In 1990, actress Christian Serratos (The Walking Dead) was born and Selena Quintanilla was a rising 19-year-old Tejano star who had already won the Tejano Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year four times, signed a contract with a record label and released two studio albums. Thirty years later, Serratos is portraying the late singer in Netflix’s new drama Selena: The Series.
For Serratos, who is half Mexican, it started with what she describes as a “long and difficult” audition process, but one that she was ultimately grateful to have experienced because it prepared her for the hard work she would be asked to do on set to portray such a beloved icon in the Latin music industry. Serratos grew up listening to Selena’s music in Southern California and knew how important the role would be to Selena devotees.
“I’m such a huge Selena fan,” Serratos tells Remezcla. “When there was music in the house, Selena was part of the rotation. She always felt like an entity or a family member in the house. I think she feels like that to a lot of people.”
Although the 1997 film Selena is a favorite among Latino movie audiences, Serratos says she was excited to bring a new depiction of the narrative—specifically, one that wasn’t limited to two hours.
“We have a lot more time with [Selena] and get to see the hard work that came before the legend,” Serratos claims. “All the perseverance her and her family experienced to get that recognition is something really relatable for people who are Mexican or Mexican-American or people of color in general. You have to find a place for yourself. [The Quintanilla Family] really worked hard to achieve such greatness.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Selena’s death, and the popularity of the Tejano superstar has only grown over the years. So, what is it about Selena that makes her so timeless?
“Her soul,” Serratos says. “She was a happy person and so gracious. She really loved her fans and connected with them. It was such an honor to get the opportunity to get this close to her.”
Now that Serratos has walked in Selena’s bedazzled boots for months, has this made her a better cumbia dancer or was she already able to cut a rug before she took on the role?
“I was a pretty good dancer,” Serratos asserts. “But Selena is so specific in the way that she moves. Fans expect that because she was very unique. Nobody did it like her. I worked very hard to make sure that I didn’t disappoint.”
Part 1 of Selena: The Series premieres on Netflix Dec. 4.