Singer and Queen of Tejano music Selena Quintanilla continues to be a prevalent source of inspiration for fans and entertainers worldwide 25 years after her passing. Her talent, humor and music were unmatched, and although people know her from her recording catalogue, archived videos and the dramatization of her life through Jennifer Lopez’s star-making role in 1997’s “Selena: The Movie”, not much media is out there about the time before she made it big, nor the intricacies of her family life.
Netflix’s new show “Selena: The Series” hopes to tell her overall story while filing it with another side of Selena and her life, one that only those closest to the Quintanilla family ever got to know. The series is Executive Produced by Selena’s real sister, Suzette Quintanilla.
Starring Christian Serratos as Selena, Gabriel Chavarria as A.B., Ricardo Chavira as Abraham Jr., Noemí Gonzalez as Suzette and Seidy López as Marcella, the show is focused on the innerworkings of the family and their journey as a team with the ultimate goal of breaking into the English market with Selena’s music and becoming the most successful female Latin artist of all time.
Part 1 of the series is out December 4, with another part coming at a later date. Recently we had the opportunity to interview most of the actors that make up the Quintanilla clan, which includes Gabriel Chavarria, Ricardo Chavira, Noemí Gonzalez and Seidy López. The following is there various experiences working on the show and their approaches to playing their respective characters.
Hello guys, thanks so much for the time. To start off, in “Selena: The Series” basically all the family members are fleshed out through the episodes. I was wondering what it was like to interpret Marcela and Suzette and how you managed flesh those characters out, essentially. Did you happen to work with the family?
So unfortunately, I didn’t get to work with Marcella directly before I started production. But what I did is I found a video that was extremely helpful to me and that was a Mother’s Day special. And they asked Selena to describe what her mother meant to her. And after she answered, they asked her mother what it meant to be a mom.
And the way that Marcella answered that question and all of the beautiful emotion that she gave and just the way she answered it said so much to me. And watching that, I was like, that’s what I needed. That that is Marcella. That is the core of Marcella: loving mother, inner strength, caring, nurturing, supportive. And so, I went with that and I watched that video so many times, you know, and I was just like taking it all in all of those levels that she gave me in that answer and I built from that.
So that was my foundation. And from that, I built on it. And also, Suzette was very generous, and she gave us some audio where she described events in the family, where she described her relationship with her mom and her dad and other things. Between those two things, they were golden.
Those were the two things that helped me just kind of navigate and develop Marcella. Most importantly was once I committed to that, I said, OK, now I have to dig in and give it my heart. And that’s what I could do, just lead with that. And that’s how I developed my character.
I developed my character, the way Seidy just had the one video, I knew that I had Suzette post grief, so I had to use [videos] as the second half of my setup. Where was she before this? And also, all the performance clips that I could find. I also listened to the tapes that Suzette so generously provided. And not only was I listening, I had to listen to them more than once, of course, because one time I was listening just to get her sound, and then another time I was listening to really feel the essence of those memories and of those stories and how they were going to be interpreted in the series.
So that was really, really cool to get to do that. And then I think a very strong element was learning the drums. My experience and learning the drums really was demanding. So, whatever I experience, I imagined, “how did little Suzette experience this next to her very talented, musically enthusiastic siblings.” It really helped me shape the character.
How would you describe your interpretations of A.B. and Abraham Quintanilla in the show?
For me, I think, A.B. [is] a very, very honest portrayal, I mean, that’s the way I approach it. You know, A.B. cared about his family. He cared about his family just as much as Selena and every member of the Quintanilla family did. They really loved each other, they really cared for each other, and they’re a family that’s working together, you know, and that’s very unique. You don’t really have that so much. So, they understood what they wanted to do, they knew what their goals were, they knew what they wanted to do, they knew how they wanted to do it.
And ultimately, they did that because they were always there for each other. They made sure to stick with each other, especially during the toughest times. And you’ll be able to see that in the show.
Ricardo Antonio Chavira
Well, you know, I’m from South Texas, you know, I am Mexican-American. Abraham is of a certain age and of a certain generation, my father is close to him in age and of that exact same generation. So, you know, I had as well as a lot of my tios, so I had a very deep well of information to draw from.
I also am a father, I have I have a teenage boy and a girl and I would consider myself probably an old school style parent, you know, maybe a little bit stricter than most. So, there was a lot of information, a lot of things that I was reading in the script that were already readily accessible to me. But I wanted to make sure and do my due diligence.
And so I studied a lot of Abraham’s interviews so that I could understand, hear his cadence in the way he talked and his demeanor and the way he held himself during these public interviews and then just used my background as a Mexican-American man and the Mexican-American men in my life to inform me how to go about making decisions when we were interpreting these scenes as a family.
What do you think people will be surprised to find out or see regarding your characters in this show or what do you think they might be happy to see in regard to your characters?
I think people are going to be surprised to see Selena not in her signature look yet. It takes time to get to a signature look, you know, and so they’re going to see her during the coming of age of that star.
That’s going to be something that’s going to be really fun and nostalgic to go back to the eighties and to see how Selena was with those times, and how the rest of the family also rocked themselves in those in those vibes. So older generation can really be like, “I remember wearing that and like, oh, Selena did this, A.B. did that, Marcella did that, oh, my goodness.” So, I think that’ll be a real fun element to seeing Selena’s roots.
