what Vice will tackle in the coming season.”

This past season, Ramos and her fellow Vice journalists quickly adapted to cover stories of the COVID-19 pandemic and its rippling effect on local communities around the world, reporting from high-risk epicenters in New York, Italy, Brazil, Iran, Cambodia and more.

Each half-hour episode of Vice pursues untold stories on the environment, social justice, civil rights and identity, tackling complex geopolitical stories from all corners of the globe.

In addition to Ramos, the daughter of journalist Jorge Ramos, the Vice reporting team includes journalists Isobel Yeung, Gianna Toboni, Alzo Slade, Suroosh Alvi, Hind Hassan, David Noriega, Krishna Andavolu, Ben Anderson, Dexter Thomas and Seb Walker.

Produced by Vice News, Beverly Chase is the executive producer and showrunner for Vice.

Vice previously aired for six seasons on HBO, earning 12 Emmy nominations and winning two.

“We’re hugely thankful to Showtime for their dedication to the pursuit of compelling international journalism in what continues to be an era-defining year for the world,” said Chase. “Journalism is essential, and our team of award-winning reporters, producers, editors and DPs are thrilled to be back to deliver more impactful storytelling next season.”

Rafael Nadal Slated to Compete at the Western & Southern Open

It looks like Rafael Nadal is returning to the court…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star and defending US Open champion appears on the acceptance list for the Western & Southern Open, which was released Wednesday, alongside world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal

While Nadal and Djokovic’s appearance on the list doesn’t guarantee that they’ll end up competing in the top-tier Masters 1000 event starting August 20, the list does suggest that 16 of the ATP‘s top 20 players are prepared to participate in the reboot of the tour.

The Western & Southern, moved from its longtime home in Cincinnati, and the US Open comprise a two-tournament event that the USTA is planning to stage in a “safety bubble” being created around the National Tennis Center.

Players who choose not to play after they’ve appeared on the acceptance list are subject to the penalty of having a “zero-pointer” added to their rankings record, meaning that they are treated as if they had taken a first-round loss. The sting of that punitive measure has been greatly decreased by the ATP’s pandemic-driven move to a ranking based on a 22-month cycle rather than 12 months.

The rankings, frozen since the tour was suspended in mid-March, will resume with the Western & Southern. Since two editions of the event will be played during the new rankings cycle, only a player’s best result will count toward his ranking. A player who pulls out of Cincinnati can wipe out the zero-pointer at the 2021 tournament. The same goes for the US Open.

Djokovic, who tested positive for the coronavirus following the collapse of his own Adria Tour exhibition series in June, raised a number of objections when the USTA announced plans to forge ahead with a US Open played under the strict health protocols demanded by the COVID-19 outbreak. His stance has softened considerably since, and he has been observed practicing on hard courts for more than a week now.

“We are very glad that [the US Open] is happening,” Djokovic recently told Eurosport‘s Tennis Legends podcast. “It is very important that we provide opportunities, we provide jobs, for players to compete.”

Nadal is a greater question mark. He has said he is “not OK” with the USTA’s insistence that the American Grand Slam take place without fans in attendance. 

The 12-time French Open champion has been practicing, but only on red clay. This year’s French Open will limit attendance when it starts Sept. 27.

Dania Ramirez to Star in Netflix’s DC Vertigo Comic-Based Series “Sweet Tooth”

Dania Ramirez has landed a Sweet role…

The 40-year-old Dominican actress and Devious Maids star will star in Sweet ToothNetflix’s new drama series based on the DC Vertigo comic.

Dania Ramirez

Ramirez will be part of the series’ core cast of series regulars, which includes Christian ConveryNonso Anozie and Adeel AkhtarWill Forte has a recurring role, while James Brolin serves as the series’ narrator.

The eight-episode Sweet Tooth follows the adventures of Gus (Convery) — part deer, part boy — who leaves his home in the forest to find the outside world ravaged by a cataclysmic event. He joins a ragtag family of humans and animal-children hybrids like himself in search of answers about this new world and the mystery behind his hybrid origins.

