Christian Serratos performs on stage in "Selena: The Series." Viewers of the show will hear Selena's actual recordings. Photo courtesy of Netflix
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- For actors Christian Serratos and Ricardo Chavira, Selena: The Series was more than just a job. They related to the story of Tejano artist Selena Quintanilla and her family because her music impacted their lives in the '90s.
Serratos was born in 1990, the year Selena released her second Spanish-language album, Ven Conmigo.
Selena was hugely popular, and was named the "Queen of Tejano" music by Billboard. Her final album, Dreaming of You, remains the No. 1-selling Latin Album. She was shot and killed in 1995 by her business partner and president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar.
Serratos said she continued to explore Selena's music while she was growing up.
"We listened to her music in the house," Serratos told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "I was very familiar with Selena and became a huge fan, and just learned more and more about her and her legacy as I grew up."
Chavira was born in 1971, the same year Selena was born. Now, he plays her father, Abraham Quintanilla.
When Selena died, Chavira was a student at Incarnate Word College in San Antonio. He said he would pass one of Selena's fashion boutiques on the way to and from school.
"I remember walking by that the day she died," Chavira said in a phone interview. "People were out there crying and lighting candles and setting out flowers. The news cameras were out there."
The legendary performer was previously the subject of a 1997 movie, Selena. Jennifer Lopez played the singer and Edward James Olmos portrayed her father. While the movie encapsulated Selena's life in two hours, the Netflix series has 18 episodes, 30 to 40 minutes each, that delve into details of Selena and the Quintanilla family's rise in the music industry.
The series shows Selena discovering Tejano music at a fair when she was 8 years old. Serratos was impressed to learn just how early in life Selena began her career.
"I knew that she was young, but I didn't know how young she was when she was already having the ideas that she did that were going to make her a star," Serratos said. "She was such a creative and smart young person. She was so business savvy at such a young age."
The series shows Abraham Quintanilla struggling to give his family opportunities. The Quintanillas fish equipment out of dumpsters. The family band, Selena y Los Dinos, plays at the Quintanilla family restaurant, until they lose the restaurant.
Researching Abraham Quintanilla, Chavira recognized the man he saw in interviews and heard anecdotes about from those close to him. Chavira said the Quintanillas' upbringing in Corpus Christi, Texas, near the Mexican border, reminded him of his family's culture in San Antonio.
"The descriptions and what I saw in the interviews was synonymous with the way my father carried himself, the way my tios acted and carried themselves, from their outward demeanor to their vocal cadences," Chavira said.
The whole Quintanilla family was involved with Selena y Los Dinos, with siblings Suzette (Noemi Gonzalez) on drums and A.B. (Gabriel Chavarria) on bass. Los Dinos still played with Selena when she signed with EMI Records in 1989, but the label decided to drop the name "y Los Dinos."
Suzette also is an executive producer of Selena: The Series. Both Serratos and Chavira said they did not speak with Suzette until after filming began, and Chavira never met Abraham.
The 30-year-old Serratos portrays Selena from the time she was 16 until age 24. Serratos said she could still relate to Selena's younger years.
"I've also been 16, so it wasn't hard for me to tap back into that," Serratos said.
In the series, the Quintanilla family speaks both Spanish and English. The bilingual dialogue accurately represented Mexican-American families living in South Texas, Chavira said.
"We have a tendency to kind of go in and out of Spanish and English, sometimes even within one phrase or one sentence," Chavira said. "Not just within a household but even out in public when you're shopping, when you're among friends."
For Serratos, the show's bilingual dialogue also spoke to Selena's eventual crossover success. Selena released both Spanish and English music and spoke both languages.
"It was honest and it was truthful," Serratos said. "I think her fan base expects that."
The show uses recordings of Selena's music. Even though you hear Selena's voice singing the songs, Serratos said she still gave it her all when she sang them on the set.
"I performed them 100% because I wanted it to look like I was really singing," Serratos said.
Selena: The Series premieres Friday on Netflix.