Selena: The Series is one of Netflix’s most highly-anticipated and buzzed-about shows, and fortunately, we won’t have to wait much longer for it to hit the streaming network. The first part of the series will hit Netflix on December 4, and it’s a must-see.
Beautiful, positive, warm, bold, and passionate, Noemí Gonzalez is a go-getter who has put in the work in her newest project, transforming into Suzette Quintanilla.
Trust me, that included learning how to play the drums!
We had the pleasure of speaking to her about the challenges of playing Suzette, how important this project is to her, and la familia vibe on set. Check it out!
Of course, Selena is one of the most beloved Latinx icons ever, so what was it like for you, as a Latina, having such a significant role in a project like this?
It was everything, Jasmine. It was so full-circle for me as someone who has been a fan of Selena since I was very young. I followed her when she was on variety shows when she was becoming a rising star.
She inspired me as a woman, as an actor, and as a professional. So to give back to her, in any way, shape, or form by being a part of retelling her story in this format — I just feel so blessed, and so inspired, and so thankful.
That I could even be part of this about her, provide Latinx representation, and love to Selena and her legacy. It’s been an incredible blessing, that’s for sure.
I can only imagine because I mean, again, it’s Selena. That’s huge.
Yeah, I was totally done when I was told I booked the job. I just felt that much closer to Suzette, to Abraham, you know? They used to be such figures, like so far away from me that I was inspired by Selena and this family.
It was just a real dream come true in a way that is always going to be a part of my life, and it’s always going to hold a special place in my heart. It’s insane.
Now, did you audition for the role of Suzette?
Yes. My manager called after reading the break down and was like, “You know, I really see you as Suzette.” And I was like, “You know, you ain’t lying, let’s try this!”
I went in, and I did a great audition, followed by a great call back, interview process, and then I had a really fun at home camera test to demonstrate to production my likeness to Suzette.
It was a fun creative opportunity for me to show my love, and my teamwork vibe, and my absolute dedication to telling the story and coming alive as Suzette. It was really cool to have that casting process happen, and then, of course, I’m just excited because it’s Selena.
So, how difficult is it to play a real person? Especially when it’s Suzette, and she isl 0 the executive producer? Did you have to consult with her, or did you spend time with her to get mannerisms down?
I got to enjoy all the archive footage. We were given a lot of material for us to study our real-life counterparts. That was fun, learning how to do that — how to pull from the footage, and how to recreate it. Then we also had some creative license of what was missing in the archives of Suzette.
Because we see a lot of her as an adult, leading Q Productions now. But I was playing her at a time where there was very little footage of her, so it was really fun to balance out the creative license that I have and also the real-life material that I had as well to mimic on stage. It was a nice creative experience. It’s definitely more of a challenge than when you create a character from fresh.
Of course, definitely.
It definitely tripped me out in the beginning that she was E.P., so I had to cut out that pressure immediately and just channel it into everything. Definitely channel it into the drums. [Laughs] So that nothing would get in my head about the job I was set to do.
So, what can we expect from Selena: The Series that we haven’t already seen before? What distinguishes it from other versions of her story?
What really distinguishes it is, you know, we have a two-part series, so that gives you so much more time to get intimate with the story and the details of it.
A two-hour movie had Selena’s story skipping the part at the beginning of the creation, and it went straight to the developing rising star. Whereas here, we’re really starting from birth to her tragic end.
That’s an opportunity for fans to really see a coming-of-age story of what it takes to be Selena, that star that we know today. I think it’s going to be very fun for people to go back and see all those nostalgic family vibes from having this version provide this opportunity and time to get into the beginning of her story.
Yeah, I think that’s something, like you said, that people look forward to here because it gives the story room to breathe. And again, it’s Selena; she registers with so many people, even now, all these years later.
I think that’s an important story, and you guys have quite an impressive, predominantly Latinx cast. How important was it to you to work on projects that tell Latin stories and showcase representation?
Oh, it’s incredibly important to me. And it’s not just a Latinx cast but also a Latinx crew.
