Damayanti Quintanar talks about playing the intense role of Yolanda Saldívar, the killer of the Queen of Tex-Mex music, in new series El Secreto de Selena.

By Lena Hansen
August 16, 2019 07:45 PM

To transform into the character of Yolanda Saldívar, Selena Quintanilla's killer, in the new Telemundo series El Secreto de Selena, Damayanti Quintanar had to gain almost 40 pounds and get into the twisted mind of the woman who went from being Selena's friend and fan-club president to the person who ended the life of the beloved Queen of Tex-Mex music.

"This has been the most challenging character I've ever played," the Mexican actress tells People CHICA. "The weight gain was significant and I felt very uncomfortable, but at the same time it gave me great tools to better play the character." She also completely changed her tone of voice and accent to imitate Saldívar's. "Yolanda has a very particular way of speaking and she has very humble Mexican Spanish vocabulary that reflects her roots. Her parents were very humble. She spoke Spanish like a gringa, with an [American] accent. Her voice said many things about her," Quintanar says.

(Photo by Carlos Tischler/Getty Images)

Quintanar also had to submerge herself in the dark world of Saldívar's thoughts and emotions. "She is a woman that lives in a society where we judge how people look, and it's very difficult for her to be the daughter of Mexicans living in the United States, to be overweight, short, to not have money. These are all factors that unfortunately make her life harder," the actress reflects. "She experienced rejection and she found in Selena that love, inclusion and acceptance that she was looking for. Selena was that light in the life of Yolanda that gave her so much. She became her friend, she made [Yolanda] her personal assistant and later the director of her boutiques. Selena really trusted Yolanda."

The actress adds that she and her costar Maya Zapata, who plays Selena in the series, both agreed it was important to show how close these women were at one point in their lives. "It was important to photograph that friendship and bond they had. Why, if they were such good friends, did things end in such a big tragedy?" she wonders.

The bond Saldívar and Selena Quintanilla shared was unique, the actress says. "They shared a love of true friendship, of almost being mom and daughter because what Yolanda says is that Selena called her ‘mom' and she called her ‘mi hija.' In all her interviews Yolanda says, ‘She was like my daughter and I took care of her.' Yolanda would go out or her way to serve Selena. Since Selena was so close with her family circle she didn't have many friends from school or college. Yolanda was that friend that she could count on to share her secrets, her travesuras and her most intimate things."

To detox from Saldívar's emotionally draining character, Quintanar had to reconnect with herself after filming ended and traveled to Japan on vacation. She also did some inner work to feel like she was back in her own skin. "I went to therapy, I started exercising again, I meditated, I had to reconnect with myself and cleanse everything that character left behind."