Stephanie Beatriz’s voice is everywhere these days, from singing in In the Heights and Encanto to hosting podcasts like Tejana and her latest series, Twin Flames. All this — particularly her turn as the bubbly teenager Mirabel in Encanto — may be an unexpected twist for fans who know her mainly as the tough but lovable (and monotone) detective Rosa Diaz on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But Beatriz credits one of her acting heroes, Bryan Cranston — who experienced his own transformation from Malcom in the Middle dad to Breaking Bad anti-hero — as inspiration for her chosen roles. “That’s the kind of stuff that I want to do. I wanna do stuff that’s surprising, surprises me but surprises an audience and makes them feel transported,” said Beatriz.
In her newest endeavor, Twin Flames, Beatriz examines how far people will go searching for their true love. The podcast follows the teachings of YouTubers Jeff and Shaleia Ayan, who say that they have found the secret to finding true love with “twin flames.” A twin flame is described as: a guru, a best friend, a “perfect divine complement and counterpart,” “perfect partner,” and “ultimate lover”; essentially, in this world, your twin flame is your ultimate companion in every part of your life. The leaders of the Twin Flames universe, Jeff and Shaleia Ayan, gained popularity on YouTube and eventually grew into paid courses, the most expensive package being $7,000. However, as the show examines the different lives affected by the Ayans, their followers cross the line of love to obsession and cultlike behavior.
Vulture chats with Beatriz — who had her baby, Rosaline, with her — about obsession, Jeff and Shaelia’s motives, and, yes, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”
What was your first introduction to the Twin Flames story, and what hooked you into making a podcast about it?
I read the Vanity Fair article when it was initially published, and I was absolutely astounded by the creators of it, the Twin Flames universe. [Laughs.] Please tell your readers, “Insert laugh here.” But I also know the structure of a podcast like this needs to be written. Brennan Elizabeth Peters is the writer on Twin Flames, and she’s a friend of mine. She said, “I’m working on this story podcast with Wondery. It’s really incredible. Would you be interested in working on it with me?” As soon as she’s told me about it, I was like, absolutely!
After working on the show, do you see dating websites and apps differently?
I met my husband, whose name is Brad, on a dating site, and he’s not anybody that I would have ever met otherwise. We know very few people in common; he’s just completely outside of my world that I built in Los Angeles, where I live. And if it wasn’t for that dating website, I never would have come across him. He told me many times that he’s not the kind of person that goes up to other people at parties or in bars; he’s just too nervous. So I’m really grateful to God, the internet, and technology in general.
Obviously, there’s a downside to all this. The internet can be one of the nicest places, and it can also be one of the cruelest, meanest. Unfortunately, relationships and dating can be part of that. They can be transactional, they can be cruel, and there’s a lot of like lying or ghosting and treating other people like shit because you don’t have to see their face when you say something mean. That’s a tricky question to answer. I’m not fully sure how to answer. I’ll say this: I did meet my now husband on a dating app, but I quickly tried to get us off of the app and meet in real life. Maybe the third or fourth message back and forth I was like, “Do you wanna meet up for coffee or a drink?” Because I wanted to see who he was in real life versus messaging back and forth and creating some kind of story about who he was versus who he actually was as a person.
What have you learned about cults and obsession while working on this podcast?
I think I’ve learned that obsessions start small. No one is going to come out and say to a group of people, “Hello, I’m a cult leader. I’d like you to join my cult.” That’s usually not how it starts. It starts small. It starts with, “Oh, you have questions. I might have the answers for you. I definitely have the answers.” The sessions start small. It starts with little things. And you say, “Well, this is the most important thing. This is the community that I belong to, so I wanna impress them. Or I wanna feel like I deeply belong, or I wanna feel important to this community.” In the world of Twin Flames, you buy more classes; you attend more seminars, you message more people inside. In the Twin Flames universe, you make more friends that are also taking these classes and suddenly turn around, and your whole world is Twin Flames. All of your friends, all of your clothes, all of your close relationships are all tide into this, for lack of a better word, a cult. Now, as you push back and question the cult, you are now in danger of losing the thing that is your relationships, feeling close to other human beings. It’s kind of presenting itself as a community that you can be a member of and learn from, and yet it’s deeply controlling, manipulative, and cruel.
Were there any stories from the Twin Flames followers on the podcast that you resonated with?
My God, I love Angie. I think Angie is just a chef’s kiss of a person; she’s so sweet. She’s so loving. She’s really searching for something that a lot of us are searching for, which is love. To be loved. To love someone else really deeply. She’s generous with her love. Unfortunately, Angie just got sucked into the whirlpool of the Twin Flames universe. I just think her story is so good. As you follow along, you emphasize, and you can see yourself in her. You can see how little by little she gives over more and more control, and it’s in service to which she thinks is bettering herself. Sometimes, it’s just so hard to hear what she’s going through because I just fell in love with [her], and she’s so sweet.