And this opportunity, we were retelling the story of Selena for the people, by the people. We filmed in Baja Studios in Rosarito Baja, California, with a whole Mexican cast and crew.
Yeah, so we completely had this very strong familial México camaraderie, and work ethic that is something that I hadn’t experienced before.
I have had the unique blessing that I’ve actually in my career been a part of casting crews that were predominantly Mexican, or Mexican-American, or multicultural. And then, I’ve had to sprinkle the general market that is not as specifically Latinx diverse.
But this was completely and utterly México Lindo, that when you were preparing and getting ready to do your scenes, you felt supported by la Raza, by the people.
It was such a beautiful part of the blessing — of the time and the story, in this place, with this crew, and with this family story. It was such a beautiful experience and dynamic of the work that I’ll never forget. It made a huge impact that I hope you can see on screen because I definitely felt that going to work every day.
It really does make a huge difference. I don’t think people always realize how big of a difference that makes.
You spend a lot of your time in this series with Christian [Serratos], so did you two have a natural chemistry as sisters, or did you have to put in work and form a bond? They were friends; they were best friends, bandmates, and sisters. It’s a difficult dynamic to nail.
We let it happen naturally. Hiromi Kamata, our producer, might have had some encouragement for us to naturally develop it. It wasn’t something that was forced by any means, it just really happened naturally, and we both were extremely busy when we finally started to film.
She had her journey as Selena, which is a tall order, and then I have my opportunity of playing a real-life person, who is learning the drums, which is a very demanding instrument, so we both had tall orders at the same time.
I’m thankful that when we had the time early on, we had homemade tacos and tequilas to bond and actress-to-actress conversations.
It reminded me of Selena telling Suzette all of the stories of her designing dreams, and her boutique dreams, and the English album. It really felt like Christian and I knew the work we had to do, and we let it happen naturally. And I think you can see it onscreen, this beautiful dynamic between these two sisters.
So the drums, I am super impressed with the fact that you learned for this role. What?! [Laughs] That’s insane!
That was a tall order indeed. I mean, a lot hinged on you nailing that, so it was incredibly impressive and bold!
Thank you! [laughs]
What was it like trying to learn the drums for this role?
It was such a dynamic challenge that was so fun, playful, and overwhelming, and draining all at the same. [laughs]
It was just so layered with like I guess I really love a challenge because I knew that I was going to commit to learning the drums because I have such a love for Selena and the family.
I knew I could not half-ass this. I knew that I had to really apply myself, and it was challenging for sure, and I learned a lot about myself.
And whatever was challenging for me, I let that inform my spirit and where I was developing — as a woman, and as an actress, and as an artist with learning something new at this age that is so demanding and how I can apply that to anything else that I might see as a challenge.
Then, on the other side of that coin, I also thought of Suzette is that what being a little girl learning how to play the drums alongside Selena and A.B.
That helped me shape the character in regards to how Suzette felt — like learning how to play the drums at this age with everyone, you know, hoping that she can get it together and make it possible. I felt like I went through a similar experience with making sure that I did the role and the story justice with me applying myself and my drumming.
It’s a strong factor in this role that I’m so thankful for — I never expected it to shape the character the way that it did.
I’m especially thankful that I now can say that I can rock out to Selena’s music and be present with an instrument and connect with an audience.
To have that introduction, I’m getting emotional … to have that introduction with Selena’s music is just a dream come true in a way that I never imagined. It was awesome.
I am in awe finding that out. That is definitely throwing it all out there. I’m impressed that you poured yourself into it, and to find out that you got so much out of it is touching and awesome.
Thank you. Thank you, I really appreciate it. It’s interesting now to have gone through that silently with my instructors and with the production. Now to have to talk about it or to have it presented around the corner is going to be exciting. I can’t wait for you guys to see it. The performances are just so beautiful.
Can we expect a soundtrack along with the series?
I mean, I can’t confirm or deny it, but I think there’s got to be! I mean, movies have soundtracks, and this is a two-part series that is so musically based. I’m sure that Netflix will provide something.
