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This local Filipina scored a role on the big screen in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'

Courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment
Mary Rivera in "Spider-Man: No Way Home"

Have you seen the movie "Spider-Man: No Way Home"? If not, then you may not know that a short clip in the film made many Filipinos burst with pride.

Hawaiʻi resident Mary Rivera played a small role as Lola, the Tagalog-speaking grandmother of Spider-Man's best friend Ned — played by Jacob Batalon, also from Hawaiʻi.

Rivera's daughter Angie Kelly spoke to The Conversation about how her mom made it on the big screen.

"I happened to be on a friend's Facebook scrolling, and I see an ad, a casting call looking for a local Hawaiʻi Filipina grandmother between the age of 50 and 90. And immediately I thought, 'Oh, well my mom qualifies and checks off all those boxes,'" Kelly said.

Rivera was a little reluctant at first, but eventually, she agreed. A young family member helped Rivera film an audition tape and send it off to the casting team.

"They just asked her to talk about herself and why she wanted to do the role. So she just gave a brief history of her time in the Philippines and what brought her to the United States, and raising her four children and 11 grandchildren — and basically that that is her biggest accomplishment of everything that she's done," Kelly told The Conversation. "My mom has worn many hats over the years. She was a radio broadcaster, a teacher, but most notable was her role as a mother and grandmother."

She said Rivera is still getting used to her new celebrity status.

"It's been an amazing adventure. To us, she's just my mom. But to the rest of the world, she's Ned's Lola," Kelly said. "It's humbling really, because never before in cinematic history really has there been a place for the Filipino language and culture. They did a really good job with paying attention to the details of our culture."

This interview aired on The Conversation on May 31, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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