Do you think Jeff and Shaleia Ayan are scammers?
Let me ask you the same question!
I think so if you’re charging like $2,000 for classes. I mean, that’s a lot of money.
Dude! What accreditation do Jeff and Shaleia have? They aren’t therapists. They’re not offering any courses in life coaching. In fact, they’ve made up their own course. Where they are the gurus, but now Jeff saying he’s pretty much the second coming of God. I have to be careful what I say because that universe is very strong. But I think Jeff and Shaleia were really deeply in love with each other, and maybe at one point they really thought, “Gosh we have something super special, and we wanna share it with the world.” They have also profited from the pain of a lot of people. I think anytime that that’s happening, we’ve got to turn in on ourselves and say to ourselves, “What am I doing, and why have I created this universe?” Is it really, truly to help other people find the ones they love or is it maybe something a little darker?
What draws you to podcasts about dating?
To me, one of the coolest things about Twin Flames is the sort of effect that it’s had that affecting had on people that have gone into it and come out of it. And this mixture of, it’s about people trying to find love, but it’s also about whether or not the people, at the head of it Jeff and Shaleia, are doing it for, quoting the people from The Bachelor, are they doing it for the right reasons? I think that’s the most interesting part of Twin Flames. It’s interesting to listen to people getting caught up in it and how much they want love, and how far are they willing to go to get it. But the people that head it, do they know what they’re doing? Do they know the effect that they’re having on people’s lives? And if so, how did they sleep at night? I think that’s the thing that we all love about true-crime podcasts like you listen to these true stories like how do these people sleep at night? That’s sort of part of the great mystery of it. That’s why you wanna keep listening as a listener.
You’ve lent your voice to Twin Flames, Tejana, Encanto, and In The Heights. Is there something about doing voice roles that appeals to you?
I really love storytelling in all its forms. I just finished a run of a play in the West End. I was really excited about doing it. I love being on television, and I love being filmed. I think for voice acting, it’s just this incredibly cool, very imaginative space where you can really become something completely different. One of my personal acting heroes is Mark Hamill. He is so talented, and I don’t know if you knew this, but he was the joker on Batman Returns. Did you know that?
I loved his character growing up. Hold on, my kid is crying I’m gonna check on her. [To baby:] Hi, are you okay? See, I’m doing voice acting right now.
I think it’s just a cool world to disappear into, to be somebody completely different. You get to be something totally new, and you’re not restricted by many of the things that normally restrict actors. It’s just you and your imagination in the story. I think that’s so fun. It’s so expressive; so much can happen through the expression of sound and voice. I think that’s really; it’s a magical thing. The original storytelling is people sitting around the fire and just talking. [To baby:] Hello! I’m interested to see how you transcribe this part of the interview.
I’ll figure out a way to! How does the process for preparing for a voice role differ from other kinds of acting roles?
Everything you need is the script, how your character talks about other people, how other characters talk about you, stage directions, and settings, it’s on there. I think about the script a lot when I’m playing anything because the road maps [are there], the treasure map really. There are all sorts of secrets that you can find inside that script. The more you read the script, the more secrets you discover. The more things are uncovered while you’re working toward the performance.
Now that Encanto is so big, is your voice in even more demand these days?
I have been out of the country while all of this Encanto stuff started happening. I’ve been in the U.K., I’ve been in Great Britain, in London most of the time. I’ve been working there. I’ve been lucky enough to do a few small things, but that schedule is a bit intense, doing theater is kind of an intense schedule. I don’t know the answer to that. I’m excited for the future, excited to see what else I get to do. What other stories I get to tell, what other projects I get to be in.
I like actors like, one of my favorite actors is Bryan Cranston and I think the thing that I like about him so much is that he went from doing this goofy dad character on Malcolm in the Middle to this really intensely, iconic, scary role in Breaking Bad. Those two things are so vastly different and yet the same dude played both parts, the same actor played both roles. That’s the kind of stuff that I want to do. I wanna do stuff that’s surprising, surprises me but surprises an audience and makes them feel transported.
How do you choose what Encanto TikToks to share on your socials? I imagine there are so many that get sent to you.
That’s so sweet. I don’t know. It’s just so nice to see them all. It’s so nice to see all these different kinds of people enjoying the movie. That’s the best part of it. Like all the different kinds of people is like Miz Cracker, the drag queen, shared [a TikTok] with me today. They’re all so different and amazing and incredible, and people are so creative. I mean, it’s a very fun moment; I don’t think I’ll ever forget this for the whole rest of my life.
What is the weirdest context in which you’ve heard “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”?
[To baby:] What do you think? I know the weird thing about the song is I think my baby knows it already. She’s six months and like she knows all the music already, and she knew it at a freakishly early age. Probably because she was in my belly when we were recording it, but she recognized the songs very early. Like, too early, question mark?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.