I sure hope so!
Now, the first part is in December. Have you guys finished filming the second-part?
We literally finished filming the second part, Jasmine. Last week.
Wow. How was it with all the COVID restrictions? Did it make filming more difficult?
Majorly. It was a definite elevated challenge. There is a difference in filming this experience before COVID and after COVID.
Um, we were at the beginning of filming the last leg, then we were shut down for five months because of the global pandemic, and we didn’t know if we were coming back at all. We didn’t know if we were coming back in 2020 or 2021.
When we came back, you know, it was on location away from our families during a global pandemic. And with you know, with PPE for our cast but major PPE for the crew.
Everyone had to learn how to do their jobs with the PPE in the way. It was a true pouring of love and labor to get this done — for Selena and for the fans. We cast and crew really poured our all into this.
Before I go on other interviews, I make sure to let them know because it was an incredible difference in the challenge of filming.
We already had the challenge anyone would have trying to retell the story of Selena, but to have that pressure with COVID on top of that changing a lot of the filming dynamics? It was, man; we needed things to go a little smoother, but we can’t control everything, and you just adjust to gray days. We stay grateful, stay positive.
If you get down, don’t stay down for too long because you know there are more things to be done in the midst of it all, and it’s better to face it.
Yeah, absolutely. If you guys were already tight-knit, I’m sure that process brought you closer together, going through something like that.
Yeah, yeah. We went from being a very big cast and crew, and then the actors had to have individual hair and make-up. We couldn’t go to the make-up trailer.
We had our intimate pods that took care of us, each castmate, and we had the full crew. It was a nice way to have the close bonds that grounded us to do our performances and then to have the bigger collective that was there ready and supportive.
It was just such a cool team, and I just give so much love to the whole cast and crew because we really gave it our all.
Okay, what else would you love for us to know about the series that we haven’t touched on?
Well, being that I mentioned that already, you’re so good in knowing about that reality, I would say I guess the fun thing with that in mind is the silver lining was we’ve got to have a lot of our crew appear as extras.
So it was beautiful to have that family love off-camera now be on-camera, and now the cast can watch and see how creative we got when it got challenging and how it was better because of that.
I can’t wait for the trivia. It’s going to be fun for me to watch part two, “Oh, I didn’t know so and so was this person in this guest-star moment.”
I give credit to Hiromi Kamata, our main director, and EP, for being a creative genius, but also having that loving family through awareness, so I hope you guys enjoy that we definitely worked as a team and as a family.
Yeah, it’s clearly a project that is a labor of love. Do you have any other projects that you’re working on that you’d like to mention?
Well, I’m currently developing a TV show with my best friend Chelsea, so that’s in the works right now. And then I have two international releases of The Tax Collector with David Ayer–
That was a great film. I watched it as soon as it was released.
Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Maybe I’m biased, but I really enjoyed it. [Laughs] That was such a great experience, too.
And then Dark/Web, an Emmy-award winning TV show that was originally released on Amazon Prime, is now released on Blu-Ray DVD. I would love people to watch both.
They’re both outstanding, and you’re not going to be sorry.
Outside of your television shows, since this is TV Fanatic, what are some shows you’ve been watching or probably bingewatched during quarantine?
Honestly, when I was in Mexico, I binge-watched all of Rupaul’s Drag Race on Netflix because they don’t stream it stateside. It did help me focus on the performance scene while on stage, so it was cool to unwind while watching this but also learning to apply it.
So you were still doing research? [Laughs]
Yeah, it was like relaxing, rewarding research. I am really chomping at the bit to watch The Crown, but I said let me do some work first before I deep-dive into the new season because I’ve been a huge fan of that show since the beginning. And I watch La Bamba over and over again to center myself.
Noemí Gonzalez is an absolute delight and a total badass. If you want to see her rock out in this series about love, family, and an actual icon, please, check her out in Selena: The Series.
It hits Netflix on December 4.
Over to you, TV Fanatics! Sound off below about your anticipation and shower Noemí with love here or on her Instagram.