Miguel is doubling his filmography with this week’s release of the Kathryn Bigelow-directed drama Detroit.
The singer, billed by his full name (Miguel Pimentel) makes a brief appearance as Malcolm, a member of the Dramatics during a performance sequence late in the movie. The bit part follows his appearance in last year’s crime drama Live By Night, and Miguel was pleased to have made it through Bigelow’s exacting casting process.
“She took a huge chance,” Miguel told Billboard before Detroit‘s premiere at the city’s Fox Theatre. “Being part of the process from audition to actually having a moment in the film was really inspiring just to see all the talent and then to get the sense of what we were actually auditioning. When we auditioned I had no idea. There was a general script, but it was really our interaction with each other. To see it turn into what it is now, an actual film, is really inspiring.”
Miguel came away particularly impressed by Bigelow, the first woman to ever win an Academy Award for direction (The Hurt Locker) in 2008. “She obviously has tremendous vision, and her intention is to bring attention to something very important,” Miguel said of Detroit, a violent and provocative look at events during the Detroit uprising of July 1967, during which one of the Dramatics’ key members was subjected to a torturous detention and interrogation at the city’s Algiers Motel. “The notion that we’ve been doing some bad things to each other for a long time and it’s still happening to day…Hopefully this film can inspire more attention, the proper attention to be more cognizant of who we are to each other.”
Though only a bit player, Miguel was flattered to be part of a youthful cast that’s light on traditional stars. “The young talent she’s given a chance to be part of something I think is important and culturally significant, that’s important, too,” he notes.
Miguel became familiar with the Dramatics through his parents, though he came in during the group’s heyday in the ’70s rather than the period depicted in the film. “They’re one of the many amazing bands that were just giving us timely music,” he said. “You gotta think about ‘Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get;’ Anybody knows that song. It’s part of my musical tutelage, I guess, part of my musical heritage, one of the bands I go back to and listen to that inspired me to write songs that mean something much longer than I’ll be here. I loved those groups — The Dramatics, The Temptations, The Delfonics, The Stylistics, all of ’em.”
Miguel has been laying somewhat low since touring to support his 2015 album Wildheart. He’s working on getting more acting roles but he also has his fourth album in motion and says he’s “really excited to release some music, like, really soon — like yesterday. I’ve been recording the past year and a half.”
What’s the new material sounding like? “Well, my sound has always been really romantic but at the same time very honest and sometimes brutally honest,” he explains. “I say what we as men want to say and say what women respect us for saying. [Wildheart] was a lot more in-depth as to who I am and where I come from, so it’ll be more of that, I think.”