Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada in VIDA - Season 3 | ©2020 Starz

Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada in VIDA – Season 3 | ©2020 Starz

The third and final season of VIDA begins on Starz Sunday, April 26. In the series created by Tanya Saracho, free-spirited but overly impulsive Lyn Hernandez, played by Melissa Barrera, is finally learning how to act responsibly. Her older sister Emma, played by Mishel Prada, has spent years being cool and controlled, but is now learning how to open up to others. In Season 1, The siblings reunited after years apart when their mother Vida died, leaving her lesbian East L.A. bar to the two young women.

Barrera, originally from Monterrey, Mexico, starred in numerous Spanish-language television series, as well as the feature film L FOR LEISURE. She has wrapped filming in the role of Vanessa in the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical IN THE HEIGHTS.

Prada, born in Hialeah, Florida, starred in the FEAR THE WALKING DEAD miniseries “Passage.” Her film credits include EAT SPIRIT EAT, THERE IS A NEW WORLD SOMEWHERE, BENJAMIN TROUBLES, TELL ME HOW I DIE, THE TWO DOGS, and BACHELOR LIONS. This season, Prada began the recurring role of Hermosa Lodge, newly-discovered half-sister of Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), on The CW’s RIVERDALE.

Barrera and Prada sit down together to discuss all things VIDA.

ASSIGNMENT X: Were you surprised or just gratified when VIDA got a third season pick-up?

MELISSA BARRERA: We were definitely very grateful.

MISHEL PRADA: Yeah.

BARRERA: You never know, it’s never a guarantee. At least with our show, it has never been like, “Oh, we’re going to go for so many seasons.” It’s always one at a time. So we are always thrilled when we get to go back and continue to tell this story of these sisters that we think is so important right now, in the world of television currently, to have a story like ours. But I don’t think we were surprised, either, because we felt like we had a solid Season 2.

PRADA: Yeah. That’s a perfect way to describe it. We were grateful, because we definitely felt like we were able to deliver with the first and second season, so we felt like we deserved a third season. And then when it was given to us, we were grateful to get to come back into these bodies and these stories, and tell it like we feel like it should be told.

VIDA - Season 3 Key Art | ©2020 Starz

VIDA – Season 3 Key Art | ©2020 Starz

AX: It seems like Emma is generally more relaxed about life and love this season. There’s a trailer where Emma and Lyn are talking with Emma’s lover Nico, played by Roberta Colindrez, and you’re all talking about pop culture, and how it is possible that Emma has never seen …

BARRERA: Oh, THE PRINCESS BRIDE.

PRADA: I’ve actually never seen PRINCESS BRIDE [laughs].

AX: [laughs] How is this possible?

BARRERA: [laughs] She’s very Method. It’s that scene at the bar, where I’m telling you, “This is my plan, the lotteria and the shots,” and you and Nico are super-flirty, and I’m like, “All right, hello, hi,” And you’re relaxed in the way that you’re comfortable with Nico there, but also relaxed with Lyn and her plans, which is also shocking.

PRADA: Well, I think, if anything, I would say that there’s a spiritual evolution, or if there’s a word for Emma this season, it’s acceptance. And it’s her moving away from, in Season 1, trying to move away, in Season 2, trying to fix, and then at some point, in Season 3, just accepting what is, and that’s a really interesting color for her to have. And what happens doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s not going to happen easy for her, but it is kind of just being open, and we see these walls – in Season 1, she’s really trying to hold it all together, and then with Season 2, she’s trying to still have a wall, but operate in a way where she’s letting it open, but in a very controlled way, and then Season 3, it’s like, what if she just lets what happens happen? It’s not easy for any of us. But yes, there is more of an acceptance, and we see where that plays out.

