Anthony Ramos | Because The Joy Needn’t Be Pretend

Via Issue 187, The Critical Mass Issue!

Written by

Audra McClain

Photographed by

William Lords

Styled by

John Tan

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VERSACE top and necklace worn as a bracelet and DION LEE pants.

How lucky we are to age. Every time we celebrate another birthday, another year on Planet Earth is precisely that—a celebration. Three cheers for another 365 days of growing into the persons we are meant to be, the most authentic versions of ourselves. So why can the scariest story be told in just two words? Turning 30. The year that wrinkles start to form, that backs start to hunch just so. The light fades from behind our soulless eyes, and a shadow of who we once were takes its place. Our youth is behind us. Ahead is joyless adulthood. The fun has ended; welcome to the real world. Right? Wrong.

“I think when I turned 30, I don’t know what happened, I’m just like, ‘Yo, just have a fucking good time,’” actor and musician Anthony Ramos candidly says of the milestone birthday. As he reflects on some of the most significant turning points of his life, the big 3-0 is one of the first to come to mind, amongst going through a public breakup and reconciling his relationship with his father. “I went through so much in my 20s,” Ramos continues. “Like, I experienced so much shit, amazing stuff, hard stuff, just a bunch of wild shit...This year, going between 30 and 31, was one of the hardest in my whole life. But it was amazing. I traveled, I bought a crib, I moved to another state—I really started to level up.” He laughs, “You couldn’t pay me to go back to my 20s. I’m having the time of my life right now.”

GUCCI jacket, tank top, and pants. HERMÈS boots, CARTIER bracelet (left hand), CHRISHABANA bracelet (right hand), and talent’s own necklace.

The now 31-year-old Brooklyn-born entertainer is undoubtedly enjoying all that life throws at him nowadays. Less than 24 hours before he sat down to chat about his new projects, he was in Las Vegas, on stage at CinemaCon 2023, accepting a Rising Star award for his latest film, Steven Caple Jr.’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts where he plays Noah Diaz, an ex-military electronics expert. Ramos is no stranger to winning awards and giving speeches, and he almost always remembers to thank his mom. “I’m a rising star in my mom’s eyes,” he chuckles. “So that’s all that matters.” 

In 2015, Ramos starred in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s critically acclaimed and beloved Hamilton, as both John Laurens and Philip Hamilton, and won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. For years to come, Golden Globes, Emmys, and various nominations and wins would be in the cards for his projects and roles in A Star is Born (alongside Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga), In the Heights, and Hamilton once again. Although it is an honor to have his hard work and dedication to his craft recognized, Ramos doesn’t get hung up on accolades. “I’m just trying to have fun, you know, I’m just having a good time. I think the awards can kind of sometimes take away from a good time. Start doing it for the awards and start to get obsessed with that kind of thing. Let’s just have fun, and then maybe the award will come.”

GUCCI jacket, pants, and belt and OMEGA watch.

Having fun and staying present is always at the top of the performer’s list of priorities. After winning the Rising Star award, which he won’t receive until they’ve engraved his name into the trophy’s plaque and mailed to his home—a part of the award shows that Ramos still finds perplexing—he spent the remainder of his night with his friends enjoying live music.

Ramos shares that it’s easy to get caught up in the complexities of everyday life when you’re always on the go. “I have to constantly talk to myself to keep myself calm,” he shares, “and remind myself to just be in the season that you’re in, really do your best. You’re not going to succeed every day. But if you can succeed 75-80% of the time to just be present in the season that you’re in, make the most of it, then you can really maximize whatever life has given you in that moment. I’m grateful that I get to do what I love to do. The reality is that I could be doing something that I don’t love. When I’m in the studio, or when I’m on set like, ‘Yo, you really doing movies, really making music, bro, you really like doing all this shit. And you love it all. This is what you love to do.’”

The next season that Ramos is preparing himself for is tornado season. Earlier this year, he was cast alongside Daisy Edgar-Jones and Glen Powell in the sequel to the 1996 action/suspense Twister. The film takes Ramos to Oklahoma’s farmland for three months. As a New York native and Los Angeles regular, violent rotating air columns don’t often appear in Ramos’ life. And this is definitely the first project to take him to the landlocked state between Texas and Kansas. 

A windstorm actually crept up on Ramos during the one day he was there before filming, on-site for costume fitting and to discuss the script with director Lee Isaac Chung. “I went down there to work with (Chung) just for a day,” he recalls. “And a tornado hit like one hour south of the city. This shit is real out there. I went to dinner that night at the hotel, and the door’s going [insert Ramos’ mouth-made tornado sounds]. And I’m like, ‘Yo, is nobody, like, concerned...?’ Everybody was just chilling, like, ‘Yeah, what do you want? Sparkling or flat?’ I’m like, ‘Can you check the window real quick before I tell you sparkling or flat!?’”

ALEXANDER MCQUEEN jacket, harness, pants, and boots and HUBLOT watch.

Ramos doesn’t actually have to brave Mother Earth’s natural harsh winds and pouring rain like his heroic storm chaser character does thanks to movie magic. The weather machines that create realistic storms aren’t all that close to the real thing. But there is relief in knowing that if the weather becomes too temperamental, a flick of a few switches can turn it off.

