Yolanda Saldívar, the woman who killed Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla-Perez, appears in only one shot in Netflix’s “Selena: The Series.” But the actress who plays her, Natasha Perez, said she fears that fans may confuse her with the real-life murderer she portrays on screen.
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that Perez is not related to Selena or her husband, Chris Perez. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actress also wanted to make it clear that her portrayal of Saldívar is purely for entertainment purposes.
“I remember thinking I’d like to see what it’s like playing an evil villain. It sounded fascinating from an actor’s standpoint, to dissect what someone like that has going through their minds,” Perez told EW. “I remember working with the director on the scene and she asked me how I was feeling. I told her I was feeling conflicted. The actress in me is fascinated by the journey of a complex character, but the human in me has all sorts of feelings. The actress in me is also worried for her safety. A lot of people take this very seriously and think that it’s real, and in this case, the character is real but it’s not me. I’m not her.”
The real Yolanda Saldívar ran Selena’s fan club and managed her Selena Etc. boutiques. She was fired in early March 1995 after the family accused her of embezzling money from the business. A few weeks later, on March 31, Selena met Saldívar at a motel in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Saldívar shot the 23-year-old in the back. The bullet severed one of Selena’s arteries, and she died of blood loss later that day after being taken to a hospital.
According to a 1995 CNN story, Saldívar was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years, which was the maximum prison sentence permitted in Texas at that time. She will be up for parole in 2025.
Perez said that although she wanted to visit the real Saldívar in prison in order to help her portrayal on-screen, she decided against it out of respect for Selena’s family.
“I was interested in meeting her even though I knew that the person I would be meeting would be a shell of the person who has been in prison and in solitary confinement for so many years. My interest was in seeing her mannerisms, and how she spoke. I requested permission to meet her, but to honor the family we decided it would be best for me not to,” Perez said. “Instead, I spent so long scouring the internet finding anything I could about her.”
Perez stressed that the series is not about Selena’s death but rather about celebrating her life.
“The series isn’t about her death. Yolanda is there to add tension to what’s going on, but what’s going on is so beautiful because it’s an artist finding herself, an artist emerging and finding her place within her family, and society,” she added. “Everyone was very careful with how it was all handled. Unfortunately, Yolanda is a part of Selena’s tragic story. But the beauty of it all is how her legacy continues until today through her music, her art, and really, her whole life. Thanks to her, we can have this conversation today and celebrate a show about a Latina, starring and written by Latinos. It’s a beautiful thing.”
“Selena: The Series” is now streaming on Netflix.