Jaime Camil is now an expert in the way Vicente Fernández speaks and thinks. To prepare for his role in the series “El Rey, Vicente Fernández”, which debuts on Netflix on Wednesday, the Mexican actor claims to have seen “98%” of all the interviews available on the internet of the regional Mexican music star. .
“The family recommended that, when we studied and did the research… for the character, that we not rely on the movies,” Camil said in a recent video call interview about the premiere of the Caracol Television and Netflix series in the streaming service after its debut in Colombia. “And they are right, because the movies are an exaggerated version of Vicente.”
“I think I threw away 98% of all the videos on YouTube of his interviews,” he added.
Fernández starred in films such as “La ley del monte”, “Dios los crias” and “Por tu maldito amor” in which he played his version of a brave and gallant charro. But Camil looked for those moments in which he spoke in a very intimate way and expressed his true feelings. His motto, he said, was to stay away from parody or caricature in order to form a character that started from his essence and at the same time make a creative and artistic interpretation.
“Making a character that is truly human and that connects emotionally with the audience,” he said.
Part of his interpretation included creating his own versions of emblematic songs by Fernández such as “El rey” or “Volver, Volver”. To achieve this, Camil listened by recording his own voice and Fernández’s voice, to follow her as a guide. Camil sought to stick to the key in which Fernández originally recorded his songs in the mid-20th century, which was then styled higher.
“No one is going to be Vicente, no one is ever going to sing like him, no one is going to have the vocal power that he had,” he said. But “I tried to emulate his phrasing at least or how he caressed the vowels or how he rounded the o… At times I got dizzy in the studio holding that note from ‘El rey’ and staying up there whistling the note But it’s part of the process.”
In the series, a charro dressed in black appears to Fernández when someone he loves is going to die. The appearance was not something that Fernández told, but the deaths of his loved ones were a constant in his life.
“Losses that marked him a lot, his uncle, his cousin, loved ones, his best friends, the suicide of (his friend) Tico Gómez,” Camil said.
We also see how he faces problems due to his poor contract and agent decisions. Even obstacles and adversities to achieve tours or record songs that over time became classics. For example, José Alfredo Jiménez did not want to give him “El rey” to record it. Through artists such as Chavela Vargas, Fernández managed to get close to him and gain his approval. Shortly after Jiménez passed away and Fernández finds out in the series when he is on a television show and sees that charro.
With “Volver, Volver” he also faced obstacles, to the extent that he himself made the first copies of the album with his own means.
“No one wanted me to record it, the label doesn’t support Vicente,” Camil said. “It was the great release that Vicente had and that he made a difference in his career” with which “he breaks the mold of saying that mariachis can also sing about heartbreak.”
Camil, who claims to know Fernandez’s sons -Alejandro, Gerardo and Vicente- well enough, but did not live with the star in life. To find out more about his intimate side, he leaned on other artists.
“I talked a lot with Ana Gabriel, I talked a lot with Blanca Martínez ‘La Chicuela,’” he said.
The series presents the life of Fernández from when he was a child, in a rural area of the western state of Jalisco, until when he sings in Plaza México, in the historic concert he gave in 1984. Fernández died at the age of 81 on December 12, 2021.
“He single-handedly put ranchera music and mariachi music on the world map,” Camil said. “He paid for those tours that he did and often came back from those tours with one hand in front and one behind.”
The series was filmed in Mexico and Los Angeles. It features performances by Marcela Guirado as “Cuquita”, Fernández’s wife; Sebastián Dante, as a young Fernández, and Kaled Acab, in the child version of him. In Colombia, where the series premiered in early August on Caracol TV, it had a good response from the public.
“They say there are more mariachis in Colombia than in Mexico,” Camil said. “Vicente is an idol in Colombia, the series started tremendously well.”