Carlos Ponce: Music and Phantoms

The actor, singer and songwriter talks about Music, Kenny Ortega, and his new show “Julie and the Phantoms”
Carlos Ponce plays Ray, the father of the title character of Julie who plays in a band with three 90’s teen boy band ghosts in “Julie and the Phantoms”. Photo Credit: Netflix

Arturo Hilario
El Observador

“Julie and the Phantoms” is a new Netflix show which asks the question, “Could I start a band with some basement ghosts?”

The show focuses on Julie (Played by Madison Reyes), a 15-year-old who has lost her love for music after her mother Rose has passed away. Julie’s father, Ray (Carlos Ponce) is a professional photographer who is also grieving the loss of Rose and is tasked with guiding his family through life without their loving mother and wife.

Queue the moment when Julie is cleaning out some items from her mother’s old recording studio and she awakens three spirits who were teen boys in a rock band in the 1990’s. The phantoms are less frightening and more dreamier to Julie, and they help her bring back that passion for music and songwriting by forming a band: Julie and the Phantoms.

Recently I was able to chat about the show with the Julie’s show-father, Carlos Ponce, the famed Puerto Rican actor, composer and singer, who gave a firsthand look at “Julie and the Phantoms” backstory and what it was like creating a musical television series with legendary filmmaker and choreographer Kenny Ortega.

Thank you very much Carlos. To begin, I wanted to know if you could tell me a little about the story of this series?

It’s a story about a girl, Julie. She is my daughter, I am a widower – Ray Molina – and they are trying to cope with the loss of my wife, of the girl’s mother. He has a younger brother. Music moved that family a lot and the musician in that house was the mother, who is no longer with us. Then the girl, it’s as if she loses her charm, loses her light, she even loses her taste for music, as if she almost blames music for the [passing of her mother].

And at some point, when they are working, when they are selling the house to start a new life from scratch, three ghosts appear in the garage of the house when the girl is picking up or moving the things of the mother. Well, the [ghosts] were in that garage 25 years ago to rehearse with their band. But hey, they never auditioned for 25 years. They died 25 years ago and immediately woke up 25 years later with the girl.

This story is very [beautiful] because they are the ones who give her back her spark and her life and help her from that deep hole that she is falling into.

Can you tell me a little about what is the inspiration for your character of Ray and what he is like in the series?

Well, Ray Molina is dad who is [still] learning. He shared responsibility with the mother, and he is learning skills which his wife oversaw, such as in the kitchen, the children and school, things at home. So now he has to juggle his life as a photographer and his work with these tasks a bit and obviously he stumbles because at the beginning he still doesn’t really know how things are and he has a sister-in-law who arrives and it helps him sometimes, especially with the youngest of his children.

And what was it like working with the cast, specifically with Kenny Ortega who is known for many music and movie projects?

Thank God I have had a friendship with Kenny for many years. I met him when he hired a group of music producers, including myself, of Emilio Estefan, of whom we composed songs for his label. And [Kenny] flew us to Las Vegas to pitch for a musical he was designing or restructuring – a pirate ship hotel and all that stuff. We have kept in communication for many years and encountered each other, and we have always played around with the idea that one day we would work with each other.

But when I auditioned for this series, neither I knew who I was auditioning for, nor he knew that I was auditioning for the series. It was not the second, as I understand it, or the third callback as they call it, that we figured it out, and I said, “Maybe he will choose me!”

So, it was a good reunion for you two?

Yes, it was a nice, a nice meeting and apart from the guy being a great guy, he is a discoverer of stars, he has shown it time and time again.

He knows what the audience thinks and the need we have for love. But those projects do not [always] work because they are so difficult to create. He has an exceptional ability to know how to do them, so that they have a good impact on the part of the public.

With that in mind, since you also come from the world of music, what would you say about the music in “Julie and the Phantoms”?

The music is great. One of the most impressive things that has happened, aside from the show debuting on Netflix in the top 10, the nation’s most-watched show to debut, is that eight tracks from the show debuted in the US top 40 on iTunes and that’s including second and third place. First place was Lady Gaga, and [Julie and the Phantoms] took second and third place. And they even knocked down Hamilton from its position. So, we are incredibly happy with that musical achievement.

What were some memorable moments during filming this that you remember?

Look, when you are doing dramas there is a different kind of energy on set. There, as an actor, one has to put in certain characters and enter some places in your head that are not very comfortable. When one is doing dance, guitar, percussion, or piano musicals. obviously, the personal environment and energy is completely different. So, every day we were on a set listening to good music, being creative, writing. The muse in you is triggered. When I would leave the set, I would put myself in the camper and instead of starting to do other things, like I would do during any other project, I wrote. It’s a good atmosphere, good music.

I wanted to know why you would recommend “Julie and the Phantoms”? Especially since it is a family show and many of us are at home?

Well, imagine that you are at home, locked up with all your children, your grandfather, and picture this image where there is a child on the phone in some corner. The other on his iPad, the other on the TV, one in a room. And here is a program where, thank God, the whole family, the baby, the tween, the teen, the grandfather, the father, the mother, can sit and watch a series together. A series that is fun for all ages, that is going to entertain everyone.

And although it touches on issues that are important, generational issues and today’s issues, they are touched on in a subtle but conscious way. And it is very pleasant to be able to watch a program with the whole family.

“Julie and the Phantoms” is streaming now on Netflix.

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