Showcasing the early life and rise to fame of superstar Selena Quintanilla, Netflix’s Selena: The Series also gives an inside look at the Mexican-American family. The filmmakers worked with the real Quintanillas to bring their story to life, and director Hiromi Kamata of Japanese and Mexican descent worked with the cast on their breath-taking performances. In an interview with CinemaBlend, Hiromi Kamata opened up about her background, approach to directing and working with the cast of Selena: The Series.
Adapting a true story carries a different kind of pressure than fiction. There is already existing material and facts to guide the story, but filmmakers still have to make it interesting and have the ability to put their own spin on it. I asked Hiromi Kamata how directing this re-telling of a real family’s life, and here’s what she said:
One, you have a Latina icon that cannot be compared to any other Latin person, I think… recreating a real life character always has a lot of responsibility as well as expectations. When we think of Selena, we have to be very careful and very respectful of doing her justice. In a different way you’re building a character out of memories from someone else or images, video, as much as you can get your hands onto, but in the end you know it’s a character that actually existed.
It sounds a bit overwhelming, but Hiromi Kamata said it was exciting at the same time. The actors were as excited as she was to tell the story and were a great help on set when it came to certain elements of these characters. Here’s what Kamata said of working with Ricardo Chavira, in particular, who plays Selena’s father Abraham.
Ricardo Chavira, who’s a master at what he does and he’s such a wonderful man, such a wonderful actor, he always brings something to the table and has something that will make the scene and the performance even more honest. He’s a parent for example, he has three children and I don’t have kids. So when talking about all the family dynamics or the family scenes, he’s always got something that made it absolutely amazing. As the director, I always ask myself two questions: One, do I believe what I’m watching and two, do I care? And that is something [Chavira] brings, I always believe what he’s doing and I always care.
While the entire cast of Selena: The Series is incredible, Ricardo Chavira really stands out. Abraham is the one who started the band and got the whole family to be a part of it and turned it into a business that everyone had a role in, and Chavira really portrays every aspect of that process. From the loving father who notices his daughter’s talent and wants her to succeed, to the businessman who negotiates recording contracts, to the husband who doesn’t want to fail and everything in between, Chavira does it all and the audience feels it all.
Hiroma Kamata loves when actors can bring something extra to the scene, as previously described with Chavira. The set is her playground, and working with her sounds like an actor’s dream. She gives ample room to experiment and have fun while getting the job done. Here’s what she shared with CinemaBlend of her process:
I’m kind of a little kid when I’m directing. I get so excited, so passionate about what I’m doing that I kind of lose myself in it and I like playing a lot. I serve the material and respect the script absolutely, but I love to see what an actor brings to the table. I obviously have a vision, but I think the beauty of my job is to capture human behavior so I’m open to all the possibilities and collaborations. That’s what I’m trying to pursue and enforce when working with an actor...sometimes I block, and then an actor proposes something and they have a great idea and it becomes something even better that I could ever have dreamed of.
Hiromi Kamata originally got into directing because her father was a director of photography at a studio in Tokyo. He went to Mexico to shoot a commercial where he met and fell in love with Katama’s mother. As a result, Kamata grew up on set, and though her father tried to get her to study law, she realized at a young age that what she really wanted was to direct and make movies.