Tuesday nights are about to get a whole lot spookier — in a good way — starting Sept. 22 thanks to Fox’s slasher comedy Scream Queens, from Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy.
The show centers around a series of murders that take place at a college campus and has no shortage of star power. OG scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis appearing as the dean is reason enough to watch, but there are also some talented young bloods who round out the cast including sorority queen Emma Roberts, Glee alum Lea Michele, Skyler Samuels, Glen Powell, Abigail Breslin and Mexican hunk Diego Boneta.
The 24-year-old actor and singer first won over Latin fans as Rocco in the teen telenovela Rebelde a decade ago, but since then he’s smoothly transitioned to Hollywood with roles on hit TV shows like 90210 and Pretty Little Liars, as well as the big-screen adaptation of Rock of Ages. On Scream Queens he plays the university’s inquisitive yet romantic newspaper editor Pete Martinez, who falls for Kappa Kappa Tau pledge Grace (Skyler Samuels). But it turns out Pete lacks the confidence of the actor who plays him, so he’ll have to work overtime to get the girl.
Scream Queens will likely make Boneta a household name. As Murphy puts it, the show has the potential to be bigger than American Horror Story. “It’s not as gory,” the show’s creator recently told IGN. “It’s not as pushed. But it’s still scary. It’s much more psychological.”
For fans of Boneta’s music — don’t think he’s forgotten about you. In between shooting for the show, he’s been busy putting the finishing touches on a new bilingual EP, to be released later this year via Sony Music Latin. Billboard will be premiering the seductive first single “The Hurt” exclusively in October (more on that to come).
Billboard chatted with Boneta about Scream Queens, freaky set stories, Halloween costumes, refreshing his sound and more.
What did you love about playing Pete?
First of all it’s just an honor to be a part of something so unique, with such a great cast. Ryan Murphy is a genius. What’s cool about Pete is that he’s kind of like a rebel; he’s anti-sorority and anti-fraternity. He comes from a working class family and he’s a journalist who runs the school paper. He’s trying to figure out who the murderer is because, as you know, there are murders going on at the university. He takes his job very seriously, he’s very passionate and he also has a romantic side. He’s definitely not as confident with girls as he is with his job. He falls for Grace, who’s played by Skyler Samuels, and he’s a bit awkward and nervous. That’s kind of Pete in a nutshell.
Will the fact that Pete is Latino be a part of the show somehow?
Yes, definitely. In the beginning he was not going to be Latin. In Rock of Ages the role that I played was a completely Caucasian one and since then, I haven’t played anyone Latino except for in the movie Pelé. But being Mexican, I’m very proud of my roots and I talk about it all the time. Ryan [Murphy] thought it would be cool to make my character second-generation Mexican and I was like, “Hell yeah, man, let’s do it.” His culture will come through mainly in his passion and how romantic he is — that’s very close to who I am in real life. He’s a gentleman. As of now, there isn’t any Spanish although they do mention the fact that I’m Mexican.
Were there any funny or freaky on-set stories?
Here’s a funny one that goes well with the whole gory aspect of the show. When I moved to New Orleans [to shoot] I promised myself that there would be more than Diet Dr. Pepper and tequila in my fridge. So I made it a point to go to all the grocery stores and I was like Martha Stewart, just going at it. For one of the first home-cooked meals, I had this brilliant idea of cooking some chicken with avocado, and I started cutting the avocado in my hand because that’s how I saw people do it on the Food Network. I go around it once, twice, and the third time, I completely slashed my hand and I had to get 15 stitches. Production was freaking out because this was the first week of shooting! And then, funny enough, Skyler [Samuels], also cut her thumb cutting chicken a few months later so that was super weird. It’s the Boneta curse! [laughs]
What’s the scoop on your new music?
It’s going to be an EP of six songs, four of them are in English and two of them are in Spanish. The sound will be top 40 pop, with a retro kind of vibe, like the Black Keys meet Bruno Mars. It’s modern beats and modern choruses but the verses and some of the guitars and instruments have a bit of a rock n roll throwback, along the lines of Little Richard and Elvis, while other parts are more ’80s-sounding.
What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?
I remember a friend of mine made me watch Stigmata when I was 12 as a prank. It was very messed up. That’s probably the scariest one I’ve seen. I’m a fan of the horror genre but what happened is that I watched so many scary movies as a kid that I got sort of traumatized and couldn’t sleep. Now that I’m a bit less of a scaredy cat I can watch them more. I love a good thriller like Seven or Silence of the Lambs.
Do you usually dress up for Halloween?
I do! The last couple of Halloweens, I’ve actually been working and the last time I remember dressing up, I was a Cholo. I also dressed up as a vampire from True Blood a few years ago.
What about this year?
We’ll be shooting, but for the Halloween episode of Scream Queens I do dress up as someone that I routinely impersonate. It’s my only party trick, but it’s a good one. It’s episode 4 and I encourage people to watch it because it’s a fun one.
What’s at the very top of your Halloween playlist?
Hands down, it would have to be Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” There’s nothing better.