Herizen Guardiola on 'The Get Down' and How She Found Her Voice

Herizen Guardiola on 'The Get Down' and How She Found Her Voice

From her breakout role on Netflix's The Get Down—set to return this year—to a forthcoming EP, this star is determined to make her voice be heard.

From her breakout role on Netflix's The Get Down—set to return this year—to a forthcoming EP, this star is determined to make her voice be heard.

Photography: Philippe Jarrigeon

Styling: Clare Byrne

Text: Whitney Mallett

This story originally appeared in V105.

“I write every day. Music is constantly pouring out of me,” reveals Herizen Guardiola, whose powerhouse voice is a mainspring of The Get Down, the musical set in the Bronx during the late ’70s in which she stars as Mylene Cruz. Like her character in the Baz Luhrmann–produced show, Guardiola is precocious and driven when it comes to music. “I’ve been writing for around 10 years,” explains the 20-year-old, whose debut EP is due out in early 2017.

While her character has to sneak around her strict reverend father to record disco tracks, Guardiola grew up in a different environment. Her father is a reggae musician who encouraged her musical passions. “I was always listening to my dad. My sister and I were backup singers for him and he was the first person to teach me how to play guitar,” she recalls. “Just watching him made me fall in love with music.” Guardiola, who was born and raised in Miami, is quick to add that her mother also had a lasting impact on her. “My mom’s Buddhist, so we grew up going to temple and listening to chants. That influenced my mind and the way I write,” she says, explaining that these practices inspire “a certain calmness that helps me write from how I feel in the moment.”

Since working on the show, Guardiola has been motivated by the lengths the characters go to pursue their creative goals, struggles based on the real challenges youth faced in Koch-era New York. “I learned so much about the situation and what the Bronx was going through. I really had no idea what these kids had to do to make a name for themselves and to make music,” she admits. “For me, it would be so frustrating to not be able to express myself through music. I probably would have done everything that they did to get a certain record or a turntable to be able to work on their craft.”

To prep for The Get Down, the cast went through a boot camp full of ’70s culture and long days of dancing, which Guardiola notes “helped us emerge.” Though she had no prior acting experience when she was cast, she had a particularly effortless on-screen chemistry with Justice Smith, her costar. “Justice and I are something else, honestly,” she insists. “We clicked the first day we met at Baz’s office during the callbacks. And we’re both Leos, so we understand each other. We’re both emotional and sarcastic.” Guardiola underscores the value of having a true friend on set, “When we’re working long, exhausting 18-hour days, we can depend on each other to make one another laugh.”

The second part of The Get Down season one will air on Netflix later this year.

TOP AND EARRINGS VINTAGE FROM SCREAMING MIMI’S. ON EYES: M.A.C. DAZZLESHADOW 
IN CAN’T STOP, DON’T STOP. ON LIPS: M.A.C. LIPGLASS IN SPICE. ON NAILS: O.P.I. NAIL LACQUER
IN I CAN’T HEAR MYSELF PINK.
Credits: MANICURE HOLLY FALCONE (KATE RYAN INC)  SET DESIGN ANDY HARMAN (LALALAND ARTISTS)  DIGITAL TECHNICIAN KASANDRA TORRES  PHOTO ASSISTANTS GABI WOROSZ AND GUARIONEX RODRIGUEZ  STYLIST ASSISTANT EMMA LITVACK  MAKEUP ASSISTANTS KUMA AND MEGUMI ONISHI  HAIR ASSISTANT WALTON NUNEZ  RETOUCHING CHROMA NY  LOCATION AND EQUIPMENT ROOT STUDIOS

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