The 1980s were the golden years of soap operas. American television had a handful of soaps pulling in millions of viewers. Latino households were filled with loyal fans waiting to tune into their primetime fix. Spanish-speaking telenovelas were ingrained in the culture and done as limited series. Telenovelas like Rosa Salvaje, Ligia Elena, Tú o Nadie, and Cristal among others were in demand. The common denominator for the various female roles in these productions? Women played the role of damsels in distress, poor lovesick romantic fools, underprivileged naive women, or vixens.
Finally, in 2011, a new type of female character was introduced in the game-changing La Reina del Sur: Teresa Mendoza. She is based on the real-life Mexican drug cartel boss Sandra Ávila Beltrán, otherwise known as “La Reina del Pacíifico.”
Telemundo revived La Reina del Sur last year for a sophomore season, creating a series that did so well that it outperformed some of its primetime English-speaking competition across various networks. The modern-age crime-drama unravels around the life of Teresa Mendoza, played by Mexican-American actor Kate del Castillo, a woman who comes up from the trenches to become the ruthless head of a Mexican drug cartel.
The latest season’s plot revolves around the power of vengeance delivered by the mother of all weapons. In this present installment, a strong, empowered, and fearless Mendoza is lured back into a dangerous world of villains, as she furiously searches for her kidnapped daughter, brilliantly acted by 14-year-old Isabella Sierra.
And we’re now watching season two all over again, but with never-before-seen footage in a special edition of the show that premiered last month: La Reina del Sur 2: Edición Especial. Recently, I had the pleasure to sit with Isabella for an interview via video conference. We discussed her role as Sofia Dantes and acting. Her sweet, courteous, and genuine responses were a true testament to the maturity possessed by the young actress.
Your acting career began around 2004. You have had great success already, so early in your career. Did you always want to act? When did you decide you wanted to enter the world of acting?
I always had a passion for acting! My parents are dance performers which gave me a foundation for the arts. The acting began in commercials around the age of 5; with time the love for my craft only grew stronger.
What do you most like about the acting world? Do you enjoy taking on various characters?
Acting offers the opportunity to learn so much, as I take on a variety of roles, interpreting different characters that challenge me. The idea that my work may influence the world, to make it better in some way, is satisfying.
The world of entertainment tends to accelerate the speed of which young actors must group up. How do you maintain your childhood intact? What do you like doing for fun when not on set?
Family is a major part of my life. They have provided a foundation for who I am and keep me grounded. My parents talk to me about life to help educate me about the realities of the world. It provides an understanding that good and bad things are out there. Staying close to them has been very important to me.
When I am not on the set, I spend a lot of time with the people I love. Enjoying time with cousins, cooking, or playing games together.
Las mujeres tenemos que aprender a defendernos como gatas panzas arriba! “Women have to learn to defend themselves like cats belly up!” Do you remember the scene when your on-screen mother Teresa said those words to you? She relayed the quote to you while she was training you in case you were ever kidnapped. Of all the things you have learned from being on La Reina del Sur, is there something in particular that you feel you will always remember or take with you that may help you personally in the future?
There has been so much to learn from filming this series. Gaining the basic knowledge of self-defense in dangerous situations is invaluable as a female. Survival skills are always useful but being a strong and smart woman that empowers herself with the best skills mentally and physically is something I will never forget.
There are many intense scenes on the show. Moments where I as a viewer have felt anxiety and fearful for the character of Sofia. Where do you draw so many different emotions? How can you interpret the feelings of a situation alien to you, making it look so real? Was there a moment you forgot it was acting? Truthfully, you completely lost yourself in this role, it is incredibly believable!
Thank you so much. I am grateful that I have been able to step in and out of the role of Sofia Dantes without any effect. Telemundo has been wonderful in making sure that I am well taken care of in every way. Having a psychologist as a part of this process to reinforce my well-being remains a priority. Separating Sofia and Isabella was never an issue. I am glad that my job as an actress is helping the audience understand what the character is feeling and experiencing.
I learned that you took Italian classes for the role, how challenging was it for you? Are there any other languages you speak or would like to learn?
My father lived in Italy for three years, so he knew how to speak some Italian. I had an idea of how to speak the language after practicing with him. The tutor helped me with pronunciations and conversational aspects. Now, I am learning to speak English which I am very excited about, as it will get me closer to American television.
La Reina del Sur filmed in eight countries (Italy, Russia, Romania, Spain, Belize, Mexico, Colombia, and the US). Is there any country that you have not visited but would like to? Why?
I have been to Mexico, Spain, and Italy, so far. Hope to visit Israel one day, as I have been told it is life-changing, you feel the history and beauty of its holy meaning.
Your 15th Birthday is on May 25! Happy Birthday! Do you have plans for a quinceañera? I am sure you have your birthday wishes, but what is your dream for the future of the world — which, of course, includes you?
I had planned on a quinceañera but due to the coronavirus, we will celebrate at home with my family and a cake which also makes me happy. We have to think about others and the most important thing is to spend time together in good health.
My dream for the future of the world is for there to be more love, peace, respect, and value for each other, as well as, our planet. I wish that we can find a way to understand that we are all equal and we have no right to judge one another. No one is better than anyone.
Isabella is an amazingly talented and well-balanced actress in early stages of a promising career. Her strong foundation is shaping her to be an assertive, yet humble young lady that does not take anything for granted. There are new projects in her future, leading me to believe that it will not be too long before the rest of the world sees her in more breakout roles. You can watch Isabella in La Reina del Sur 2: Edición Especial weeknights on Telemundo at 10pm EST.