If you’re a fan of family sitcoms and the superhero genre, you’ll adore Disney’s Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion.
Lucifer‘s Scarlett Estevez will star as a teen who gets magical powers from a Luchadora mask and opts to do good while working alongside her uncle with a similar secret identity. Of course, she’ll have to juggle school, family, and keeping her identity a secret from her helicopter mom, Nina.
TV Fanatic had the distinct pleasure of speaking with talented actress, activist, and the “helicopter mom” in question, Marianna Burelli, about the significance of this role and how fun the series is. Check it out below!
Jumping right in. Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion looks like a really fun series. Can you tell us a little bit about the concept and all?
Yeah. It’s a family comedy within a superhero context. It’s about a girl, Violet Rodriguez, who is 13 years old, who is chosen by a magical luchador mask and gets given magical powers.
The show is about how she deals with that within her life while managing her schooling and her family. And she learns how to be helpful and do good. She finds Black Scorpion along the way. We’ll see how they meet very early on in episode one.
But, we’ll see their dynamic and chemistry and the ups and downs. They become each other’s obstacle in a way that brings a lot of comedy to it, like how they both hide their superhero identity from their families.
And that’s hard to do in a family with a mom who is very much a helicopter mom who wants to have absolute control of her family and know what everybody else is doing. And also who happens to be the principal of the school that her daughter attends. So to hide this away from Nina is a big thing. It’s not easy.
Now, this is your first project in The States, right? How was it different than working on your other projects, like Paramédicos?
Yes, it is. Yes. I was in Paramédicos and Ingobernable on Netflix. It kind of feels similar because the basics are the same. You create a character, build this persona, and try to bring as much truth as possible, and you create this relationship.
But I think to do it in English wasn’t something absolutely new to me because I trained to become an actor in London.
So in that sense, I have that as a background. What was very new to me was the fact that I do a lot of theater and comedy in theater and some TV, some comedy in TV, but to create this for such a long time, this comedy, and to work with such sharp, witty actors and such wonderful writers and showrunners was something super thrilling for me.
It was beautiful. And the fact that I was working with showrunners who were willing to listen to what I created for my character and not only listen but actually added to the story was mind-blowing to me.
That’s been very different from my experience in the past, just because I was able to really add stuff to my character that wasn’t initially written for her. The showrunners took what I had to offer, and they were like, yeah, we love this. We love that.
And you’ll see further down the line what happens to my character, but it’s something that I sort of suggested in one of the table reads right at the beginning, and then I didn’t hear anything about it. And then, on one of the final episodes, it comes out, and it was beautiful to work that close with the showrunners and the writers.
It’s beautiful that you had such a collaborative experience. From previews and such, you already see such a distinctive Mexican-American influence, which is so very refreshing. How important was it for you to be part of a series that celebrated Latin culture?
It was super special. At first, when I didn’t know much about the show during the whole selection process, I knew it was a Latinx family, but I couldn’t see its dimensions. But filming it was a beautiful surprise because although the context is clearly Mexican-American, and their traditions are pretty subtle, they’re all there.
The show isn’t about the fact that they are from elsewhere, right? The show isn’t about, “Oh, look how Latinx they are. Oh, look, they eat quesadillas.” The show celebrates incredible things about this family that happens to have a different ethnic background.
I think it’s fundamental to see women and men from Mexico or any other Latin countries in positions of power, which gives the audience the ability to see themselves. We’re such a huge minority in this country. So that kind of builds society that draws lines. And that also gets injected culturally deep into the DNA of everybody, of viewers.
To see people, Latin people in positions of power on TV is so refreshing, and doing it without making the statement of, “Hey, I’m from Mexico, and I play a principal, look how Mexican principals are, and my office is full of sombreros.” No, it’s not that. It’s just a normal person who happens to have that background who is incredibly talented and has so many flaws like anybody else.
They’re characters who just so happen to have built a family within the United States, in LA. Nina is someone who is married to this man who is a nurse, you know? The Rodriguezes are people of service, incredible people for the community.
