Christian Serratos likes to make people cry. Fortunately, the actress’s most recent project, the second installment of Netflix’s Selena: The Series, offers ample opportunities. In one scene from Part 2 (premiering today), Serratos, who plays the iconic Tejano singer, is laying down vocals for “No Me Queda Más” in a recording booth as her longtime bandmate Ricky Vela, who wrote the song about his own heartbreak, looks on. As she sings, fully embodying the feelings he has put to paper, she looks at him with a tender, knowing glance as he struggles to suppress tears behind his glasses. Though it’s a short scene, it perfectly captures the essence of Selena’s story: the importance of family, the emotional weight of Selena’s presence, and the singular beauty of her voice. The way that she can make you feel all the sadness in the world just by the way she elongates the a while singing no me importa (“I don’t care”). I cried while watching it. And you will cry. And that will make Serratos giddy.
“I’m very sinister,” she explains, laughing, “but that’s kind of how I gauge at work if what I did was compelling. I know it’s really good if Hiromi [Kamata, who directed several episodes of both Parts 1 and 2] is crying. That’s always the goal: Make the director cry.”
Of course, sadness is not really what she wants you to take away from Selena’s story. Growing up in Texas as a third-generation Mexican American, Selena started performing as a young girl in a band put together by her father. Selena y Los Dinos, as it would eventually be called, rose to fame in the late ’80s and early ’90s with a mix of Tejano and Latin pop music. (The band also included her sister Suzette on drums, her brother A. B. on bass, and, later, her future husband Chris Pérez on guitar.) Her breakthrough 1994 record Amor Prohibido became one of the best-selling Latin albums in the United States. When she was tragically murdered in 1995 at just 23 years old by Yolanda Saldívar, the president of her fan club, she was in the process of recording a crossover English-language album, Dreaming of You, which was released later that year and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. As was the case for many Mexican American girls who came of age in the late ’80s and early ’90s and beyond, Serratos was deeply influenced and moved by Selena. “I grew up admiring her, dreaming about whether I [would] ever have the opportunity to meet her, or play her, just wanting to feel connected to her in some way,” she explains. “Even though [her story] is a tragedy, it was a joy to play her. I think the most poignant thing about the second part of the series is that we focused on the light that she was. Not how her life ended.”
In real life, Serratos possesses the same joie de vivre as Selena. And like the singer, who traveled throughout Texas and the Southwest performing with her family, she embraces a touring-with-your-family lifestyle. “Usually we move in a pack—my husband [David Boyd, the front man for the band New Politics] and Wolfie [her four-year-old daughter] and I go everywhere together.” They currently reside in Los Angeles. “Wolfie is my best buddy,” Serratos tells me, her voice lighting up at the mention of her daughter. “She’s been on The Walking Dead set with me since she was born. We have great pictures of her sitting on top of a pile of fake dead bodies and stuff.”
Serratos says she always knew she wanted to be a mother. “I worry about sounding like an asshole, but I kind of knew exactly what it was going to be like to be a parent,” she tells me matter-of-factly. “Even the tantrums don’t really bother me, because I’m like, This is what it is, you knew what this was [going to be like].” That same laissez-faire attitude is her guiding principle when it comes to raising her daughter. “My goal is to keep her safe and make sure she’s not a dick.”
During the quarantine, the pack decamped to Los Angeles, after living in Atlanta, home of The Walking Dead, where she’s been playing Rosita Espinosa for the past eight seasons. While Serratos was going through that classic workaholic thing of wanting to relax when you are working and wanting to work when you are relaxing (“It’s a terrible, terrible thing, living in a constant state of dissatisfaction”), she had no trouble adjusting to life in lockdown. “On paper, it doesn’t sound great being trapped in a very small square footage [place] with a toddler, but I think it was harder being trapped with my husband,” she recalls with a laugh. Wolfie, it seems, is remarkably precocious when it comes to asserting personal boundaries. “We all have a great time together, but when Wolfie wants space, she says, ‘I need alone time.’ I’m like, ‘Okay great!,’ so she’ll go take her alone time.”
This Mother’s Day, Serratos is looking forward to a traditional low-key evening. “It’s kind of a running joke that the household usually forgets about Mother’s Day, so David does some things before and after, and I think it’s because he doesn’t know what day it’s on,” she says. “We’re usually just cozy, and our idea of a good time is to give me a really great gift. If David makes me food and a cocktail—he’s been making me this lavender gin cocktail that I’ve been asking for twice a week—and then we watch a movie and go to bed, that’s a solid day for me.”
One thing Serratos won’t be in need of this Mother’s Day? Beauty products. After starring in the Twilight movies as Angela Weber (Bella’s best human friend), being promoted to series regular on The Walking Dead after a season, and landing the role of Selena, she found herself in the coveted position of choosing beauty companies she might like to work with. Asked to write down a list of brands she loved, she says, “I only wrote ‘Dior.’ I was like, This could go badly, but I was really that confident. I just felt it in my gut.” Her gut was right, and in March of this year, Dior announced that Serratos would be one of its beauty ambassadors in the United States. “Getting to be a part of a company that I grew up admiring, and being the first Mexican American woman to be involved with Dior Beauty in the U.S., it’s just a dream come true.”
Someone who is also thrilled about her newfound partnership is Wolfie, whose favorite beauty product is Mom’s favorite, Dior Addict Lip Glow Oil in #012 Rosewood. “I have to keep opening new ones because Wolfie steals them,” Serratos tells me. “And every time we go out, she’s like, ‘I need to put on lipstick,’ and I’m like, ‘Great, because I’ve been looking for it—show me where it is.’ It’s our household’s favorite beauty product.” Lipstick swiping capers aside, Serratos says she loves being a mom and even loved being pregnant. “I thought I was my sexiest when I was pregnant,” she says. “I don’t think I want any more kids right now, but I would be pregnant for the rest of my life if it didn’t result in a child. I still love beauty and products, but I prefer a more natural look now.” Dior features heavily among her favorites, and although it is evident from her red-carpet photos that she loves a bold lip, Serratos’s secret weapon is “tons of blush.” Her go-to shade? Dior Rouge Blush in #999. “It’s bright-fucking-red,” she tells me in a conspiratorial tone. “I feel like everyone always gets a little nervous about it, but it’s the best blush in the world.”
Currently, Serratos seems to be living a charmed life. At 30, she has achieved so many milestones: her lifelong dream of playing Selena; being a mother to “an awesome kid”; becoming an ambassador for a famed French luxury house; and seeing her character Rosita survive eight seasons of zombies on The Walking Dead (“I thought there was a moment where I was going to be killed off the show, but that didn’t happen”). Yet her vision for her life and career remains disarmingly pragmatic.
Asked what she hopes for the future, she pauses to think for a couple of seconds. “I just really want to work,” she says. “I want to work with awesome people that I want to have a glass of wine with after work. That’s it. That’s my hope. My dreams are very simple.”
Mother’s Day Gift Ideas
Clothing and accessories by Dior; hair by DJ Quintero at the Wall Group; makeup by Sam Visser for Dior; manicure by Kim Cao; produced by Sienna Brown.