For Melissa Barrera, starring in “Vida” as free-spirited Lyn Hernandez has opened her eyes to the complexity of the Latinx experience in the United States, something she hadn’t fully considered while growing up and, later, working in Mexico.
“I was in Mexico City prior to L.A. and doing my thing, not really knowing what the experience of being a Latino or Latina and living in the United States and being born there means,” she tells Variety on the “Variety After-Show.” “You don’t really think of, emotionally, the toll that it can take on a human being to live and grow up like you don’t fully belong, and you’re not fully welcome in your own country.”
It’s one of the themes “Vida” will continue to grapple with in its third and final season, the premiere of which was a bittersweet affair for Barrera. Before playing Lyn, Barrera had starred in Mexican telenovelas, and this is the first role to introduce her to U.S. audiences. She earned her work visa from being on the show.
She next stars in “In the Heights,” Jon M. Chu’s film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, which she calls a celebration of the immigrant experience.
“It’s honoring immigrants. It’s what it is. It’s a celebration of immigrants and the struggle and the pain of generations that we carry,” she said, adding that she’s excited that the film will get a theatrical release — June 2021 — albeit a full year after its originally scheduled bow.
“If [Warner Bros.] had just said, ‘All right, we’ll release ‘In the Heights’ for streaming and everybody can see it in their house,’ I would’ve been, I think, disappointed because it’s such a spectacle,” she says.
Barrera is also slated to star in a modern-day, big-screen adaptation of French opera “Carmen,” Variety reported exclusively last year.