Even after grossing almost $44.5 million in the U.S. for the record-breaking 2013 Spanish-language film “Instructions Not Included,” Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez wanted to cross over into English-language films.
He is seeing it happen now, almost a decade later, in “The Valet,” a Hulu multicultural comedy that was shot mostly in English.
The secret to his ongoing success, Derbez said in an interview, is never forgetting his heritage.
“Every movie I’ve done, I put something there from my country, from Latinos, because I know they’re my core audience,” Derbez said. “And I don’t want them to feel that I forgot them. So that’s the secret that I’ve been using: every time I do a movie, I go back to my roots.”
“The Valet” is a remake of the 2006 French comedy “La doublure,” and it tells the story of Antonio (played by Derbez) who parks luxury cars for the rich and famous in Beverley Hills.
Antonio’s life changes unexpectedly after he accepts an offer to pose as the boyfriend of an A-list movie star (Samara Weaving) who is trying to cover up an affair with a married real estate developer (Max Greenfield).
Derbez said that he wants to show Beverly Hills through the eyes of a valet who could feel like he’s working at Disneyland — parking Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porches, Bentleys and Rolls Royces, while also edging out a modest life with his family.
At home, Antonio shares a bathroom with his mom (Carmen Salinas), struggles to reconcile with his estranged wife Isabel (Marisol Nichols) and has joint custody of their son Marco (Joshua Vazquez).
Antonio is hardworking, but he has yet to wake up into the person that he’s about to become. Off screen, Derbez says that in a similar way, it was his work on previous films that ultimately made him more aware of the stories that he wants to tell.
“At the beginning of my career in Mexico and Latin America, I was doing comedy shows, TV shows basically. And they were funny, but just funny,” he said.
Over time, Derbez explained, he discovered that doing comedy without a message or any depth is empty.
“You can laugh a lot, but no matter how hard you laugh," he said, when you walk out of the theater, you forget the movie."
In recent months, Derbez has seen doors open for more dramatic roles following his role as music teacher Bernardo Villalobos in the 2021 movie "CODA," which won the coveted Oscar for Best Picture.
He considers “CODA” an example of the type of movies that he wants to make.
“I’ve been trying to put a signature to my movies and always combine comedy with heart and a message,” Derbez said.
One message that viewers will get from “The Valet” is the importance of knowing one's worth.
On screen, Antonio is able to trace the value of who he is back to his family and diverse community.
Off screen, Derbez said that his viewers and fellow actors make him appreciate the value of Latino stories on film. One such actor was Mexican icon Salinas, who passed away in December 2021. Her role as Derbez's mom in "The Valet" turned out to be her last role in a career that spanned almost 60 years.
“She’s our Betty White,” the Mexican actor said, referring to Salinas. “She was in every single project in television. I don’t remember anyone working as hard as her—I feel really honored to be part of this project [with her].”