You have a nurse who is a dad. You have a teacher and a principal who is a mom, which I think is a superpower to work in education and do it well. You have a daughter who has this superpower and helps people. You have our son, who Brandon Rossell plays, Tiago, who is good at everything in school.
We have this picture of this family who does well in society and happens to be Mexican-American.
We are telling a different story. We’re changing the narrative, and the comedy is not funny because they’re Mexican. It’s funny because it’s funny — because the circumstances are funny, and I think that’s such a breath of fresh air, honestly, Jasmine.
It is. It very much is! I think that’s what makes this series exciting. As you said, we see this family — all of these different dynamics. I love that. Nina is a headstrong educator, and her husband is a nurse who likes to cook. Switching up the gender roles there is also refreshing and cool.
He’s such a lovely character. He is so gentle. I love the husband and wife’s relationship because she’s very visceral. She goes for it. She’s a go-getter; she’s a tiger mom. She’s like a grrr!
And he is in the background, and he seems like, oh, funny, funny, jolly, jolly. But whenever Nina goes a bit over the top, he takes her aside. He’s like, “Hey, babe, have you thought about this? Maybe you’re kind of overdoing it.” And she’s like, “No, I’m not.” Then she goes and thinks about it and says, “you’re right.”
There is such gentleness about their relationship. There’s no violence in any way. There isn’t that patriarchal, macho male figure where he’s the one who has the last word. They’re very much a team and played by Latinx actors, creating Latinx characters.
I’ve talked to the showrunners endlessly about this — I feel it’s very special, and I’m glad you mention it, Jasmine.
It’s a real standout. Now, did you guys sort of have that natural chemistry? Did it come sort of effortlessly?
Yeah. We did an initial pilot when we moved to New Orleans. So we’ve been close to these characters for so long. I booked this character end of 2019. Just imagine.
I know. So I’ve been close to Nina for a while. She’s been hanging out there in my brain for a long time. And Juan Carlos was cast in 2020. So it’s been a long time since we’ve been with these characters, and we just happened to get on well.
It’s one of those rare things. I have so many friends who are actors. I tell them, ” Yeah, I used to go to set with my coworker with Juan every day. We rented a car together, and we used to go back and forth from set together.”
And we used to talk about our characters, and we created a whole story on our ride to work and back. And my friends are like, “What? You do all that with the actor from your own set?” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s so fun.” Or, with Scarlett, who plays my daughter. We really just get on when we’re not on camera as well. So, I think that’s kind of added an extra bonus to the show. It makes it feel very, very close. Very easy.
I was just going to ask you about Scarlett Estevez. She’s such a sweet girl and a true talent. It’s exciting to see her in another project. What was it like working alongside her?
She is incredible. She is fabulous. She’s one of those natural talents. Things seem to come to her really easily, but I do know she’s a hard worker. Like she just works hard, and she’s not scared of it.
She has the best attitude. Absolutely uplifting all the time. And it was mind-blowing to see her do the stuff she does with the amount of work she had throughout the whole shooting. We filmed for seven months. That’s a long time.
Wow. It is.
She’s number one on the call sheet. She has most of the scenes. She has things with her family, Black Scorpion, and friends. She was pretty much in every scene, and the way she delivered was such a pleasure. I actually learned tons from her, watching her with such ease with such naturality. She’s so organic and also light.
Nothing ever felt heavy or hard or painful. It was always joyful and fun. When we’re extra tired, we’d laugh a little more. You can absolutely tell that this is something that not only comes easy to her and is natural, but she thrives in it, you know?
Now some would, of course, already say that moms are superheroes. But if you got to play a superhero Luchadora, what would your name be?
[laughs] Oh my God. I got asked this once before, and I know it will sound a bit boring, but I’m going to go with it regardless. I think it’ll be the Gaia Punch or something. I would be like an earth warrior.
I would eliminate all the plastic in the ocean in one go. If I could have this massive net that would pick up all the microplastic, big plastic, everything that’s in the ocean and kind of make it disappear. And somehow make people understand that we need to change our habits.