I think with Marcella, what they’re going to get to see is just how involved she really was behind the scenes, how she participated in some of the decisions, in making sure that the kids were OK, in stepping in when they needed certain things.
And her and Abraham were kind of a team. They were they were partners. Yes, he was the leader and the front man and the person that took care of the business. But when it came to the home, you know, I think Marcella had a big say there. And it’s going to be nice for people to get to see that part of their relationship and also the relationship within the whole family. You know, just how close they really are and how they all participated in, and everything that they all gave to make this work and to support Selena into becoming who she became, you know.
Were there any challenges that you can speak on when other fleshing out the characters or during the shooting, any type of challenges like that you might remember?
I think for me was definitely learning how to play the bass. I never played an instrument, so that was definitely was one of the challenges, I would say. But, you know, once you started picking it up, you know, it was started to become really, really fun to play. And I really like the instrument. I have my own bass now, so and it was fun, you know, it was fun. And I got to say, A.B. was really good, man.
It’s you know, he’s writing these hit songs. He’s playing the bass. He’s up there dancing with Selena, he was an amazing, amazing performer just as much as the rest of Selena and Los Dinos were.
You know, we started this back in October of 2019, and we, you know, we were working for those few months and then we took our holiday break and then we came back and started working and we were really hitting our stride.
And I thought we were getting a lot of great stuff with the concert performances, a lot of the intimate, intimate scenes that we were doing with the family dynamic. I think everybody was really clicking on all cylinders. And then we got hit with COVID, you know, and all of a sudden, we got to slam on the brakes and completely halt production for five and a half months. So, I would say that was that was pretty damn challenging.
You know, when it’s like you’re rolling as a production and as the actors and we’re cooking and really the feeling these characters, and then we have to take this huge break, and then come back and try and find “it”. I’m not saying that it took a little bit of time, I think everybody came back and was ready to work and was happy to be back working. But, you know, it created its own set of complications with the protocols and stuff.
So it was a very there were a lot of things that were going on in the world as we were shooting this production that I think frames it in such a way that it’s a production that none of us will ever forget.
How do you think that Selena the Series contributes to the legacy of Selena?
It contributes to the legacy of Selena immensely. Number one, it’s been about roughly 20 years since we’ve had a presentation of Selena to the public in this manner. Not only is it a whole new generation that gets to meet her, but also with the help of Netflix having such accessibility globally, more people are going to see all over the world, not only that bicultural experience, Mexican-American experience, family in these times, but Selena, Selena, Selena. Selena’s music and her legacy.
So, it’s definitely a huge, huge factor that the series is definitely continuing her legacy. And I’m very thankful for how giving this family has been over the years to contribute to that, especially Suzette Quintanilla with being an executive producer of this. I got to give so much love to how generous they are with making that contribution to the world.
I think it’s special. I think it’s wonderful that they’re willing to share a lot of their personal stories, things, that they went through as a family and things that have happened.
You get to see her from when she was a little girl and you get to see the journey that they all took in the journey that she took to become, you know, the Selena that we know. And I think that that’s going to be fun for the fans and for the audience, to kind of get to peek in and see all of these private moments through our series. So, I’m very excited about that.
How do you feel that this show will add to the legacy of Selena?
You know, I think, look, you know, like I said, I grew up in South Texas, so she and I were born the same year when I was graduating high school, she was graduating high school. I was reading and seeing on our local newscasts all the concerts that she was giving and the successes that she was having and the award she was winning. So, for me, I was like, oh, well, I know this story. I know a lot about it. But in reading these scripts, you know, there’s so many things that I learned specifically as it pertains to the family and the family dynamic. You know, and I’m sure I know that some of this stuff is fictionalized to a certain degree.
But there’s a lot of truth in what we’re bringing to the table with these episodes and with the series. And a lot of it was very new to me. And there was a lot of things that when I read, I was just moved because I immediately identified with some of these very humble beginnings, you know, in the sacrifices and the struggles that they had. So, I think that’s something that we’re bringing new that will allow her legacy to live on through our series as well.
Yeah, I think it’s going to impact definitely the newer generation, you know, because for those that you know, everyone knows Selena the icon, they know the legend. But now they’re going to really get to know Selena Quintanilla the person, you know, they’re going to see her grow. And ultimately also the family, of course, you’ll see in the show that that there is no Selena without her family members, without her father, without her brother, without her sister, without her mother. So, I think that, you know, Selena’s legacy is going to reach places even further.
It’s a great show. It’s about family. And I think a lot of people who don’t even know Selena will still enjoy the show and relate a lot to what the show has to offer.
Looking back at your experience, what do you hope that viewers take away from “Selena: The Series” and your work within the show?
For me, just, you know, the importance of family, I think that that’s something that we have really captured with this series, with the writing, you know, and just a really intimate portrayal and an in-depth look at who the Quintanillas were and how much that the work of the entire family built their success, the foundation for their success, and catapulted Selena into the legendary status that she now holds.
I would say exactly what Ricardo was saying, like, I think that that’s what I want the audience to take away, you know, that this show is about family and you’ll see that you’ll definitely see that and every single member of this family was important. I think the audience will appreciate how much passion that each individual put into the success of the Quintanilla family and Selena’s success. So, I think that’s what they’re going to resonate with for sure.
Part 1 of “Selena: The Series” premieres on Netflix December 4, 2020.