There are iconic roles to take on, and then there is Selena.
The woman who, after many an audition and quite the lengthy process, ultimately won the role to portray her in Netflix’s series “Selena,” Christian Serratos, was accordingly quite nervous about attempting the part.
“I thought about it while I was auditioning: ‘Is this something I’m prepared to do? How much of myself am I willing to put into this? What’s realistic? Am I emotionally prepared for all of this?’ And I just realized that I wasn’t stopping,” Serratos says.
The 30-year-old Burbank, Calif., native was shooting “The Walking Dead” at the time and was juggling the show’s demanding schedule, giving her every reason to pass on the Selena role. “But I couldn’t stop myself,” she says. “I kept taping, I kept communicating. I just kept working on Selena when I didn’t even have the role. So I think that’s when I realized, ‘OK, I’m not going to fight myself anymore. I’m just going to do this because clearly my body already wants to.’”
Part one of “Selena,” which premiered in December, became the first non-Hollywood show to ever debut at number one in the U.S. on Netflix, and it was number one in every single Latin American country the weekend of its release. Serratos says while she hears the show did well, she intentionally keeps her blinders on.
“I get a little shy, so I like to just do the work and then forget about it, which sometimes is hard, but I wasn’t surprised that it did well,” she says from Atlanta, where she is finishing the last season of “The Walking Dead.” “Selena, her fan base is huge. We all want to support the Hispanic community. I think we want to watch shows that represent us, but I think also people are going to watch this because it’s her story — and I’m really grateful that they did.”
Serratos, whose grandparents immigrated from Mexico, says there weren’t a lot of people for her to look up to who were Mexican and successful in Hollywood when she was growing up — Selena was one of the most important role models she had.
“Her being a Mexican American woman from a small town in Texas, and she achieved so much in such a small amount of time…I just really respected that — and she was a genius. Her music was incredible, her voice was incredible. She was such a powerhouse at such a young age,” Serratos says. “She knew how to command people on stage. She knew what she wanted to do at a young age, which is admirable in and of itself, but she was actually accomplishing it. She wanted to design, she wanted to sing in English and Spanish, she wanted to write, she wanted to do all of those things. She wanted to be in film — she did that, too — and to see somebody with such grace do all of those things and set such a wonderful example, I mean, how could you not dream of playing that person?”
They shot parts one and two somewhat continually — save for COVID-19 lockdowns — which involved Serratos working with both a dialect coach and a singing coach. The most important feedback she’s taken to heart is from her grandmother, who told her the performance was “lovely.”
“I have a very small circle and I try not to read much because I’m a very fragile person. I stress myself out quite a bit in wanting to please and be a perfectionist — I mean, I’ve seen some things online and I’ve completely broken out in hives, and so my husband just tells me to stay away,” Serratos says. “But also I think in terms of the actual work, I think it would cause me to people please, rather than trust myself. And, if I wasn’t happy with something, I’d never let myself live it down. I think I need to just kind of block everything out and just do what my instincts are then at least I could blame myself later, not anyone else.”
Part one followed Selena’s beginnings, chronicling how she grew up, came of age and what her family was like. The second installment is, as Serratos says, “what everyone expects from a Selena story.”
“It’s the icon, it’s her coming into her own, taking control of her business, her relationship,” she says. “It’s all of those things and I think people are going to be really, really happy with the second season.”
With the coming conclusion of “The Walking Dead,” which Serratos has been on since 2014, the future remains unknown and open for her, both an exciting and daunting prospect. She is interested in exploring producing, with her heart set on getting her hands dirty.
“I also love the idea of opening the door for somebody else, for other people to be able to tell stories and be seen and heard,” she says.
“I’m excited at the prospect of being able to create anything I want next — anything can happen and that’s exciting, and also stressful. You want to know what’s coming next, but then it’s, where’s the fun? I guess, getting there and doing the job, right?” Serratos says. “The work never ends.”
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