For W’s second annual TV Portfolio, we asked 26 of the most sought-after names in television to pay homage to their favorite small-screen characters by stepping into their shoes.
When it was revealed that the late Selena Quintanilla, a Mexican-American musical icon, would be getting the biopic treatment courtesy of Netflix, many wondered who could do the singer justice. Enter Christian Serratos, an actress who got her start on Nickelodeon’s Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, appeared in the Twilight saga, and had a recurring role on The Secret Life of the American Teenager. When Serratos portrayed the beloved Chicana musician on Selena: The Series, which chronicles her rise to fame up until her untimely death in 1995, many were quick to point out just how much she matched Quintanilla’s appearance and dance moves. While wrapping up the final season of The Walking Dead in Atlanta, on which she has appeared since 2014, the 30-year-old actress called us to discuss her ʼ90s style icons, rewatching The Nanny as an adult, and the most surprising fact she learned about Selena.
Do you remember the first time you watched The Nanny?
I do. The thing that was most memorable to me was the opening sequence. That was probably one of the most nostalgic things for me, the opening credits of The Nanny. I remember being a kid and watching it in the afternoons.
What are some of your favorite Fran Fine outfits? She’s pretty chic.
People don’t talk about what a fashion icon Fran Drescher was. She’s got a lot of looks! Some of her stuff felt super ʼ60s, but other stuff felt very of its time. The stockings with every outfit were epic, very ʼ90s and fabulous.
How would you describe your day-to-day style?
My day-to-day is black and white. I’m in sweats—and to me, that’s a fucking outfit. I feel rich wearing sweats! A lot of people think sweats are like you’ve given up on life, but I think sweats mean you want to be comfortable and ready for anything. It prepares you for a spontaneous day. The other version of me is, I love 1930s–50s glam. So I love being completely overdressed when I can be. I really don’t have a middle ground.
You recreated so many of Selena Quintanilla’s iconic looks on Selena: The Series. What’s the most surprising fact that you learned about her?
I knew that she wore many hats and that she was very self-sufficient, but I didn’t know the extent. I didn’t know that all of her costumes throughout her career were created by her. I thought at some point she probably had somebody or people, but no, everything, down to the purple jumpsuit, was her. I was also surprised to learn that there were three or four different colors of that jumpsuit and she wore them to shows, but they didn’t become as well-known as the purple one because she wore it to such a huge venue. The Astrodome was insane. So that became kind of synonymous with Selena.
Selena was early to the concept of being a true creative director.
So early! I realized doing press for Selena, we kept talking about her in the fashion world. I was like, wow, she was kind of the Rihanna of her time. It just makes me sad thinking about what she could have accomplished because she wanted to do it all. That was a really smart woman.
It’s probably hard to choose, but do you have a favorite outfit that Selena wore?
I always worry that people are going to be disappointed with my answer to this question because she’s got so many famous, infamous outfits. But my favorite is the jeans and a T-shirt version of her, because it feels so authentically Selena. It helped me get into her character. And it gave me this warmth toward her. She was human. She was just like us. We’ve turned her into this deity almost, so whenever I see photos of her in the baggiest of T-shirts, it warms my heart.
Serratos as Selena Quintanilla in ‘Selena: The Series.’ Sara Khalid/Netflix
You’ve been on The Walking Dead since 2014. Now it’s coming to an end. What is the most exciting or scary part about sticking the landing?
I feel like, moving forward, I’m going to compare every set to this set because they really became my family. How lucky to have that as your working environment, especially in a world that takes you away from your family. You’re shooting on location, you’re with like 400 strangers. I’m very sad to say goodbye but I’m also excited to see what all my best friends do after this, what I’m going to do after this. There’s a bit of pressure, like a “get another job” kind of feeling, but that’s the nature of the beast so I’m just excited to go home.
You’ve been acting your whole life. What excites you most about the current television landscape?
We’re telling really incredible stories right now. People are digging deep and we’re hearing other voices. I think that’s what creates really amazing, compelling, relatable stories. I got the opportunity to play a really strong woman, a Latin woman on Walking Dead, and I got to play an iconic Mexican-American woman in Selena. If I get to represent my culture again that would be amazing, and if I got the opportunity to produce something that allowed somebody else to shine, I would love that as well.
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