Javier Bardem Transformed Into Desi Arnaz Through Music

by Taylor Cunningham

Javier Bardem learned a lot about himself while studying the late Desi Arnaz for Being the Ricardos.

When Bardem took on the role of the iconic singer and actor, he considered himself a mediocre musician—at best. So the Oscar winner worked tirelessly with vocal coach Fiona McDougal to transform himself into someone worthy of playing the part.

“Little by little I built up my confidence,” he shared with Deadline. “And once I found it with her, I loved it. I never had the experience of expressing myself through singing. Exposition is brutal.”

Bardem went through a whirlwind of emotions while perfecting Arnaz’s craft. He explained that he felt “vulnerable while singing” and added that at times, he thought he looked and sounded “ridiculous.

“These were brand new feelings for me,” Bardem continued. “But once I found the confidence, and more or less the style, and worked on the skills to do it properly, I loved it. I’m very proud of that, especially because of the short amount of time we had to accomplish that.”

And Javier Bardem should be proud. The Academy announced its shortlisted films on Tuesday. And Being The Ricardos made the cut for Best Picture.

However, the Oscar nod wasn’t Bardem’s biggest takeaway. Instead, it was his connection to Desi Arnaz.

Javier Bardem Connected with Himself While Transforming into Desi Arnaz

“I learned so much while playing Desi: playing guitar and congas; learning all those beautiful, long, and complex Sorkin dialogs in English with the help of my English coach,” he continued.

All in, the actor had a month to get his part down. And as he did, Bardem was also filming The Little Mermaid. Many long nights and early mornings went into perfecting Desi Arnaz. But he learned a lot about himself while pushing through.

“I learned about the anxiety that comes from fear and insecurity while trying to keep it all under control. I had to stick to this philosophy I use of tackling each challenge line by line, which I had to remind myself of often. One thing will take me to another thing and so on. In the end, if I’m lucky and I focus, I will get to the end. In all honesty, me, Javier, I was so anxious trying to keep everything under control, which was often hard to do.”

To add to the “stress,” Javier Bardem faced backlash after being cast as Arnaz. Bardem is Spanish while Arnaz was Cuban. And fans of I Love Lucy were critical of the differences.

However, Bardem focused on his shared Latin American history and ensured that he represented Anaz’s Cuban roots respectfully.

“I worked really hard immersing myself into Desi’s life and who he was and a big part of that was his Cuban heritage,” he continued. “With that being said, the representation of minorities in movies, including Latin Americans, of course, it’s important and has to be there.”

So after Bardem won the part, he made sure he deserved it. And to do that, he had to ensure that every move he made was “done with all the respect, admiration, respect, and love for Desi and what he represented, including his origins.”