STEPPING INTO CHARACTER (August 2001)
Gish and de los Reyes take a dance challenge.
As if joining the regular cast of The X-Files wasn't enough of a challenge, Annabeth Gish braved heat, flood and bunions for her summer project, a new movie for VH1.
Premiering tonight at 9, "The Way She Moves" casts Gish as Amie, a Houston photographer engaged to a handsome stockbroker who wants to take a hot job in New York City. Amie's pals give her and her finace salsa lessons as a pre-wedding gift, so they can dance at the reception.
Amie's game for the challenge, but her fiancÚ drops out early on. This leaves Amie in the hands of a handsome instructor, Nicholas (Kamar de los Reyes of One Life to Live), a two-time salsa-dance champion. He accepts a challenge from his former partner and ex-girlfriend (Tessie Santiago) to take a rank beginner, Amie, and transform her for the dance studio's annual open house.
As love begins to blossom between the two - and Amie becomes unsure of her wedding plans - Nicholas decides to make her his partner for an upcoming competition. Unfortunately, it falls right on Amie's long-planned wedding day.
While de los Reyes, a Puerto Rican native who shares musical talent with most of his family, has spent all of his life around Latin music and dance, it was a steep learning curve for Gish.
"It was like being dropped into a boiling pot of water," she says. "Learn fast and be good quickly. But that's the great thing about Kenny Ortega * he's just an amazing choreographer. He made me feel safe and just was with me every step of the way, literally, as was Kamar."
"She was wonderful," says de los Reyes, "and I'm far from being a pro. She worked hard, and she picked up everything very quickly and accurately. I was impressed by her determination and her passion for it."
Gish admits that shooting dance sequences with de los Reyes involved a certain amount of personal sacrifice.
"You know," she says, "it's hard to work with one of People magazine's 50 most beautiful people, and to have to dance salsa with him, very close. Pity party!"
Gish began by taking lessons in Los Angeles before moving on to Houston in June. "It was hot and humid," she recalls. "I've had my fill of Houston for a while. And we got stuck in the flood down there. My God, this was a national disaster. Do you remember hearing about it? It was of biblical proportions. We lost two days of filming!"
After surviving the ravages of Tropical Storm Allison, the cast faced the more ordinary challenges of shooting a dance movie during a Houston summer.
"Outdoors, on the dance floor," recalls de los Reyes, "it had to be at least 120 degrees, dancing barefoot. It was pretty hot. It's funny, you're in the middle of doing something, and you develop a little bit of resistance to it, and you try to keep going.
"By the time we started shooting the actual dance scenes, I had already danced so many hours barefoot on wooden floors with resin, that I was accustomed to it. 'Bring it on! Anything! I can do it all!' It wasn't that bad. I got used to the pain."
While Gish relished the idea of taking her character from repressed to expressive, de los Reyes was happy not to be playing a stereotyped hunk. Off the dance floor, Nicholas is seen as a grade-school teacher. "I liked that," the actor says. "I really liked that. That's what turned me on to the script."
As Gish moves on to her new gig this fall, de los Reyes hopes that this movie opens new doors for him. "I'm still under contract to 'One Life to Live' until January. I've got to sit tight, continue to do my work there, then we'll see what happens."
In an interesting side note, Gish's character on The X-Files is named Monica Reyes. "Oh, get out!" says de los Reyes. "She didn't tell me that! That's hilarious. I'll have to bring that up the next time I see her. Some of my family members go by Reyes, because it's easier."
"That's funny," says Gish. "And I was boxing with my trainer the other day, and I looked at my gloves, and they were Reyes gloves. I'm like , OK, what's happening? X-Files!"