Few superstars in history have touched as many fans as Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. But the story of the "queen of Tejano music" is incomplete without her family. That's why Netflix's upcoming show Selena: The Series is just as much about the singer's career as it is about her bond with her loved ones. For Noemí González, who plays Selena's sister Suzette Quintanilla in Selena: The Series, this bond is just one of the many aspects the actor was intent on getting right — not just for herself as a lifelong Selena fan, but also for all those who love the late star.
The series, which drops its first nine episodes on Netflix on Dec. 4, retells the true story of Selena's (played by Christian Serratos) path from singing with her family in small-town Texas to becoming one of the most celebrated Latina artists of all time. While this isn't the first time Selena has been portrayed onscreen (J.Lo played her in the 1997 drama film, Selena), the two-part series will have more time to detail the family's rise to fame and struggles along the way. And with the real-life Suzette serving as an executive producer on the show alongside family patriarch Abraham Quintanilla Jr., fans can be sure they're getting an honest look at the singer's life.
As a longtime Selena fan, González is thrilled to be portraying the older Quintanilla sister, who was not only the drummer in Selena's band, Selena y Los Dinos, but also Selena's closest friend and confidant. However, González is also very aware of the weight that comes with telling Selena's inspirational yet tragic story. The 32-year-old Mexican actor — who is best known for her roles as Mia Rosales in The Young and the Restless and Soli Gomez from Hulu's East Los High — tells Elite Daily how she prepared for the role, and what she's hoping fans take away from the series:
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Elite Daily: Why do you think Selena and the Quintanilla family's story resonates with so many people across so many generations?
Noemí González: Selena is incredibly relatable. She's light and playful, and she defied so many odds with the best attitude, with the most humility, and with the biggest grace. Selena was a visionary, and it makes us value life and give it our all because she's left her mark.
ED: Considering fans' intense love for Selena and her story, what kind of responsibility do you feel to live up to viewers' expectations?
NG: There's a lot of pressure in it, because Selena is incredibly precious to us. She's a legend. I, myself, am a huge, huge fan, so, I've been giving myself my own pressure. She belongs to the people, and when you belong to the people, there's this ownership and protection toward her. So now, everyone is ultra protective of how she's presented. I just pray people have an open mind and behave in a way Selena would be proud of when they see this. Wipe the slate clean of what you've known before to really get an intimate view of the coming-of-age story of Selena.
I know what it's like to be Mexican American, trying my best in the world and in the States in the pursuit of happiness, and then experience such a tragic loss.
ED: What initially drew you to the role of Suzette?
NG: Selena's story is very, very personal to me. I grew up a Jehovah's Witness, just like Selena and the Quintanilla family. When Selena passed — I couldn't understand it. I really couldn't. Then the following year, my brother passed away. And the year after that, [the Selena movie with Jennifer Lopez] came out. So I really grieved through, and vicariously with, the Quintanilla family. I know what it's like to lose a sibling. I know what it's like to be Mexican American, trying my best in the world and in the States in the pursuit of happiness, and then experience such a tragic loss. So I've always paid close attention to the Quintanilla family and have been a huge admirer of all of them.
ED: What's it like to play a person who's not only real and alive, but also a producer on the show?
NG: I definitely felt a sense of pressure. That kind of pressure isn't what you really experience when you have a fictional character. Really early on, I had a kind of meditation with myself: "I'm just playing a life experience of Suzette. That's my job." I made sure to remove anything that wasn't serving that right off the bat.
ED: What's your relationship like with Suzette IRL?
NG: It's been really cute. We've had distance so we can work on our characters objectively, which is wonderful. We're going to meet soon, and I'm very excited for that, because my relationship with Suzette has been one of distant admiration since I was a little girl. It's just been really cool to kind of follow each other on Instagram.
ED: You had to learn to play the drums for this part. What was that process like?
NG: Aug. 16 of last year was the first drum session I had. That was the first time I actually felt like I was a part of this series and a part of the story. The drums are a very demanding instrument, and I really learned so much about myself. It really informed the character. I processed how that must have felt as a little girl needing to do it. I needed to learn the drums for a show. She needed to do it to put bread and butter on the table and support her family.
ED: Do you like playing them now?
NG: I really do love playing them now! I had to get to know them, get acquainted with how loud and strong and powerful they can be. I have moments where I find the creative license to play for myself while still making sure I play with Suzette's essence. So, it's been really cool.
ED: How did you and Christian Serratos build your bond to portray sisters on the show?
NG: We hung out multiple times, making homemade tacos and just talking about life and love and what we want to do in the future. It felt like we were setting up the groundwork for Selena and Suzette laying on Suzette's bunk and Selena telling her all about her dreams. It felt like, in our own individual artist way, we were having our own supportive sisterhood dynamic.
ED: What's been the most fun part of the overall experience?
NG: I think the most fun part of the experience has been the performances. I'm used to being only an actor on set, but I was an actor, drummer, and musician for the first time. You really get to see the vibe of what Selena’s radiancy was when you play her music. When we had a performance day scene, you really saw the energy of everyone on set change based off the music we were playing.
We poured our hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits into this.
ED: What do you hope fans take away from Selena: The Series?
NG: Ultimately, we have so much love for Selena — for her music, her legacy, and the fan base. Go in with an open mind and just know that we poured our hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits into this.
Part 1 of Selena: The Series hits Netflix Dec. 4, 2020.