Five Burning Questions with On Your Feet! New Emilio Estefan, Ektor Rivera
Puerto Rican stage and screen star Ektor Rivera makes his Broadway debut as Emilio Estefan in hit Broadway musical (and our July show of the month) On Your Feet! BroadwayBox caught up with the actor, Instagram sensation, and artist to talk about his creative process, Emilio's hunger, and the Puerto Rican spots you've got to hit up.
1. What’s the most important thing Emilio told you or you observed from meeting him that informs the way you play him?
The most interesting thing I noticed is that Emilio has a constant glow in his eyes, to create new things and inspire people. Every success story he shared with me had a challenging beginning. Every ‘no’ he received motivated him to work harder or to find a way around it, to get what he wanted. I can relate to that. He’s always kept his hunger to achieve and that’s inspiring. It inspires me and I hope I am portraying that on stage.
2. What made you go from Hector to Ektor?
I was part of a singing TV show competition in Puerto Rico and one of the other contestants had the same name as me—Héctor. So, two days before the competition, I decide to change it so the audience could differentiate between the two of us. I even created a logo with my name, replacing the accent with a dot. It works. And I’ve now had moms approach me to tell me they’ve named their child Ektor!
3. You're also an artist. What’s your process like when you’re going to paint and create? Do you have any rituals?
My only ritual is to kiss the white canvas before painting over it and then make an invisible cross with my hands. Kind of an artistic blessing. I look for inspiration in people, in their faces. I like to paint emotions and desires. I like to recreate in a painting what we cannot tangibly see. I also enjoy the human anatomy—the shapes and shades of our bodies. As for the art techniques, I always look for new ways and materials to express my art. You can check out some of my work at www.ektorriveraart.com.
4. Tell me a non-tourist spot you love in Puerto Rico that people should check out when they visit.
Puerto Rico has so many well-known and hidden places for tourists to enjoy! There is so much art, entertainment and natural beauty. It’s hard to pick just one place.
—If you are looking for a great spot in nature that tourists don’t know about: Gozalandia (falls) in San Sebastián.
—There are also many hidden, beautiful beaches in Culebra island, Guánica and almost every town on the coast.
—Or you can enjoy beautiful mountain views and a lot of Puerto Rican food in Barranquitas (my wife’s hometown), which is located in the center of Puerto Rico. It’s very rural.
—La Placita de Santurce in San Juan, where I live, is a great night spot.
—Art, by young artists & muralists, is everywhere.
And while it’s having an economic crisis now, the beauty of my island will always remain intact.
5. A big theme in On Your Feet! is overcoming obstacles and beating odds. Can you tell us about the biggest hurdle you had to overcome to get where you are today?
The life of an artist is full of obstacles and, you hope, achievements. Like the Estefans, I’ve received a lot of 'NO’s' along the way—at auditions, galleries, etc. I couldn’t even tell you how many because it’s that high of a number. But my deep belief in what I do and can do, keeps me motivated, helps me persevere. I like the journey I am on. I have a positive perspective on these things and truly believe that when one door closes, another will open. There are so many roles I haven’t gotten but then to get this gift—of playing Emilio Estefan on Broadway. All my life, Emilio is someone I have admired and aspired to work with, and now I get to channel so much of what inspired me, on stage at On Your Feet!. If you really love what you’re doing, keep learning, stay on track, keep fighting and defend your dreams. This is your only life.
Head over to Broadway's Marquis Theatre to see Ektor Rivera as Emilio Estefan in 'On Your Feet!'