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‘Across the Spider-Verse’ Stars Brian Tyree Henry & Luna Laruen Velez on Super Parenting

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was unlike any other Spider-Man film we’ve seen before. It was a highly dynamic cinematic experience that used a variety of animation styles and techniques to deliver something wildly psychedelic and separated itself from the rest of its animation studio rivals.

But the film was more than just a love letter and satire about our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. It also inducted Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as one of the new cinematic webslingers who happens to be an Afro-Latino kid from Brooklyn. So it was a comic book turn to life in the truest of ways, yet grounded by its coming-of-age story and Miles’ loving family unit. And Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse takes visual storytelling to a new level in ways that we could never have imagined. And we got to talk to Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez — who voiced Jefferson and Rio, respectively — about reprising their roles as Miles’ parents, what we could learn from their characters’ parenting styles, and the importance of representation.

Spider-Man/Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animations’ SPIDER-MAN™: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE.

In Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Jefferson is a police officer with a tough-love parenting style but a big teddy bear personality. Velez’s Rio, a nurse, is more compassionate yet unafraid to cuss his son out for failing to make the grade, especially in Spanish. Both recognize that they have an exceptional son with big dreams, yet they remind him never to forget where he came from. And what makes them so endearing and lovable is that they are just average parents who happens to be Black and Puerto Rican, respectively. It’s a relationship that normalizes bi-racial and bi-lingual households. So while that kid they love is growing up fast, they know he’s no longer the kid they once knew and is on the verge of becoming his own person.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse continues the multiverse adventures of Miles Morales, where he reunites with Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) and encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. Led by the intensely serious Miguel O’Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) and totally awesome and very pregnant Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman (Issa Rae), the Spider-Society goes forth to correct all anomalies that exists in different Spider-Verses so that it doesn’t disrupt the canon. However, when the heroes clash on how to handle a new multiverse threat in the Spot, Miles finds that in order to become the hero of his own story he will have to do his own thing and break away from a familiar narrative arc that has been a part of the Spider-Man lore since his inception.

With Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse out in theaters soon, we chatted with Henry and Velez about what it was like returning to play as Jefferson and Rio, and how their roles dramatically increased in the sequel. Additionally, the two talk about representation and how someone like Miles serves as a role model to those who may struggle with their identities.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse opens in theaters on June 2, 2023.

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