AX: Whereas Lyn is firming up a little …

BARRERA: Yeah. They’re coming into their own. They’re both embracing sides of themselves that maybe they had left behind. Lyn is taking charge, and is enjoying having a little bit of responsibility at the bar. And they’re doing so well that that also comes with a lot of pressure. Because now that people are coming, Lyn has to continue to make the bar exciting, and to create music nights, and game nights and stuff to keep people trickling in, so that they can continue to thrive, and stay in business. Because also for Lyn, I think, this is her last lifeline. If this doesn’t work, then she has nothing left. Emma and the bar are the only light at the end of the tunnel for her. And if this doesn’t work, I don’t think she wants to go back to the life that she was living before. And it’s very scary for her if that happens.

PRADA: Lyn is making executive decisions, and feeling comfortable in herself to do that, and not being scared about [Emma] getting mad at her, in a weird way, being like, “You know what? This is a good idea, and I’m going to put this on the table, and I’m going to stand by this.” And if Emma makes a decision, as opposed to just going along with it, she’s like, “Mmm, it’s not my favorite thing, but okay, I’ll give you that.” And that’s been a really interesting shift for both of the sisters.

AX: When did the two of you meet each other in the course of VIDA? Did you meet at the auditions, did you already know each other …?

PRADA: We met at rehearsal.

BARRERA: Yeah, we met at rehearsal [laughs]. What was it, two weeks before we started shooting, or something like that?

PRADA: Yeah.

BARRERA: We were rehearsing at Third Street Dance.

PRADA: We did a readthrough, and then [director] Alonso [Ruizpalacios] had us do some improv stuff, remember? [laughs]

BARRERA: Yeah. It was fun. And it was an instant connection. And because I was involved in the show before Mishel was, I was waiting to meet her – I feel like the dynamic that Lyn and Emma have, I just wanted her to come in and like me, so that helped also establish a relationship to how we were going to play these sisters, because I was like, “Okay, I hope that when she comes in, she likes me, and that we have good chemistry, and that we can work together.” And it was just very easy and natural with her.

Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada in VIDA - Season 3 | ©2020 Starz

Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada in VIDA – Season 3 | ©2020 Starz

PRADA: I feel the same way [laughs].

AX: How much of yourselves do you feel are reflected in your characters? That is, [Melissa Barrera] are you normally that high energy? [Mishel Prada], are you normally that contained?

PRADA: What I think also is perfect with the chemistry between Mellie and I is, I feel like there are definitely parts of me in Emma, for sure, and then there are parts of what’s so not me, and I think it’s the same with you [Barrera], and in a weird way, I think we kind of glean off of each other –

BARRERA: Yes –

PRADA: It’s an interesting dynamic. Also, we’re actors. You also want to get the opportunity to play something that’s different, you don’t want to play yourself the entire time. So I think we really benefited from this idea, where we always joke that Mellie’s way more like an Emma, and I’m way more like a Lyn just in our lives, but yet there’s this mutual respect, where we are constantly learning from each other, and growing, and appreciating that, as opposed to looking at the other person and going, “Well, you’re not like this, and I’m like this, so there’s something wrong with you.” It’s like, there’s something really special about that, so I think that also lends itself to the chemistry that we get to do onscreen.

BARRERA: Yeah. I think it also happens while we’re shooting. I’m not as high energy and as upbeat as Lyn is in life, but I become like Lyn during the shoot. I feel like a lot of people on set probably think that I am a lot like Lyn, even though I am not, because [during shooting for VIDA], I’m just in that zone all the time.

PRADA: Yeah. I noticed that too even when I did the chemistry read with Roberta Colindrez. Because at this point, it was like the second season. I’d never had to go back to a character before [for a second season] in my entire life, so I was a little nervous. “Am I going to be able to …?” And then I went in, and Tanya and Roberta were already sitting there with [VIDA casting director] Carmen Cuba, and I walked in. [The others were being sociable] and in my mind, I knew my lines, and I was ready to go, and they were wanting to talk, and I was like, “Are we ready to do this?” I didn’t realize until afterwards – I was like, “Maybe I was a little cold …” And Roberta was saying that she thought I was a bit more guarded, and it wasn’t until she met me as a person that she was like, “Oh, you came in, in character.” But I didn’t intend to come in, in character, I just was like, this was the head space.

