Selena: The Series’ Noemi González on Creating in Crisis, What Brings Her Joy & More

Photo courtesy of the artist. Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla.

Actress Noemí González thinks that her gut and commonalities with Selena Quintanilla’s family are what led her to Selena: The Series. The 27-year-old is set to play Suzette Quintanilla, sister to Tejano music legend in Netflix’s upcoming show, set to premiere Dec. 4.

“I couldn’t believe that Selena had passed, and a year later, my brother passed. Then, the film came out,” González tells Remezcla. “I grieved for Selena herself but also grieved for my brother and grieved with and for the family in a very intimate but distant way and now I’m here, channeling that…”

Before this, González has been making a name for herself in series like East Los High and soap operas like The Young and the Restless, but she’s fully aware that Selena will be the opportunity for her to possibly take over our queues for good.

I had a sense that I was going to be different.

González tells Remezcla that her introduction to Selena came from her mother, who played songs like “La Llamada” and “No Me Queda Más” at home. From there, it’s basically history: She gained a new role model, solace after the passing of her brother and saw the possibility of a career in the performing arts. The experience of working on Selena was a powerful moment of feeling like she was doing exactly what she was meant to do. She has carried that sentiment into her day-to-day activities since concerns surrounding COVID-19 grew in March and have left most of the performing arts industry at a standstill. She’s been spending her days in isolation, brainstorming ideas for projects she wants to develop, reconnecting with loved ones and working.

Between breaks from filming a secret project and an undisclosed location outside the United States, González caught up with Remezcla to talk about her evolving relationship with the arts, her most significant influences, and what matters most to her during this pandemic.

Part 1 of Selena: The Series premieres on Netflix Dec. 4. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity purposes.

Tell us about the evolution of your creative life. You’re someone who does many different things (soap operas, teen dramas, and now this musical, biographical series). When you were a kid, did you have a sense that you would be an entertainer?

I had a sense that I was going to be different. I really related to Beauty and the Beast, Belle specifically. I grew up in a very small town in the Coachella Valley [California], with very humble roots in a tiny town of maybe 10,000 people. I just knew that I wanted something bigger and different. I didn’t know I wanted to be an actor. My music teacher, Mr. Bukrova, inspired me to become a music teacher, but acting found me when I got to college. The movie Selena definitely had an impact on my life. I told my family that I wanted to jump in and be in a band. I just knew that it was something that I wanted to do, but I didn’t think of it in terms of fame or the future. I wanted to be in a band right then and there, just like I wanted a treehouse right then and there… it’s been a beautiful journey [laughs].

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Outside of creative projects like Selena: The Series, what’s bringing you joy?

I’m painting. I’m singing. I’m dancing. When I’ve been feeling overwhelmed in my day, I try to put on a playlist that helps me channel any challenge I’ve been dealing with that day. I’m watching a lot of Ru Paul’s Drag Race to be inspired and watching La Bamba. I definitely try to have outside endeavors. I’m producing a TV show with my best friend and fellow actress Chelsea Rendon [Vida]. We’re both doing that on top of my filming schedule, and I’ve just been trying to make sure I stay fulfilled and connected to my friends and family while I give everything that I can to the project I’m filming.

What’s on your playlist?

I had a playlist for Suzette that included Salt-N-Pepa, Phil Collins, Janet Jackson, Sheila E. For this other project, I make sure that I try to get the most current playlists that are going on in general markets so that I stay connected to life right now because I’m definitely in a different world. I’m in a foreign country and completely immersed in work, so I try to make sure I stay connected and grounded through it.

Which song of Selena’s is your favorite for whatever reason?

It’s so hard to pick a favorite! My top songs would be “Si Una Vez” and “No Debes Jugar.”

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A lot of projects are up in the air now because of the coronavirus. Have you had to adapt or shift things around due to the shutdown?

I’m developing a TV show and to do that while on location with COVID restrictions in mind, to do press with you, to do auditions… I’ve had to really resort to technology. I’m doing Zoom calls to conference in for our meetings. I’ve had to record the lines that are in the same that aren’t mine and play on the report on the record and record on the app though is repeating the lines for me so I could have this self-tape sent in on time before I go to set. I’m just really shifting with grace. I’m doing my best to focus on shifting with gratitude, and with grace, because it’s very, very different than going into the audition room than going somewhere with you to do this interview and to, you know, produce a show. It’s been incredible too! Because you’re kind of limited, you have to do a little bit more. It feels fulfilling to do that because you are willing to do whatever.

How does the work you’ve been doing, participating in marches and using social media to discuss for example Vanessa Guillen and the Black Lives Matter movement for instance, influence the way you think about your work in general and how you want to be present in the world right now?

We’re at such a significant turning point in history. I think when people research 2020, they’re going to research it and look at it the way that you look at the ‘60s, for example. I’ve always been mindful; I don’t know if it’s because I meditate a lot, or I’m in prayer a lot that I always wonder, ten years ago when I started my career, what are they going to say about the industry at this time? What is the main element of the industry this time? What are they going to say about the public?

I always wonder… what are they going to say about the industry at this time?

It’s always about… being grounded in reality… the choices I make and how I want to be presented because inaction is also action. I know that to be true, and I don’t want to turn a cheek the way Dr. Martin Luther King said that turning the cheek is the side of the oppressor. With the platform that I have, I’m not taking it for granted because I get to follow my dreams and have them come true. What I do for my community and how I present to not just little girls younger than me, women my age and older, but also the future fellow Latina and women of color that come after me. I definitely want to be seen as someone who is passionate. Someone [who] will not stand for injustices in the world and will use their voice. I probably use my voice more for other people than I do for myself and I’m thankful for that. That might get me in trouble here and there because I don’t say that I don’t speak up sooner for myself, but I’m happy that I am very grounded and very fulfilled and speaking up for my community in any way that I can.

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There was recently a letter from the Untitled Latinx Project (ULP) in which John Leguizamo and Tanya Saracho called for systemic change in the entertainment industry in regard to Latinx artists. It’s unbelievable that we’re still asking for more. Do you find that frustrating?

It’s not. There’s always going to be work to do. It’s never going to end. When they finally produce things, people will complain about it not being good enough. So then we have to make it better. Then, when it’s better, people are going to say, ‘well, what about this, what about that side.’ I try not to be [into] cancel culture. I try to be very aware that I cannot be jaded or callous because then I miss the gorgeous opportunities to make things better.

If I’m in negativity, if I’m frustrated for too long, it is frustrating, but I cannot stay frustrated because if I’m in there too long, that bitterness, that anger is just lazy energy that doesn’t serve me, my community [or] God so that I can have my purpose fulfilled on at this time and space… Did I feel like I was watching paint dry ten years ago? Yes, am I watching paint dry, here now? No. Do I feel that it might behoove us to have a little more gratitude so that we have more esfuerzo para seguir adelante? Eso se ocupa también, no nada más la frustración. We need to stay productive, positive and solutions-oriented. If you keep looking at the problem, you’re not going to look up and see the sun.