Emily Tosta plays Liv a youth who is tried of living in a town of violent animatronics in Willy’s Wonderland. Liv risks her life to aid a quiet drifter (Nicolas Cage) in the story, and this fighting spirit is not just relegated to the silver screen.
Note: This is just a two minute video of Emily Tosta, as the rest of the video had a lag due to a shaky wi-fi connection (fyi – that was my fault – but the rest of the interview, transcript wise, is in our post!)
Emily Tosta came to the United States at 12 from the Dominican Republic with her mother. In 10 years she has learned English and carved out a flourishing acting career (Mayans M.C., Party of Five, Willy’s Wonderland). That said, this success was hard fought and was not an overnight process.
During an in-depth interview on the SUS: Share Ur Scare podcast, Tosta discussed her battle with ulcerative colitis and being hospitalized during COVID-19, and that account is definitely an eye-opening listen. Watching Liv (Tosta) duke it out with a bunch of animatronic mascots resonated a bit deeper upon my Willy’s Wonderland viewing. Thanks to another eccentric performance from Cage (he’s silent through the entire movie) and the feature’s off the wall plotline, Willy’s Wonderland is a thoroughly engaging watch.
Tosta talked to Deepest Dream about the film, the upcoming season of her beloved series Mayans M.C., the Karttos International foundation, and why The Shawshank Redemption is one of her favorite films (fyi we spotlighted that movie’s actually press junket on Matt and Greg Used To Interview Movie Stars).
The audio version of my chat with Emily Tosta is featured on the latest episode of CinemAddicts:
Emily Tosta: Hello!
Hi. How are you?
Emily Tosta: I’m good. How are you!
Great. By the way, I really enjoyed your film. I really loved it.
Emily Tosta: Oh awesome. That makes me so happy!
I’m a huge Nicolas Cage fan. Going into this project, were you a huge Nicolas Cage fan as well?
Emily Tosta: Of course, I thought that a super interesting element as well. To answer your question, I have been a huge Nicolas Cage fan since I was a little girl. I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and I used to watch all of his movies with my family over there. It was just always so much fun watching him on screen.
I thought he was such a brilliant actor so when I got the chance to work with him, I felt so honored and blessed. This is someone I obviously watch and I adore his work. He’s an Oscar winning actor so to be able to lead a film with him, it was such an honor. It was so so much fun.
What is the set of Willy’s Wonderland like with all those animatronics? It’s such a unique film and it will be hard to come across a movie like this.
Emily Tosta: Absolutely which is one of the reasons why I as soon I got the script, I was like ‘I’m going to do this.’ Because most likely I’m not going to get to do anything like this (again) in my career.
Yes it was definitely a rush. The set designers did a wonderful job with the sets and everything felt so realistic and there was that feel to it that it made our jobs so much easier. I was so much fun running away from them and all the action sequences and the fighting scenes and the stunts. Overall it was an awesome experience for sure.
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On the outside looking in, one can assume that you are an actress on the rise with Mayans M.C., the Party of Five reboot and Willy’s Wonderland as part of your resume. Look a little closer and you learned English when you were 12 or 13 and battled ulcerative colitis. Where do you get your strength from? I’m assuming your mother had a hand to play in your personal growth and perseverance.
Emily Tosta: Wow that was so beautiful. Well first of all, thank you so much for that. Yes, my strength comes definitely from my mother – a lot of it. She has always been my best friend and we moved to this country together to pursue my dream as an actress.
We both came out here with no legal status to work. Obviously Spanish was our language and we have been through a lot of hurdles and battles but at the end of the day, it’s an amazing thing that I get to do what I love and I get to help my family now. And our charity work, my mom and I have a foundation together that help the people from Venezuela and we get to have all these resources to be able to do what we love.
It’s such a blessing. It’s true what you say sometimes people say like ‘Oh this happened overnight.’ No it definitely didn’t. I have been working so hard since I was a little girl in my country and also moving out there. At the end of the day, the journey has been so pleasant and it has definitely made me the person and the actress that I am today. I’m grateful to every sing thing that has happened – even the bad things.
With Mayans M.C., I am assuming the huge community that has supported the show and your work, along with collaborating with a talented ensemble, are reasons you love doing the show.
Emily Tosta: Absolutely. The cast and crew that alone – we’re like a big family on set. It’s always so much fun working with everybody. That makes what you do so much more pleasant when you’re able to work with people that you get along with and people that you love and people that have been there for you throughout the seasons.
But as well, the audience. Oh my gosh. I am constantly blown away by the support from the audience every single day. Ever since we announced that season 3 was coming out it’s like everybody has been so excited and looking forward to it. We get so many messages of people saying ‘We can’t wait to watch the show and finally it’s coming back.’
That support means the world to us because obviously we make this for them. That’s the reason why we do what we do. It makes me feel so happy and so honored that we get to watch our show so religiously and they’re such big supporters and they love our work and that means the world to me.
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Can you talk about your producing and acting project Tito: Peace of Heaven? Is that currently in pre-production?
This is such a beautiful story and I can’t wait to share more when we obviously can. We are in the pre-production process. We are jumping into production soon and which is going to be very exciting. I am leading the film as well as having my first producer credit.
I take that very very proudly because I have always wanted to produce projects because as a Latina actress I have always wanted to bring more inclusion into TV & Film. Being able to be a produce and be on creative side of things allows me to do that. I think that is such a blessing. I am only 22 and there is so many things I want to do in life. I’m just excited to jump at all of them. I’m really honored to be able to have my first producer project.
Can you talk about the foundation you have with your mother?
Emily Tosta: So my mom is Venezuelan and all of the family on her side is in Venezuela. I don’t know if you know what’s going over there, but it’s a terrible social and political crisis. Hundred of people are dying every single day and they have such a big lack of normal, regular, basic resources that they don’t have access to.
Like water, food, medicine, clothing. It’s so heartbreaking what’s happening over there. My mom and I wanted to create this charity called Karttos International in order for us to help them. We do these food banks that we host over there and we work with a shipping center hear called Olarte and they allow us to bring food, medicine and clothing over there. We host these events every single month. Overall we’ve been able to feed over 40,000 people throughout the years. It’s been such a blessing and we have the support of so many people.
Even my castmates from Mayans M.C., they’ve donated so much. I just picked up a bag of clothes from Emilio’s (actor Emilio Rivera) house. Everybody is just so wonderful and kind and it’s amazing we are all able to do this together.
Check out our latest Find Your Film podcast as we review the Tom Holland feature Cherry and the documentary Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry:
Can you name one of your favorite films and what is it about this movie that still resonates with your?
Emily Tosta: Oh my gosh, that is such a difficult question because I feel there are so many films throughout the years that I have adored. Honestly, this might be a weird answer but The Shawshank Redemption to me is just such a brilliant film.
I feel like the acting in that, the writing, and the plotline. There is just so much about that movie that I adore. I could watch that movie . . . I have watched that movie over 10 times and I can watch it 10 times more and be okay with it. That’s when you know I really love a film when I can watch it countless times and not mind it.
Emily, thank you so much for your time, really loved your film, and hope to talk with you again down the road.
Emily Tosta: Of course. Thank you so much. It was nice meeting you.
Willy’s Wonderland is now available everywhere On Demand.
If you want to hear Tosta discuss the ending of Willy’s Wonderland as well as see the entire video of Tosta (again, apologize for the Zoom lags), check CinemAddicts out on Patreon!