AX: Have either of you had to learn anything in order to play your characters?

BARRERA: I had to re-learn how to play the ukulele, just because Tanya wanted me to play the ukulele, and I just literally learned the song that I had to play, because I haven’t played in a really long time.

PRADA: And I’ve worked in the service industry before, and I also like to cook, so I know my way around the kitchen. So that always felt fine.

BARRERA: And Lyn is always working out, but I work out a lot …

PRADA: I think we might have had to learn how to be a bit more comfortable in sexuality. It’s not so much I have an issue with the nudity [nearly everyone in VIDA has nude scenes], but in life, sometimes you’re not thinking about it, and then at some point, you’re going, “What is it like to just be lounging around naked with someone that you love?” And that’s kind of fun.

AX: How is working with some of the other VIDA actors, like Ser Anzoategui who plays Vida’s widow Eddy, and Chelsea Rendon, who plays community activist Marisol, and Carlos Miranda, who plays Marisol’s brother and Lyn’s sometimes lover, and Roberta Colindrez?

PRADA: I think each person brings different strengths, and it’s really fun to get to see how that goes. Chelsea is such a force, I feel like she’s such an iconic character.

BARRERA: I didn’t have a single scene with Chelsea this season, and I was so bummed.

PRADA: Well, Chelsea’s character this season goes off and does a bit of her own thing, which I think is part of the character’s evolution, and she gets to have a lot more scenes with Carlos as well, so we get to see a bit more of that. And then, obviously, I have a lot of scenes with Roberta, and we see a lot more of her back story. And then with Ser Anzoategui’s character, we see what it’s like for her to maybe move past mourning, because she’s been mourning so much these last two seasons, and what maybe evolution looks like, and what you’re ready for, and how grieving looks different for different people.

AX: There are a couple of other shows that have been shooting in East L.A. Have you crossed paths with any other productions?

PRADA: Not while we were shooting, but I know GENTEFIED [pronounced “Hen-tified”] is one that’s coming out, and I got the opportunity to meet with the show runners. And we’re excited, because a lot of the people – or a few of the people who are on VIDA are on GENTEFIED. So I feel like the more stories we can tell, the better. But we haven’t officially crossed during shooting.

AX: As of this season, you’re also on RIVERDALE, playing one of the crazier family members …

PRADA: I know. It’s so fun to get to play this classic femme fatale. And what’s amazing about RIVERDALE is, I feel like what [RIVERDALE series creator] Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has done with the genre, teen drama, has really pushed what is mainstream. Even behind the camera, the amount of women that I got to work with on set – I don’t think it’s that crazy, because obviously VIDA has so many women behind the camera, but it is a fun thing to get to see what he’s been doing with that, and then having this very sexually open woman coming in that’s challenging the whole RIVERDALE universe is really fun. There’s some good stuff coming up with that storyline.

AX: How has it worked going back and forth between VIDA and RIVERDALE?

PRADA: I actually felt so grateful. RIVERDALE’s been so wonderful, they let me leave to shoot VIDA, so my character left, and then I went right back. But they’ve been really amazing in the sense that it was nice to have a stepping stool after VIDA. VIDA is so intense. You’re just ripping your heart open to be able to do that. And also, we [Prada and Barrera] are the leads of the show, so we are on set every single day, and it was nice to hop off of that to something that’s just fun. And I work one day, get two days off, and that’s been really amazing.

AX: Did RIVERDALE come out of them seeing you on VIDA?

PRADA: Yeah. I know Roberto is friends with Tanya, and was one of the reasons that they were aware. It was really cool. They wrote the role for me. And it was fun. Because Hermosa is a powerful woman, but in a much different way that Emma is. So it’s cool.

