Emily Tosta Battles Chuck E. Cheese-Like Characters From Hell in ‘Willy’s Wonderland’

Lead Photo: Courtesy of Screen Media Films
Courtesy of Screen Media Films
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You may not know Munch’s Make-Believe Band by name, but chances are you’ve seen them play live if you ever went to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese as a kid. A trip to the family-friendly chain restaurant might have been loads of fun for any 6-year-old with a pocket full of video game tokens and a craving for greasy pepperoni pizza, but there was always something unnerving about the animatronic band, whose members included guitarist Jasper Jowls and drummer Pasqually Pieplate.

While animatronic entertainment has since been phased out at the pizza place, a new horror movie hitting VOD on Friday (Feb. 12) will likely recall some of those nightmarish feelings the dead-eyed robots of your childhood delivered with every visit. Willy’s Wonderland stars Nicolas Cage (Mandy) as an unnamed janitor at a family entertainment center. He gets pulled into the fight of his life when a set of possessed animatronic robots set their sights on murdering him and a group of teens who break into the venue.

One of those teen troublemakers is Liv Hawthorne, played by Dominican actress Emily Tosta. Tosta starred in the first and only season of the Party of Five remake on TV and will continue her role as Leticia Cruz on season 3 of TV’s Mayans M.C., which premieres March 16. During production for Willy’s Wonderland, the similarities between the movie’s animatronic characters and Munch’s Make-Believe Band were not lost on her.

“Every time we were on set, we would talk about Chuck E. Cheese,” Tosta, 22, tells Remezcla during a recent interview. “I’ve been to Chuck E. Cheese before. Imagine [those characters], but they’re trying to kill you and you’re trying to run away.”

The horror genre was something Tosta had been wanting to try for a while. She had acted in dramas and done some comedy before, but she knew facing off against a gang of possessed robots would be a completely different experience.

“I’ve never done a project like this before,” she says. “There’s a lot of mystery, action, and horror. It was a very fun environment, and working alongside someone like Nicolas Cage was such a wonderful thing.”

Tosta says that as a Latina working in Hollywood, she is always conscious of the projects she takes on and that she looks for TV shows and films that are inclusive. She hopes to continue to do that in her young career, whether she accepts a role that is specifically Latina or not.

“Something I always strive for is to play these characters and keep my roots and my culture in place,” she says. “Representation is something we definitely need more of in our industry.”

Willy’s Wonderland hits VOD platforms Feb. 12.