Selena: The Series star Noemi Gonzalez hopes the show pushes more women into ‘male-dominated spaces'
Mexican-American actress Noemi Gonzalez grew up in California admiring Selena Quintanilla Perez from afar. So, it's no surprise how honored she feels to have portrayed Selena's drummer sister, Suzette Quintanilla, in Selena: The Series.
The musical drama, currently available to stream on Netflix, tells the story of the Queen of Tejano music, starting from her early years as she finds her voice up to her early 20s when she falls in love with bandmate Chris Perez, who would later become her husband.
“I am feeling so blessed and touched. The fact that we’re number one, not only in Latin America but also in the U.S., has been a beautiful thing to experience," Gonzalez tells EW. "Our cast and crew worked so hard to help bring Selena to a new generation. I’ve received so many messages of support from fans for the representation, our work, and the familial vibes, especially during such turbulent times."
Gonzalez, who previously starred in Hulu's East Los High and CBS' The Young and the Restless, can't help but boast about her special bond with costars Christian Serratos and Gabriel Chavarria, who play her siblings on the series. The actress learned to play the drums much like her real-life counterpart did, and she's dying to show off those skills as part of a Selena tribute band when the world is safe again.
“Oh, that was on my mind! I told Christian and I told Gabe, ‘Y'all need to know at least three songs and we can rehearse them every week," she recalls excitedly. "We're gonna go on tour after! I definitely nudge them because we didn't get to have the crowd experience as much as I would’ve liked. We did get some moments in before COVID hit, but after we had to use video effects for the crowd. Especially when Selena was at her big concerts, we had to be on an empty soundstage. That’s why I’m pumping them up so we can get together when this is all done. We will do anything to support Selena’s legacy after the show, too. It would be such a fun opportunity to connect with the fans in person in the distant future."
One of the most celebrated moments for the character of Suzette is when she is approached by a female fan who didn't dare dream about becoming a drummer, due to it being such a male-dominated space. It's also one of Gonzalez' favorites.
"That scene was written so beautifully by Moises Zamora. Nancy Talamantes and I shot this touching scene at a plaza in Tecate, Mexico, and we really felt connected to one another," she shares. "We spent time getting to know each other before we shot it and it made such a difference. Everyone on set gathered around the monitors as it played out and you could feel the energy in the air. We connected, both our characters and individually, in womanhood, both supporting and celebrating women. We are so proud to be an example to younger girls through this profound moment which I hope inspires other females to pursue careers in male-dominated spaces."
But the series has been met with criticism over how Selena is not the central focus of early episodes, as well as for the physical differences between Serratos and Selena.
“I’m not surprised by any of the commentary because her fanbase is incredibly passionate, wonderful, and protective of Selena and her story. I’m part of that fanbase, as well," she explains. "It means so much to me to tell this story and to share it with a new generation. Once people are able to see both parts together, the way the story was presented will really make sense."
She adds about Serratos' portrayal, "My mind was playing tricks on me when Christian walked past me. There were so many moments where I was caught off guard and I thought I was seeing Selena. Sharing scenes with her where we're dressed in these iconic looks really blew my mind. As such a big Selena fan, experiencing this as her sister; best friend; and her drummer, I had the best seat in the house."
Gonzalez feels in her own way, Selena was with her throughout this process thanks to a special moment where they connected. Coincidence or not, it filled her heart with pride.
"When I had my first session learning 'Como La Flor,' I got in my car on the way home and the song came on the radio. I really felt this moment was a gift from the universe. It really hit me because I had been so focused while on work mode learning the song, but during that private moment the waterworks flowed. This opportunity has been such a blessing for me to share with fans and the Quintanilla family. I have no shame to admit how emotional I can get, I'm a Cancer. Especially when it comes to Selena, my love for her runs deep."
This interview was edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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