The new film Twisters isn’t the first time Ramos has experienced this side of movie magic. His first taste of Hollywood weather came in 2019 while portraying Staff Sergeant Martinez in Godzilla: King of the Monsters alongside Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler. The film’s crew brought out a monstrously tall crane machine to unleash pools upon pools of water from the sky. Think it’s hard saving a 12-year-old girl from a fight against a giant mutant lizard and a three-headed monster? Imagine doing all that while being drenched in water and blown around by fans almost as large as Godzilla himself.

“The first couple of times, it’s cool,” he says of the mechanized drain. “Take five; every time you see that rain, you’re like, ‘Oh fuck.’ Then it just rains on you. They turn the fans on. So there’s all these winds, and you’re mad cold because the wind’s blowing on you from the fans while you’re getting rained on, and the water ain’t warm... You don’t really prepare for that stuff. You just kind of pray, and then go to work.” Although braving the storm isn’t the easiest part of shooting a big Hollywood blockbuster, as a kid from Brooklyn who could only dream of making it into such movies, it is a surreal experience to take part in.

Ramos could never have imagined being where he is now. Growing up, in high school, struggling with academics he decided to audition for the school talent show. As it turned out, though, the ‘talent show’ was actually a musical. Even after landing a role in the production, he never thought he’d be able to memorize all his lines and perform on stage. But his teacher encouraged him to continue. Years later, as he was about to graduate high school, his teacher encouraged and advocated for him, helping him earn a full-ride scholarship through the Jerry Seinfeld Foundation so he could continue to pursue acting and theater at the collegiate level.

As a growing star, it’s crucial for Ramos to keep work playful and to remember his journey. “Sometimes, you’ll be on set, there’s like that one person or two people, and they’re so serious. And you’re like, ‘You understand we’re playing make-believe, right?’ We’re actually paid to pretend. Granted, there are a lot of people spending a lot of money here right now, but the reality of it is we’re adults playing make-believe in the middle of a fucking farm field somewhere with this fucking machine that’s throwing water at us for rain, and two big ass fans,” Ramos says. “If we’re not gonna have fun doing it, then what’s the point?”

ALEXANDER MCQUEEN jacket, harness, and pants.

If a young Anthony Ramos could see himself all grown up, he’d sure be proud. As a kid, he loved watching movies. Transformers was one of his favorites. He remembers going to the theater in the 90s to see them all and watching Beast Wars: Transformers on television every time he could. “It was a big deal for me to have scenes with Optimus Prime, you know, like these characters, I grew up with them. Every weekend I would wait for that cartoon to come on. It was a part of that weekend lineup like Yu-Gi-Oh! And Pokémon and all those cartoons, and I would wait every weekend for Beast Wars to come on.” 

Ramos and his Transformers castmates were greeted with nearly real-size Transformer figurines when they landed in Vegas for CinemaCon. He wasn’t embarrassed to let his childhood glee spill out and jump up to give the figures high fives and hugs, something his castmates found to be a bit silly, but he couldn’t have cared less.

The film is set to release in June, and Ramos has yet to see it in its entirety, but much of his character’s backstory is based on himself. He’s a regular guy living in Brooklyn, on Wilson Avenue, the same street Ramos lived on. The apartment his character lives in mirrors Ramos’ childhood home. He sent director Steven Caple Jr. photos of his living room and bedroom growing up for inspiration on the set design. “There’s that fantastical element, but [we were] able to add these really personal things to the character, like where he’s from, the Puerto Rican flag in his room. We pan into his room and see all these posters, hip-hop posters, Wu-Tang Clan, all this, you know, Notorious B.I.G. on his wall.”

With so much of the character’s backstory based on Ramos, watching the film live will be emotional for him and his family, whose apartment will be replicated almost verbatim on the big screen. The entire cast and crew will gather in Brooklyn to watch the movie together for the first time. So, if you see Ramos on the red carpet come a few months with tears in his eyes, don’t give him a hard time.

ZEGNA jacket and top and CHRISHABANA earpiece.

Until the emotional premiere, Ramos is focusing on his music career. Search his name on Spotify, and you’ll see hundreds of millions of listens to songs he is featured on from the Hamilton, In the Heights, and even the Trolls World Tour, where Ramos voiced King Trollex.

You’ll also see his solo music with songs like “Por Que?” and his 2021 album, Love and Lies, that continue to thrive. He mixes elements of soul and hip-hop to create a unique sound of his own, where he blends English and Spanish lyrics. Singing and songwriting allows him to create without reigns. No director is telling him what his motivation is or how to deliver a line. His music is solely his. “[With] music, you can express yourself in a way that you just can’t in any other medium.”

As a kid, he struggled to express himself and communicate. Writing lyrics and creating accompanying melodies allows Ramos to turn emotions into inspiration. “Music just helps me process my feelings. It helps me think. I can be in a space where no one’s rushing me,” he says. “I think that search for joy is what keeps me writing songs.”

At his core, Ramos is always searching for joy. Whether it’s when he’s running through make-believe rain, high-fiving giant plastic Transformers statues, making songs that you can’t get out of your head, or celebrating another year on this flawed yet beautiful planet, Ramos is joyfully focusing on the now.

DIOR MEN jacket, skirt, pants, sunglasses, and rings.

Photographed by Williams Lords

Written by Audra McClain

Styled by John Tan 

Groomer: Galaxy San Juan

Flaunt Film: Warren Elgort

Styling Assistant: Chloe Cussen

Location: Studio 59 BK

No items found.
No items found.
Versace, Dion Lee, Hermès, Gucci, Hublot, Omega, Zegna, Chrishabana, Alexander McQueen,