Ricardo Chavira (‘Selena: The Series’) on the legacy of an icon and the challenges Latinx artists still face [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Selena: The Series” starring Christian Serratos as the late music icon premiered on Netflix on December 4, 2020 and quickly skyrocketed to #1 on their Top 10 list with more than 25 million households viewing Part 1 within its first month of release. SAG Award winner Ricardo Chavira, who plays the superstar’s father, Abraham Quintanilla, describes the tremendous success as validation that “Mexican-American stories have value” and “did not fall upon deaf ears.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Chavira above.

Like Selena, Chavira is a South Texas native and recalls the singer’s rise to prominence in the state. “I was always with my father,” he explains. “He was giving me rides, here or there, and in his truck he always had one of the Tejano radio stations playing. And invariably there would always be a Selena song. You would read about her in the paper and about the concerts she was doing. The legacy and the epic story that is her rise, is a significant part of the backdrop that is my young adulthood.”

As Abraham, Chavira embodies the patriarch of the family who often walks the line of being a shrewd businessman and doting father. “He is very much a traditional Mexican-American man of that specific generation,” Chavira notes. “It’s indicative of my father and of all my uncles. It’s constantly putting your family before yourself. It’s throwing your dreams aside to see the dreams of your children come to fruition. To the degree that he would even pack the bus, he was handling all the receipts, be barely slept, he drove the bus, he was the roadie, the crew, everything! And was fine doing it to see the success happen for his children, but also for himself.”

“It’s weird because he does seem like this antagonistic character at times,” the actor continues. “But if you understand his motivations, there’s a lot of selflessness that does exist within the motivations, but also a lot of selfishness as well. It’s really weird and it was really interesting to have to walk that line. It’s ‘I love my family, I’m doing it for my family and I love this business, I’m doing it for the business,’ and marrying those two things. I can see where he maybe got clouded a lot in some of his decision making.”

In addition to telling the story of Selena’s rise to fame, the Netflix series highlights the bond of the Quintanilla family and brings depth to each member in ways a film might not be able to. “The series is 16 to 18 hours,” Chavira explains while detailing the benefits of telling a life story within multiple episodes rather than a movie. “You get to have fully realized characters in a Suzette Quintanilla (Noemi Gonzalez), in an A.B. Quintanilla (Gabriel Chavarria), in Marcella Quintanilla (Seidy López). It’s the family. I know that my character is the patriarch of the family and I seem to be the dominant parent. But I don’t get through those scenes without Seidy López. She’s this quiet, grounded, gravitational force.”

The series also gives an inside look at the struggles Mexican-Americans and the Latinx community as a whole face in the entertainment industry. “Latinos as a general entity, so encompassing all of us,” Chavira explains, “we are the largest growing percentage of [the United States]. Within our industry the issue that we’ve had is that they’ve constantly tried to place us in a box as Latinos or Latinx. And what we’ve found is that doesn’t work. Because you have all of these smaller components to what is the Latino or Latinx spectrum. Just because it’s a Latino story doesn’t mean I’m going to tune into it. You have to get specific with the stories and get specific with the characters. This isn’t just a Latinx story. This is specifically a Mexican-American story from South Texas.”

Part 2 of “Selena: The Series” begins streaming on Netflix on May 4 and Chavira gives a bit of insight on what to expect. “Abraham is going to have to come to terms with the fact that [his children] are adults and they get to have their own autonomy and make decisions for themselves, even if it’s against his wishes. And then he’s going to struggle with, do I reject these things or embrace it and tolerate it for the good of what is our business entity and our franchise that we’ve created in Selena y Los Dinos?”

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