Exclusive: Melissa Barrera on How Her Mamá Instilled a Resilience that Has Motivated Her Career
Melissa Barrera has shown Hollywood she is not afraid to take on challenging roles.
From her role as Lyn on the Starz original series Vida, to the struggling world of Vanessa from In the Heights, the 32-year-old actress' career has evolved across a plethora of genres and now she jumps head first into the world of action with Keep Breathing.
The six-part limited drama series follows Barrera's character Liv as she struggles to survive after her private plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness. As the only survivor of the crash, Liv battles with nature and her troubled past as she fights for her life.
In an exclusive interview with People Chica, the Monterrey native discusses how she struck a balance between strength and vulnerability for this role and the advice her mother gave her early on in her career that has helped her push through moments of doubt.
From musicals to television dramas, your career expands across several genres. What drew you to Keep Breathing?
It's the kind of role I've always dreamed of. It is a role that has the perfect balance between physicality—I mean, it's very, very action-packed and it's very physically demanding—but it also has an emotional arc that's beautifully written and it's an acting challenge for me as well.
Ever since I knew this show existed and read the scripts, I said, "I have to do this role." I mean, it's exactly what I've been looking for.
Your character, Liv, has had to cultivate perseverance in several aspects of her life that we see throughout the show and that help her through this journey. How did you find the tenuous balance between strength and vulnerability throughout the series?
Well, I think the circumstances lent themselves for everything to be skin deep. When you're alone trying to survive, all the insecurities, all the emotions, they kind of explode. She's a woman, that [as] we see in flashbacks, is very tough, very rigid, very professional, very hard-working and always focused on her career.
She does not let herself be felt much, but we see the contrast when she is alone because she doesn't need to have any filter or hide from anyone. She doesn't have to put up a professional face at all. I think that balance between seeing the past and the present gives us a very complete image of what she is as a person.
In Latin culture, the figurehead of the mother is very important. What is something your own mother, or a maternal figure in your life, taught you that you hold onto during tough times?
I am a person who is very attached to her mother—she is my hero. Basically, everything she tells me and teaches me stays with me, and whenever I'm going to do something the first person I think of is her and what she would do. Or if I need any advice, I talk to her and she is always there for me.
I think that one of the most important lessons my mother has given me, which may sound harsh, but she was always a very strict mother in the way that she always demanded a lot from me, but I think that thanks to that I have achieved what I have achieved in life. She always told me, "if you're not going to do something right, don't do it."
So, I try to do everything I do with the greatest respect and the greatest care, and the greatest dedication and to the best of my ability. In other words, always try to do the best I can in everything.
Keep Breathing is now streaming on Netflix.