Actress Melissa Barrera felt a familiarity when she came to work in Hollywood from Mexico.

“The transition was very smooth because I came from Mexico, and then I came to a set where everyone spoke Spanish for the most part, and I was like, ‘Well, this is just like being home,’” Barrera told uInterview exclusively. “I had idealized Hollywood for a long time, and I was like, ‘Ah.’ I had such high expectations, and I thought it was gonna be another world. And it turns out it’s kind of the same everywhere.”

 
 

Barrera, who plays Lyn on the upcoming Starz show Vida, said she was thankful for her telenovela years, because they prepared her for her role on a television drama. She called it an actor’s bootcamp.

“I mean it’s different, and it’s also the same because Latinas, we have the melodrama in our veins and, you know, telenovelas are very dramatic, and they’re very big and it’s more theatrical, and you shoot 40 scenes a day, so it’s intense,” Barrera said.

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Her character’s world is flipped upside down from the very beginning of the show.

“Lyn is the younger of the two Hernandez sisters, and she is a hipster party girl that has figured out that if she seduces rich, white men, she can live off of them and not have to work very hard at all,” Barrera said. “In episode one, her mother dies and she has to return to the East side of Los Angeles and reunite with her sister to bury their mother, and they discover a huge secret — that their mother was married to a woman and didn’t tell them. Now they have to share the inheritance.”

She said that shooting racy scenes for Vida is nerve-wracking, especially when it involves nudity.

“It’s hard, and you expose yourself in more ways than just taking off your clothes,” Barrera said. “But I think it’s a beautiful thing that the show is showing these women who are empowered and who have agency over their bodies and over their sexualities and showing it as being okay. I think Tanya [Saracho] did a really good job of role reversal in this show, where a lot of the men are the ones taking their clothes off, and it’s just exciting.”

Can you describe your character in the show?

Melissa Barrera: Lyn is the younger of the two Hernandez sisters, and she is a hipster party girl that has figured out that if she seduces rich, white men, she can live off of them and not have to work very hard at all. So she’s been doing that for most of her adult life. In episode one, her mother dies and she has to return to the East side of Los Angeles and reunite with her sister to bury their mother, and they discover a huge secret — that their mother was married to a woman and didn’t tell them. Now they have to share the inheritance. What she thought that she could do — go home to the funeral and then go back to San Francisco — is not gonna happen, is not gonna be that easy, and she’s gonna have to stay in the place that she escaped for a longer time and deal with her roots and deal with everything that she left behind, which is a part of herself.

How’s your character’s relationship with her sister?

MB: They just butt heads all the time, and even though Lyn is like a little sister who just wants to be loved and wants the approval of her older sister and is trying so hard to be liked, Emma’s not having it. She has this wall, and she won’t let Lyn through, so every attempt that Lyn does of trying to get along is just thwarted, and so it gets to the point where Lyn is like, ‘You know what? I give up. I’m gonna go and make a bad decision somewhere.’

What’s it like shooting the more racy scenes?

MB: It’s always a little nerve-wracking to do scenes like that, especially when they involve nudity. It’s hard, and you expose yourself in more ways than just taking off your clothes. But I think it’s a beautiful thing that the show is showing these women who are empowered and who have agency over their bodies and over their sexualities and showing it as being okay. I think Tanya [Saracho] did a really good job of role reversal in this show, where a lot of the men are the ones taking their clothes off, and it’s just exciting.

How does this experience compare to working on a telenovela?

MB: I mean it’s different, and it’s also the same because Latinx, we have the melodrama in our veins and, you know, telenovelas are very dramatic, and they’re very big and it’s more theatrical, and you shoot 40 scenes a day, so it’s intense. I’m so thankful for my telenovela years because they prepared me for this. It’s an actor’s bootcamp, definitely.

The transition was very smooth because I came from Mexico, and then I came to a set where everyone spoke Spanish for the most part, and I was like, ‘Well, this is just like being home.’

I had idealized Hollywood for a long time, and I was like, ‘Ah.’ I had such high expectations, and I thought it was gonna be another world. And it turns out it’s kind of the same everywhere.