That would be my power. It would be like an earth warrior trying to fight the battle we’re losing with time.
You do a lot of the activist work and co-created a sustainable makeup line, right?
It’s a cosmetic line, but it’s more to do with shampoo, conditioner, facial creams, makeup removers, and everything that’s made solid. So we do unbottled and wrapped with rice paper that’s compostable and becomes organic waste in days. The idea is that you use that, and after you finish, there is no waste left for you to throw in the bin.
That’s really cool!
Plastic can be fantastic. I agree plastic was a great invention, but single-use plastic you use once and throw away is nonsense. It just makes no sense for us and the planet. Nowadays, there are alternatives to most single-use plastic, so bottles for shampoos and stuff are one of the ones that I was thinking of. There are ways to get rid of them and not use them, so that’s how we came up with AMAI.
What’s your pitch to everyone to convince them to tune into Ultraviolet & the Black Scorpion? What are the important messages you’d like them to get from the series?
Well, first of all, it’s fun, endearing, and it’s hilarious!
Second of all, because we, as Latinx, are a huge minority in this country, and this is about a family who happens to be Mexican, but it’s not about how their ethnicity and their nationality determine their life. No, no, no.
It’s about them as human beings, touching upon universal themes, like love, belonging, competition, insecurities, all those things that we all feel that we all find challenging and that we all like to overcome, and about happiness. It’s about how to be the best version of yourself.
So it is really interesting to change the narrative and to see this mixed family.
Because Nina is an immigrant, she was given an opportunity and took it to the end. Her kids are American. And they grew up in a country that has its own culture. And they’re a mixture of both things. And the dad also came to the States as a kid and still carries this culture and kind of creates — as an immigrant in a country, you create your own set of rules within your home.
You meld cultures and make your own, this alchemy between them. And that’s the Rodriguez family. It’s an interesting exploration in such a nonpreachy and light delivery that I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s worth watching.
And also the effect, the visual effects are sick. I mean, they’re much, much better than I ever expected them to be when I saw the first two episodes. I was shocked. I was like, this is a TV show kind of directed toward teenagers and young adults? The special effects are remarkable.
It’s brilliant, and I think you’ll see faces you will keep seeing for a long time. It’s a very special show. And it’s only half an hour, so it’s not too long.
Since this is TV Fanatic, outside of your own, of course, what are some of your favorite shows that you like or you’re bingeing?
Oh my God. Okay. I just watched; this is crazy, but I just watched the Formula 1: Drive to Survive, which is insane, Jasmine, because I don’t even like Formula One. I don’t care about racing, yet I am so hooked. This is why TV is so incredible, right?
There’s so much drama behind those cars, the drivers, technology, the director of each team, and what happens and how the drivers go from one brand to the next. It’s so addictive.
So it’s, yeah, it makes you a fan. I feel very much of a fan of Formula 1 right now because of how this show sells everything. And then you get to know a little bit about each person’s real life, you know, at home. And it’s just very interesting.
Euphoria was huge. It was hard to watch initially, but it’s such a well-written, beautifully performed show. I feel every one of them is so devoted to their characters and the story. It feels really beautiful. The cast feels very compacted and in tune with one another—Same as Ted Lasso.
I watched seasons one and two, and I’m really excited about season three coming out this summer. Jason Sudeikis has been big for a long time, since SNL.
He’s such a genius. I definitely agree. Ted Lasso is a really fantastic show.
Right? Nobody would buy it from me if I were to pitch the show because I wouldn’t know how to pitch it. How do you pitch a show about a coach that knows nothing about football but yet coaches a team?
It’s such a fabulous. It touches upon universal things like absolute kindness. This character is such an oddball, but he’s such a three-dimensional character. It was so delicious to binge Ted Lasso. When it ended, I went back to season one and watched them all again.
You can catch Marianna Burelli as Nina Rodriguez on Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion premieres tonight, June. 3, at 9/8c on Disney Channel. You can watch the first two episodes back to back, and the rest of the season will air on June 10 on Disney+.
Check out the trailer below!