Natasha Pérez has always considered herself a method actor–someone who works to embody their character even on an emotional level. So, when she landed the role of Yolanda Saldivar, the woman who killed Tejano superstar Selena Quintanilla in 1995, for Netflix’s Selena: The Series, the stress soon followed.
“I was terrified,” Pérez told Remezcla during a recent interview. “It was very tense. It was almost like wearing shoes that are four sizes too small. You have to make them fit and you have to make it comfortable no matter what.”
Pérez, who was born in Venezuela, started hearing stories from actors about the negative experience late actress Lupe Ontiveros had after she portrayed Saldivar in the 1997 film Selena. This included getting heckled and spit at because some fans couldn’t separate the actress from the villain.
With a background in comedy, Pérez knew the role would be a challenge, but she welcomed it. She began doing research on Saldivar–looking up old videos and articles–and working on perfecting her voice and body language. To do this, she turned to her old clown teacher.
“I told him, ‘This is a hard one for me to portray,’” Pérez said. “Her head has different movements than her body. She also speaks like a little girl. So, I studied with him over Zoom.”
Now that the series is complete, Pérez said she is glad she was able to help tell Selena’s story–even though she was cast to play the person who ended that story far too soon.
“The series is done with a lot of dignity and class,” she said. “It’s all about celebrating the life of Selena and her legacy and the impact she has on our culture.”
The second part of Selena: The Series debuts on Netflix May 4.