Ramirez will reportedly play Aimee, a pioneer in the middle of dystopic America, a lone scavenger in an abandoned city, rebuilding a sustainable habitat and giving orphaned hybrids a home.

The project hails from Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey’s Team DowneyJim MickleBeth Schwartz and Warner Bros. Television.

Along with fellow new Netflix series Cowboy Bebop, Sweet Tooth was among of a handful of Hollywood television series and movies to be granted border exemptions by the New Zealand government several weeks ago, a crucial step for any overseas production to be able to film in the country, which has largely eradicated COVID-19.

The tentative plan is for the cast to travel to New Zealand in August, where they’ll self-isolate for two weeks ahead of a potential September 7 start of production, according to Deadline.com. 

Ramirez can currently be seen as one of the leads in the first season of Kevin Williamson’s CBS All Access anthology drama series Tell Me a Story, airing on the CW

She previously starred on Marc Cherry’s Lifetime series Devious  Maids and had major roles on ABC’s Once Upon a Time and NBC’s Heroes

Banda MS Kicking Off Series of Private Virtual Concerts This Friday

Banda MS is going virtual…

The Mexican band is set to launch a series of private virtual concerts on Friday, July 31, hosting its first-ever streaming concert since the COVID-19 shutdown.

Banda-MS

In partnership with Cerveza Sol and Los Angeles’ radio station Que Buena, Band MS will perform live from Lizos Music, headquarters in Mazatlán, on July 31 it what the band promises will be the “first of many” private concerts the group will offer virtually in the next few months, according to a press release.

“Banda MS wants to offer fans entertainment while they spend time with their families at home. That’s the objective of the stream,” the regional Mexican band said in a press release. 

The July 31 virtual concert will be available to only 1,000 fans who will be selected at random after entering a drawing on the concert’s official website.

While this is the band’s first streaming concert after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the concert industry mid-March, Banda MS has been active on social media doing live Q&As, including one with Billboard, to discusstheir Snoop Dogg-assisted track “Qué Maldición” released in May and their forthcoming album slated to drop later this year.

Selena Gomez Encourages People to Register to Vote on ‘Register a Friend Day’

Selena Gomez is encouraging people to register to vote…

The 28-year-old Mexican American singer/actress took to social media over the weekend to remind Americans to make sure they’re registered to vote for the November 3 election, which is less than 100 days away.

Selena Gomez

Gomez shared information about how to register to vote as part of Register a Friend Day. Other celebrities who took part in the initiative included Ariana Grande, Lin-Manuel Miranda, former President Barack Obamaand former First Lady Michelle Obama,LL Cool Jand Cher.

President Donald Trump has continued to spread false theories about voting by mail – even though he’s done so himself – leading election experts to worry that a nation gripped by the coronavirus pandemic could face a chaotic election that may put even more Americans’ health at risk with a push for in-person voting in the midst of both a health and financial crisis.

Currently, presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden has a commanding 50-36 lead over Trump, whose mishandled response to COVID-19 has put the U.S. atop the list of countries with the most cases and deaths.

Click here for more information on how to register to vote.

Sergio Pettis Defeats Ricky Bandejas in Bellator MMA’s Return After Five Months

Sergio Pettis is proving to be a contender…

The 26-year-old Puerto Rican and Mexican American mixed martial artist, the  younger brother of former UFC champion Anthony Pettis, defeated Ricky Bandejas via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) this weekend in the bantamweight main event of Bellator 242.

Sergio Pettis

Bellator, the second-most prominent MMA promotion in the U.S. after the UFC, hadn’t held an event since February 22 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The card took place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, overseen by the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation

COVID-19 protocols were implemented, including multiple coronavirus tests and the keeping of fighters, corners and staff within a kind of bubble at the Mohegan Sun resort and casino.

The original Bellator 242 main event was supposed to be a bout for the bantamweight title between Juan Archuleta and Patrick Mix, but Archuleta withdrew. The expectation is that bout will be rebooked for the belt.

During his fight, Pettis put himself in the No. 1 contender conversation. He had an economical performance against Bandejas, outstriking the taller man and piling on the calf kicks through the first two rounds. At one point, Bandejas seemed to lose his footing due to the damage caused by those repeated kicks to the lower part of his left leg.