AX: And are you getting offered roles that are either similar to or very different from Lyn?

BARRERA: Some. Some are similar, because I feel like when people see you as something, then they think of you as that. But no, I’ve actually been very fortunate to get different kinds of roles offered, and get to do different kinds of characters.

PRADA: And also, I think it speaks to, Melissa has such an incredible range as a person, and as an actor, it’s amazing. Because I feel like with IN THE HEIGHTS, there’s a similar view of what it’s like to leave the place that you grew up in and come back, but still, it’s a different character. And it’s great to see you blossom in that way.

BARRERA: Yeah. It was definitely a challenge, and it was good to go into play this character that I knew so well, because I was such a big fan of the Broadway show already, and I thought I knew the character, but they added so many layers and so much back story to her in the movie that it became so rich and so delicious to play. And it still resonates with that thing of not feeling like you’re completely [at home]. Vanessa wants to get out of her town, because she feels like people are only going to see her as one thing right there, and she can’t grow. And it’s a great journey. It was a beautiful, beautiful role to play.

AX: Are we going to get to hear either or both of you sing on this season of VIDA?

PRADA: There’s a lot more singing this season.

BARRERA: I sing. I sing a little bit.

PRADA: Oh, yeah. It’s really good.

BARRERA: Also, other characters get to sing. It’s a very musical season.

PRADA: Honestly, people do not sleep on our soundtrack. It’s a lot of really wonderful, proper East L.A. Latinx [performers and composers].

BARRERA: And some original songs, too.

PRADA: Original songs – there’s a lot of care that goes into the music of our show, and it’s legit. It’s not just painted over as an afterthought. There’s a lot of thought that goes into it.

AX: Do feel a sense of homecoming when you’re shooting in the neighborhood, and in the sets and locations for VIDA?

PRADA: Oh, it’s my favorite to shoot. Well, because also, so much of the first season was actually shot on location, because it got greenlit last minute, so there weren’t any soundstages for us to be able to shoot on. So we shot a pretty emotional, intense scene our last day of shooting on set. I almost wish I had fully understood, but we were so exhausted [laughs].

BARRERA: It was exhausting. It was I think a Friday, it was the last day, we wrapped at 7 AM, we had been shooting all week already, long days, and it was our last day at the bar location in Koreatown. And we had this huge, emotional scene. And we were all so focused on that, that we totally forgot to say goodbye to the place. We were done and it was 7 AM, “It’s a wrap, everybody go home,” and we were so tired. And then I thought, “Oh, my God, that was the last time we were going to be on that street.” And it’s sad. It’s become really special. Even the neighborhood people, when we come back, they’re happy to see us. They feel like family. I feel like they think we’re their family, too, so it’s great to have them looking and coming to say hello. It’s really nice.

AX: If VIDA is ever revived after Season 3 concludes, would you want to come back?

PRADA: There’s always room, and we love playing these characters, and I feel like these stories are important for us to tell, so if it’s in the cards –

BARRERA: We would do this forever.

AX: Are you working on anything else?

PRADA: Honestly, this year, I’m concentrating a lot on writing and moving into producing. I know Mellie is as well. Because I think it’s a really important time. I think with everything that we’ve seen, we feel how important it is for us to make our own content. So this year is going to be a lot of concentrating on that.

AX: And what would you both most like people to know about Season 3?

BARRERA: I think it’s the gayest season yet [laughs]. It is.

PRADA: [laughs] It is, believe it or not. It is the gayest season.

BARRERA: It’s so fun. There are a lot of big events that happen this season that I cannot wait for people to see.

This interview was conducted during Starz’s portion of the Winter 2020 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

Related: VIDA: Exclusive interview with creator Tanya Saracho on Season 2

Related: VIDA: Exclusive interview with creator Tanya Saracho on Season 1 of new Starz comedy

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Article: VIDA: Exclusive interview with stars Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada on the final season

 

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