Efren Ramirez and Chris Evans on Pixar’s Lightyear and the Iconic Space Ranger

Efren Ramírez Photo Credit: Diana Ragland. Lightyear Image Courtesy of Disney

Efren Ramírez is known to many as Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite, and he has been in films such as Casa de mi Padre starring Will Ferrell and Crank starring Jason Statham. His next big project, Lightyear, is the latest animated film from Pixar based on Andy’s favorite movie. The film features Chris Evans as the voice of Buzz Lightyear and Ramírez as Airman Díaz, who helps the titular character on his missions. Ramírez chats with Nerd Reactor about his role and other preparations to get into the part. Additionally, during the Lightyear press conference, Chris Evans talks about honoring the space ranger with his performance.

Ramírez approaches every project he’s in with a curious eye, with questions like “What am I doing? What am I getting into? What am I getting involved in?” With Pixar, the story leads the characters to infinity and beyond.

“In this case, the stakes are pretty high, because it’s Pixar,” Ramirez said. “And it’s not only Toy Story, but it really is based on Buzz Lightyear and the world of, so it’s very specific and very clear with the stories and the character that they’ve created. And I was hoping to do as much justice as possible with all of that. But that being said, I was able to really, really live those moments of the story itself. And Pixar is so great at really developing the stories and the strode that every character goes through. And there’s something that’s so beautiful that you get to see with this film, Lightyear. It’s teamwork, perseverance, ambition, drive, hope, heart, and trust. And that’s when they come to learn with even my character, Airman Díaz.”

Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Airman Díaz is a scientific engineer who’s responsible for providing Buzz Lightyear with information so that the space ranger can accomplish his mission. Ramírez wanted to get into the headspace of his character, and he went on a trip to JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab), the research and development center under NASA responsible for sending the Curiosity rover to Mars.

“I went to JPL,” Ramírez said. “Part of it is because as an actor, you take a look at the relationships with the character and you go, ‘Okay, I know who he is, but let me learn more about his job and what he does.’ So I was invited to go to JPL where they make all the robots and rovers for Mars. And not only did I learn about science, engineering and quantum physics, but what was interesting is that everyone was working together. And I found that to be true. Back when I was working on Lightyear, every single character needed each other to help each other out so that they can move forward in life and find something better in their lives. It’s all about teamwork. If you don’t have that, then life is harder.”

Chris Evans had the chance to explore the character that many fans know so well, and in the film, there’s a slightly more nuanced interpretation.

“The Buzz that we all know is obviously a toy, and as a toy, there are certain ways that they can move through the world without the weight that we may carry,” Evans said. “You know, a toy knows its purpose, a toy doesn’t have to worry about disease. Impacts of the choices that we make as people are a little bit more consequential, and it’s fun to put Buzz against that backdrop.”

Buzz Lightyear’s famous line is “To infinity and beyond,” and Evans talks about that line and his Captain America line, “Avengers assemble.”

“But, you know, as proud as I am to play this role and as honored as I am to be a part of this universe now, that line belongs to someone else,” Evans said. ‘It almost kinda felt like I was wearing someone else’s clothes or something, you know? So you do your best to honor it and put your own spin on it. But let’s be honest, that’s Tim Allen’s line. So personally, at least ‘Avengers assemble,’ I was the first one in the pool for that one.”

The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

About Lightyear

Synopsis: “Lightyear” is the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear—the hero who inspired the toy—follows the legendary Space Ranger on an intergalactic adventure.

Chris Evans voices Buzz, and he is joined by Keke Palmer, Dale Soules and Taika Waititi as part of the recruits. Peter Sohn voices Sox, Buzz’s robot companion. The rest of the voice cast includes Uzo Aduba, James Brolin, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Efren Ramirez and Isiah Whitlock Jr.

Michael Giacchino composed the score for Lightyear, and he has worked on many Pixar projects including The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Cars 2, Inside Out, Coco, Incredibles 2 and more.

Lightyear releases in theaters on June 17, 2022.

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