Actor Jencarlos Canela changes gears, embraces singing career

Jencarlos Canela sings the national anthem before a Heat game in 2012. Last week he performed at the Billboard Latin Music Awards.
Jencarlos Canela sings the national anthem before a Heat game in 2012. Last week he performed at the Billboard Latin Music Awards. el Nuevo Herald File

Jencarlos Canela is a double threat. The bilingual hunk, who costars on the NBC comedy Telenovela with Eva Longoria and starred as Jesus in Fox’s Easter special, The Passion, put on his singer’s hat last week at the Billboard Latin Music Awards.

The Miami native and New World School of the Arts grad hit the stage at the BankUnited Center, along with reggaeton singer Lennox, leaving the audience wanting more of his newest single, Baby.

The 28-year-old performer — who recently started going by just his first name professionally — talked to us before the Telemundo show about his newfound career as a recording artist.

With “Baby,” why did you decide to get into reggaeton style?

What I love about reggae’s rhythm is that it crosses over very well to what we’re doing in English, which is a little bit of that Miami Sound Machine-, Lionel Richie-type of vibe. You can also hear the patterns in some of Sting or Michael Jackson’s stuff. They’re all a huge influence on what I’m doing. I just love that rhythm that gets you going, that gets you started. Reggae puts you in a good mood.

You seem to tap into a sensual side with your music, and your video for “Baby” is pretty sexy.

I feel there is a big taboo in society with everything that has to do with sex and the female or male body. It’s pretty crazy. If we were made this way, then why be ashamed of it? If we feel this attraction for each other, and we want to be together? Of course, you have to protect yourself, and you have to protect your emotions and feelings and know who you’re dealing with, but there shouldn’t be so much shame associated with [sex]. I’m against all that censored bull crap. I enjoy singing about things that might shock some people, but I think it’s more about the positives and feeling happiness and love.

How did you like collaborating with Lennox, from the reggaeton duo Zion y Lennox?

He’s a very distinct character, and he’s got a heart of gold, a humble guy. He believes in the project, believes in the music we’re doing, believes in the song, so it’s been amazing working with him. We are very grateful for the support and love people are showing.

It must have been a proud moment for you at the Billboard Awards, held in your hometown. How do you define being a Latino?

The world is changing, and we have to change with it or if not we just stay behind. The way I see it is that it’s no longer two separate worlds. I don’t feel 50 percent American and 50 percent Hispanic. I feel 100 percent American and 100 percent Hispanic. I was born and raised in the States, with the Latin culture, with my Latin family. I don’t see that division. I know it’s real. I know it exists, but it’s not real to me. I just am what I am. I was born and raised a bilingual, bicultural, Latin American, and I feel like I can never leave either world.