In the third round, both men opened up. Pettis wasn’t content to cruise to a decision and put forth several flashy techniques, clearly looking for a knockout. Pettis threw spinning kicks, and Bandejas came back with some of his own, including a wheel kick to the head that was just barely blocked by Pettis. Pettis threw another spinning kick with seconds remaining that narrowly missed as well.

Pettis (20-5) has won three straight, including his first two in Bellator. The Milwaukee native left the UFC as a free agent last year with a 9-5 record in the organization, going back and forth between flyweight and bantamweight. Pettis owns a victory over Joseph Benavidez, who just fought for the UFC flyweight title last weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Bandejas (13-4) had a two-fight winning streak snapped. The New Jersey native propelled himself up the Bellator bantamweight ladder in 2018 when he stunningly knocked out Conor McGregor protégé James Gallagher. Bandejas, 28, trains out of the vaunted American Top Team in Florida.

Telemundo Renews Kate del Castillo’s “La Reina del Sur” for Third Season

Kate del Castillo’s reign will continue…

Telemundo has renewed La Reina del Sur for a third season with the 47-year-old Mexican actress set to reprise her iconic role as Teresa Mendoza.

Kate del Castillo

“I love playing Teresa Mendoza and am proud of the success of La Reina del Sur, the series that unleashed a new genre in Spanish language television,” del Castillo said. “Each season, Teresa Mendoza’s character evolves and gets more interesting. She is a very human character with her own flaws and imperfections. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of fun playing her, and I’m curious to see what will happen in this new season. She’s a woman I learn from in every season and every episode, who continues to surprise me.”

The first season of the series, based on Arturo Perez-Reverte’s novel, launched in 2011 and returned for a second season in 2019. 

The second season picked up eight years after the events of the season one finale with Mendoza pregnant and unsure of her future. When La Reina returns, it emerged that she’s disappeared into the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program and is currently living in Italy under the name of Maria Dantes with her daughter Sofia.

Last year, del Castillo said she “hated” the fact that she had to have a double for Mexico-set scenes of the  narco drama after she became a major player in the El Chapo saga, helping to set up a meeting between Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán and Sean Penn in 2015.

But she’ll now be able to return to Mexico if the series films there. 

La Reina del Suris a high-level production that has taken us to shoot all over the world season after season. But yes, if the story takes us to Mexico next season, I will be there. I’m so excited,” she added.

Showrunner Marco Santana, who’s also president of Telemundo Global Studios, said that the company was currently in the script and overall development phase of the new season. 

“We are working with an incredible group of writers to bring to life the continuation of a thrilling and involved story that we are all very excited for,” he told Deadline. “We have filmed La Reina del Suraround the world. It’s a story that travels through different locations, and season three won’t be an exception. We are planning for, and are hopeful that, by the time we begin production in 2021, restrictions due to the coronavirus will have eased.”

The third season will start production early next year, as long as production can resume as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The third season will be a co-production between Telemundo Global Studios and Netflix; Telemundo holds rights in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, while the streamer airs the series globally.

La Reina del Suris Telemundo’s most successful ‘Super Series’, used to differentiate it from its traditional long-running telenovelas.

“It is the show that propelled the network to the top of the charts and kicked off Telemundo’s Super Series franchise as the most successful Super Series in the network’s history,” said Ronald Day, EVP, Entertainment, Telemundo Networks. “It was the show that redefined Hispanic media and set a new standard in our content offering. There is a tremendous fan base for the first two seasons and for Teresa Mendoza, the iconic character played by Kate del Castillo, so we knew we had to bring her back.  This is a series that resonates with the new Latino of today who craves for contemporary cutting-edge narratives coupled with strong characters in a premium-level production. The first two seasons were wildly successful on linear and across all platforms, so as we continue to look at all new IP through an omnichannel lens, it made a lot of sense to bring La Reina back.”

“The return of La Reina del Surcomes at a great time when we continue to shape a new era in Hispanic media with content exclusively made for Latinos living in the US looking for culture-centric stories that are both American and Latino,” Day added.