Melissa Barrera on ‘Carmen,’ Paul Mescal, and ‘Scream VI’
Melissa Barrera by no means had a backup plan. Six years in the past, when the then-27-year-old actress moved from Mexico Metropolis to Hollywood, she was burned out on the nation’s telenovela scene, and annoyed on the lack of alternatives to tackle extra various roles. She knew shifting to the U.S. would imply rebuilding her profession from the bottom up, however she was totally ready to begin over. The truth is, it’s precisely what she needed.
“I felt jaded,” she says. “The issues I needed to be doing, they wouldn’t have even let me within the room for. I used to be working continuously, however I used to be by no means doing something that gave me the ‘worth’ of turning into a reputation [in Mexico]. I wanted to go someplace the place nobody knew me, the place I might begin recent. They’d simply see me in a room, and I’d need to deliver it.”
It didn’t take lengthy for Barrera to determine herself as a star on the rise. During the last 5 years, she jumped from her breakout function as Lyn on the critically-acclaimed Starz collection Vida (her third-ever audition within the U.S.) to main roles in Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical blockbuster Within the Heights and, most not too long ago, the Scream reboots. This yr, she reprised her function as Sam Carpenter, illegitimate daughter of the unique Ghostface killer, in Scream VI, and can be flexing her musical muscle tissues once more in Carmen, an operatic love story directed and co-written by French choreographer Benjamin Millepied, out now in theaters.
Catching her breath for a minute again in her hometown of Monterrey, Barrera is bracing herself for the approaching months, and reflecting on how a lot her life has modified since she first left Mexico in 2017. “I wasn’t pondering, ‘In the future I’ll win an Oscar,’” she says. “I used to be simply going to go, audition daily, and e-book one thing quick. I instructed myself I used to be shifting and never coming again, that was my mindset.”
Perhaps it was that singular focus that allowed all the pieces to fall into place so shortly. Across the similar time that Barrera landed Vida, she additionally put herself on tape for Within the Heights and Carmen. It might be years earlier than both of these roles got here to fruition, and in Hollywood, it’s not uncommon for initiatives to tug on and even die. However Barrera held onto them. “Trying again on issues, it’s like all the pieces occurred so shortly,” she says. “However within the second, it didn’t really feel like a rollercoaster, it felt like I used to be on a teacup trip simply spinning and making an attempt to determine the place I used to be.”
When it got here to Scream, that was a possibility that actually shocked her. She’d been a horror fanatic as a child, and cherished the sensation of using an adrenaline rush with whoever was within the theater. Greater than that although, she cherished the thought of Sam Carpenter, the trauma-ridden daughter of Billy Loomis. Barrera welcomes a problem, and the thought of exploring the psyche of a lady burdened by her father’s previous was too thrilling to move up. “There was a lot that I needed to do,” she says. Going into Scream V, she knew the story would focus extra on Jenna Ortega’s Tara, her half-sister, however Scream VI gave her an opportunity to dig deeper. “I needed to see Sam having enjoyable and smiling,” she says. “What’s her relationship like along with her newfound household? Can she be greater than this tough shell of an individual we noticed final time? I simply needed to provide her extra colour. She’s such an unpredictable character and that’s all the time enjoyable to play.”
Melissa Barrera as Sam Carpenter and Jenna Ortega as Tara Carpenter in Scream VI.
It wasn’t till after Scream V’s launch final yr that Barrera realized that, between herself and Ortega, two Latinas had been now on the helm of one of many greatest horror franchises of the final 25 years. “We don’t ever communicate Spanish, or justify our existence in Woodsboro,” she says. “On this planet of this franchise, we simply exist. It’s a unique type of illustration, and I like that we’re simply allowed to be.”
Carmen exists on the opposite aspect of the spectrum. A two-hour drama, the movie follows Barrera’s Carmen, who flees her native Mexico after the homicide of her mom. As she journeys throughout the Mexican desert, Aidan (Paul Mescal), a former Marine, places himself at risk when he decides to assist her. Millepied’s characteristic debut, Carmen is a reimagining of an opera of the identical title, and is instructed, partially, by fantastically dreamlike musical sequences.
It’s epic, romantic, and for Barrera, a narrative she’s been holding onto since she got here to the U.S. herself. “I heard concerning the venture after I first moved to L.A., it was one of many first self-tapes that I did,” she says. Barrera was instantly drawn in by the magical realism of the movie. She known as her group the second she learn the outline, however didn’t hear something again for months. “I figured they didn’t like me,” she says. Then got here the supply to satisfy with Millepied.
Barrera in Carmen.
Sitting exterior of his L.A. Dance Challenge studio, they talked over the function, and some days later, he requested to see her dance. It took a number of years for the venture to achieve momentum, and for them to seek out the precise particular person to solid reverse Barrera—Mescal’s casting was introduced seven months after the premiere of Regular Folks. “As a result of it was such a protracted course of, lots of people would inform me it was by no means gonna occur,” she remembers. “However I knew in my coronary heart that it was too particular of a venture. We’ve seen tales about individuals crossing the border, however the best way that [Millepied] needed to inform it by music and motion, dance, and romance, I’d by no means seen something like that.”
From the start, she felt the movie had the potential to get individuals to empathize, to step out of what they thought they knew about immigrant tales. “I feel that was my preliminary draw to this venture,” she says. “How can I assist create empathy in a world that appears so withdrawn and so blind to so many individuals which can be going by this?”
Filmed in early 2021 in Sydney, Australia, the nation was beneath strict Covid-19 prevention protocols when Barrera and Mescal first arrived. Instructed to quarantine of their resort rooms for the primary two weeks of their arrival, the 2 first met over FaceTime. “I’m fairly good about being sedentary, however Paul just isn’t,” she says laughing. “Each time he would FaceTime me, he was pacing like a lion, it was so humorous.”
Barrera and Paul Mescal in Carmen.
Put up-quarantine, they started working on dancing. As a result of a lot of the movie is instructed by motion, it was crucial for them to construct up that chemistry earlier than they started taking pictures. “Dancing with somebody is so intimate, so private,” she says. “We had been simply studying to belief one another at first, and it was a phenomenal strategy to get to know one another. I obtained into character by Carmen’s physique first. So as soon as I obtained to set, I already knew how she moved, how she walked.”
Although Carmen’s story is a world away from her personal path to the U.S., Barrera is hopeful audiences will stroll away having linked along with her. “I hope that folks discover empathy inside themselves for the journey this girl is happening to hunt a greater, safer life,” she says. “However I additionally hope that folks simply let go and expertise the film. If you happen to let your self, you’ll really feel breathless, you’ll really feel shocked, and moved. Half of the film is in Spanish, and it doesn’t matter in case you don’t communicate it, as a result of you possibly can really feel how highly effective it’s. I hope individuals permit themselves to really feel that.”
Cat Cardenas is an Austin-based author and photographer protecting leisure and Latinx tradition. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, New York Journal, GQ, Selection, the New York Occasions, and extra. Observe Cat on Twitter and Instagram @catrcardenas.