‘Encanto’s Adassa Was ‘Paralyzed’ & ‘Couldn’t Speak’ Due To Mystery Illness When She Landed Role

Adassa was bedridden & hardly able to speak, let alone sing, when she learned she booked the role of Dolores in 'Encanto.'

Just a day after auditioning for the role of Dolores in Disney’s Encanto, Adassa found herself fighting for her life when her body was ravaged by a mysterious illness, possibly due to post-COVID complications. “I thought I was pregnant, I went to take a blood test and it was negative. They started checking to see what was the issue, and as I was there in the hospital, little by little, I wasn’t able to speak, I started slurring my words, and then my legs were falling asleep, I couldn’t move my arms. They couldn’t figure out what was going on,” the singer recalled on the HollywoodLife Podcast. “The night before, I was singing and rapping Hamilton in an audition, and now I can’t move my mouth.”

Doctors believed that Adassa could have been suffering from a stroke, but after running more tests, doing an MRI and a CT Scan, they still were unsure what was wrong. Due to COVID protocols, her husband was not allowed to come be with her, so the mother of seven made the decision to check out of the hospital and be with her family. “I said, ‘I just need to go home. I don’t want to die here, if this is what’s happening,” she recalled. A friend in the medical field suggested the singer go to Vanderbilt Hospital for further observation, but after being poked, prodded and told they didn’t know what was happening, Adassa returned home once again, unable to even “walk herself out” of the hospital.

Adassa. (Gabriel Candiani)

“I wrote my will out. I kissed kids. I couldn’t hold them, which was the worst,” she emotionally revealed to HL. “I’ve been married to the same man for almost 25 years, but the way that he just loved me so deeply and without reservation during moments where I was just completely paralyzed in the shower and I couldn’t even move my feet. And he would lift me out naked and place me on the bed…”

Adassa remembered feeling like she could “die happy,” because she was able to “tell [her] grandmother’s story” and “tell [her] mother’s story” during her Encanto audition. “It lives immortalized in these people’s minds. I did my job. I did my family proud,” she looked back. After trying to regain her mobility over a few weeks and changing to an all-vegan diet to rehab her body, Adassa received a call from renowned casting director Jamie Sparer Roberts, telling her she got the role of Dolores in Encanto. “My husband covered the phone and he said, ‘I think we need to tell her you can’t take it.’ And I told him, ‘You only call her if I’m dead.'”

Adassa’s character Dolores from ‘Encanto.’ (Everett)

The urban Reggaeton singer admitted she “trained like Rocky” for the next three weeks to prepare to shoot the film. “Miraculously, within three weeks, I felt like I had conquered the world,” Adassa recalled. One thing that worked out in her favor was the director’s idea for Dolores to have a “soft spoken voice,” which was about as much as Adassa could muster at that point, anyway. “I had to speak very low and very softly, so when he said that, I was like, ‘That’s where I’ve been, anyway!” she laughed.

Now, Adassa’s song from Encanto, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” is breaking records as it sits on the top of the charts for its seventh consecutive week, and her iconic hush-hush bit in the song continues to be viral on TikTok. “It’s such a fun song. It’s the story of many characters being told. They’re telling their vision of Bruno,” she explained. “We still can’t believe [the success]. We’re pinching ourselves. We are just so grateful to all the people who are cosplaying the characters, who are dancing to the music or just sharing it and reenacting parts of the film, because they have made it what it’s become — this super massive hit that is broken so many records.”

Listen to the full HollywoodLife Podcast interview with Adassa and be sure to stream Encanto on Disney+!

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