Anthony, the singer and husband of Jennifer Lopez, plays old-school salsa star Lavoe in the upcoming biopic "El Cantante." Lavoe is credited with bringing salsa to the United States before dying in 1993 at age 46 after struggling with drug addiction.
"He painted this clear picture of what you could be if you put your mind to it, but how painful a life you could live if you made the wrong choices," Anthony told The Associated Press as he kicked off a concert tour in San Juan.
Lopez co-stars in "El Cantante," which premiered last month at the Toronto Film Festival and is expected to reach theaters next year. She took on the project nearly five years ago after Lavoe's widow approached her with a script and asked the pop star to consider playing her.
"Once I read the script, I knew there was something about their life, the relationship they had, that was compelling to watch," Lopez said.
The film traces Lavoe's rise from Puerto Rico to stardom in New York, where his sold-out concerts and best-selling albums gave way to drug addiction and a strained marriage. At one of Lavoe's lowest points, he was performing an outdoor concert in Puerto Rico in 1988 when promoters cut the power because a nearby festival had left him with a small audience. That night, he jumped from the ninth-floor balcony of his hotel, but survived with severe injuries.
Anthony said he aimed to portray not an icon but a "tormented soul."
"I got tired of people saying, 'Oh Hector Lavoe, he's the guy who jumped and the drug addict,"' he said. "I was focusing on making it as personal as possible. What did he go through that day? What pushed him over the edge? What made him make some of those destructive decisions?"