ATLANTA — Angelo Diaz has grown accustomed to wearing many hats. Adding to his already many roles, Diaz was named the Executive Creative Director for the resurging and rebranded Copacabana. In 1978, the famous night club had the spotlight as Barry Manilow released his popular song, “Copacabana (At the Copa)” The pandemic shutdown the last known version of the famous night club, however, Diaz and crew are embarking on a tour that will reintroduce the Copacabana to those familiar as well as those who aren’t quiet familiar with the iconic venue. Diaz also has his sight set on artists making live albums from the Copa again like in the past. You can hear the excitement in his voice when discussing the plans for the famed venues’ return.
Angelo Diaz also opens up to Zenger News about upcoming projects while remaining in solidarity with his fellow actors during the SAG-AFTRA strike.
Zenger: You have a lot going on. Give us the latest and greatest.
Diaz: It’s been a lot. “ATL Homicide” season 4 just finished airing a couple of months ago. I got some exciting projects coming to the forefront. I can’t speak too much about them because I’m standing in solitude with the strikes, but very exciting times. A couple of projects coming to BET, an independent project called, “Soul Ties” that I’m very excited about. We’re figuring out where that’s going to land as we speak. We have a couple of different offers on the table. That was extremely challenging for me because the range that role has, the emotional journey of that role… it’s a thriller, it’s a horror… it’s a suspense, and romance all bundled in one. I’m excited about what that project represents as far as a current narrative with our generation, how we connect with people, and how we fail to realize at times that when we’re connected romantically, we’re actually building ties. This project reflects on those soul ties that we’re building with each other. You always want art that reflects on things that way.
The stage play, “Lorraine Motel” that we debuted in Atlanta last month and we’re returning to Atlanta in mid-September, that whole project is awesome. It’s historical. It reflects on the Lorraine Motel itself in Memphis. But it uses that platform to reflect on the entire Civil Rights movement. The art, the figure heads, the people, the different viewpoints of the Civil Rights movement, because everyone wasn’t on the same page. That project is amazing, and I get to play somebody that inspired me in life and it has been a goal of mine and a dream role for years, but I play Harry Belafonte. It’s a huge blessing and opportunity for me. It’s an amazing cast. We got people portraying Richard Pryor, Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, Coretta Scott King, Ike and Tina Turner. Very powerful stuff.
Zenger: Could you explain the premise behind the SAG-AFTRA strike?
Diaz: It’s time! It’s time for a massive shift. I don’t think the business dealings between producers, writers, and actors and the large studios and streaming platforms in the world haven’t been on the same page. We haven’t reorganized the structure of things since the boom of streaming. Streaming came and changed the entire game. A lot more money has been made and hasn’t been distributed in a fair way. You get to the point where you have CO’s and execs of companies making 6 figures, making 7 figures, when the people who write this stuff aren’t making that much. AI [Artificial Intelligence] is a massive issue that we need to speak about. These large corporations that we’re dealing with, the ones reflected by the A&P TMP have shown that they will put their process and their bottom line above everything else. In doing so, we need to create a status quo, we need to draw a line in the sand as far as AI and what we’re willing to let AI do. It makes for some beautiful special effects, but AI is not going to replace or supplement screenwriters or actors. One of my favorite signs that I seen in the pickets that went viral, but it said, “AI doesn’t have childhood trauma.” You can’t replicate human pain, joy, love, sorrow, triumph, conquest, and defeat. Not only that but as humans, we’re not going to put up with the vastness of corporate greed, and unchecked corporate greed. If we allow it to, they will use AI to do everything, that way they can just walk away with the bottom line. That’s the line in the sand that we need to draw.
But there are a lot of other issues on the table as well like the residuals. It’s tough because it’s a dialogue that needed to happen, and with this new streaming you have people who pay for subscriptions. It used to be a movie that hit the theatres made X amount of dollars. You could actually see how much it made. A TV show hits the airwaves, a network could see how much that TV show made through advertisements and what people paid for those commercials. With streaming it’s hard to tell how much, “House of Cards” made for Netflix. It’s hard to tell how much the Kevin Hart standups made for Netflix. It’s hard to tell that because they don’t share that information. The same with Hulu, HBO Max, and some of the more popular streaming platforms of today. It’s hard for them to even know how much this directly made us. This did drive real subscriptions to the page, did this keep customers, were people considering canceling and then “Game of Thrones” came out?
At the end of the day, what’s not hard to tell is, they made billions. A lot of that is off the back of screenwriters, off the back of actors. There are issues that affect actors of all ranges, people on top of the game right now to the people on the come up. There’s technology available where somebody could come in and a platform could pay them $150, and they’re going to scan their likeness. They’re going to scan them from head to toe, take their likeness, sign the waiver, and that entity could use their likeness in perpetuity, and all that person got was $150. And their stories are coming to the forefront because of these strikes. Take the guy Zordon [David J. Fielding] from Power Rangers. The guy who would come tell them the mission with his hologram face, that actor made less than a $1,000 for that role. And we’re talking about a franchise that has made billions on TV alone. Add the merchandise and actions figures, we’re talking about an empire here. Per his own testimony he only made a $1,000, because he came in for a day or so and they scanned his likeness, and they were able to repeat it for a few seasons. Who is that fair to?
Zenger: You have a new position with the rebranding and reemerging Copacabana. Tell us about it.
Diaz: I want to give a huge shout out to Charles Shibetti. He is the general involved with the Copacabana. He brought me and my team in. I have the opportunity to bring this into the next era. He was responsible for bringing it to Fort Lauderdale about 10 years ago. He was responsible for the last rendition of it that was up in Times Square, 4 floors. The more people I talk to about the Copacabana, they automatically go back to the 40’s and 50’s when it started, and into when it became a disco club in the 70’s and 80’s. I don’t think people realize that it’s been kicking since then, but the pandemic shutdown the last version of it, and now we’re bringing it back. It’s perfect timing. One of my favorite isms about the Copa when I talk about it is, she misses it, and she hasn’t even been there yet. It was partly responsible for the successful careers of the Frank Sinatra’s and Tony Bennett’s because it was all about breaking new artists into the mainstream. We’re talking about the first place that Lena Horne performed.People like Harry Belafante performing there, The Supremes, and The Temptations, Sam Cooke, when that was considered taboo around that time. People don’t know but all the way up to Nicki Minaj, Fat Joe were recently hosting when All-Star weekend was in New York City. Willie Colon was there for opening night at their newest location. It’s up to the current times, so I’m in an exciting position to figure out how does it translate into this new era. My imagination goes crazy. We’re talking about expanding and returning to the South Florida market, Miami this time. Returning to the Vegas market, because it was at the Sands Hotel until 1996.
The Copa Room. That’s actually where Frank Sinatra recorded his first live album. When I start thinking about the music programming, the comedic programing, I get excited thinking about translating this into the next era. We’re talking about a place where Adele and Future can co-exist in the same place and find comforting homes there. I got propositions on the table, Rick Ross live albums from the Copacabana. Sam Cooke, The Supremes, and The Temptations all charted with their live albums from the Copa. I think about a Drake and Future live album at the Copacabana. Adele live album at the Copacabana. Burna Boy doing a live album from the Copacabana. Copacabana merch, Copacabana hotel, but it all starts with this tour. So, what we’re gonna do over the next year and a half, we’re going to tour the country. We’re going to hit a lot of events that are important to the culture. We debuted at Miami Swim Week with the Copa Tour. That went really well, and we got some plans to announce some upcoming tour dates really soon. I’m excited to be able to reach around the country and touch people that haven’t felt the magic of the Copacabana yet.