Marianna Burelli makes her U.S. debut this year in Disney Channel’s highly anticipated original series “Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion.”
The comedy series follows Violet (Scarlett Estevez), an everyday Mexican American teen who is chosen by a magical luchador mask which transforms her into Ultra Violet, a superhero fighting crime. Marianna shines on the show as Nina, Violet’s mother (whom is kept in the dark about her daughter’s superhero powers) and principal of her middle school who masterfully juggles both responsibilities.
The series marks an important moment for Disney, featuring a cast made up of a diverse group of all Latinx actors where Latinx culture is not only celebrated in front of the camera but behind as well with many of the writers being of Latinx heritage.
Marianna may be best known in Latin America for her dramatic portrayal of “Natalia Velasco” for three seasons in the hit series “Paramedicos,” the show followed the lives of young paramedics on the scene in Mexico City. Additional television credits include Netflix’s “Ingobernable” and “La Jenni Que Yo Conocí,” a series about the life of Mexican banda superstar Jenni Rivera who tragically passed away in a plane crash in 2012. On the film front Mariannastarred as Marcela in the 2018 comedy “Loca Por El Trabajo.” Her portrayal earned her the prestigious Best Up and Coming Actress award from Canacine. She also appeared in the 2017 feature “How to Break Up with Your Douchebag” which became Mexico’s highest grossing comedy upon release. Other lead roles include Monica in “El Que Busca Encuentra” (2017) and Laura in “Cindy La Regia” (2020).
When she isn’t on set filming, Marianna uses her voice and talent to fight for environmental justice. She is the co-creator of AMAI, a 100% natural, sustainable, and plastic-free cosmetics line available in Mexico and the U.S.
Check out our interview with Marianna!
What initially drew you to the series?
Marianna: Well, to be honest, I just got the audition. And when I read the scene, I was like, I am totally miscast for this. This is not something that I think is for me and for several reasons. I had never played a mom before so I was like, ‘Oh, I think it’s a little bit of a miscast here.’ But I went to my audition and I walked out and I forgot about it. And days later, my manager was like, ‘Okay, you got a call back.’ And I was like, ‘For that? Really? Okay.’ So I went for the callback. I did what I guess I had to do and then I forgot about it again. And then they’re like, ‘Okay, you want to see you at the producer’s session,’ and I was like, ‘what’s going on? This is so bizarre.’ They clearly saw something that I wasn’t able to see off the page. Once that producer session started at Disney, I could know more about the project and I was given more and more scenes. And the more I read, the more I was like, oh, this is something that would be very exciting to do because of the type of character, the type of mom she was and I really loved the comedy. It was very well written, a kind of sharp, fast comedy that was also very intelligent and talked about issues that I was interested in sharing. so. So yeah, it kind of grew on me along the way.It wasn’t a love at first sight type of role.
In addition to playing a mom, you’re also playing a school principal. What’s it like juggling both of those roles in one character?
Marianna: It just helps create a sort of roundness to a character, you know? Usually when you play a character, you play one aspect of that person, especially when you’re not like the main character of the show. So, the possibility of playing her in more than one aspect has been a gift because we all have so many facets to ourselves. In my case, I’m a mom, but I’m also a wife, I’m a woman, I’m also an actor, and I also write, I produce theater, and to be able to portray that in a fictional character is wonderful because it kind of allows me to draw her a bit more three dimensional. So, I love the show because the more it goes on, further down the line, the more you see so many different aspects of Nina that make her who she is. And then you start understanding why she is so neurotic sometimes, and why she is so apprehensive at other times and why, underneath this caring and, of course, loving mom, there is someone with really high expectations. She has humongous expectations for her kids, and also having to deal with Violet and Tiago’s difference in levels of achievement is a huge challenge for her as a woman, not as a mother, because she loves them both and she knows what Violet is capable of doing if she really like sets herself to it. But I think, as a woman, just as a professional, she has such high expectations that it’s a hard thing. So, it’s beautiful to be able to show all those little, you know, shapes to her character through being a mom and also being a principal and then a wife and you’ll see further down the line what else.
And this is your first project here in the United States, right? What was that kind of transition like for you?
Marianna: Yeah. It was. I mean, I am so so grateful that this actually happened. Because I mean, the transition is always, at the end of the day, you’re creating characters… At the end of the day, kind of the core of things is just the same, you know, you’re creating characters, you’re becoming somebody else. So in that sense it is very similar. What was harder, I guess, was the fact that I walked into an industry where I don’t have a history like in Mexico. By the time I came there, I knew people, you know, I had worked in several films, many theater plays, but also loads of TV shows as a series regular, and I started getting to know the people that work in it. And it just feels more and more familiar. When I got here, I mean, I felt totally green. I was like, ‘okay, we’re starting from zero again.’ And then as we went along, I realized that I didn’t really start from zero because I had a bag of tools that have been incredibly useful that I’ve picked up along the way, and those tools actually work here too. At the end of the day, I think it goes down to: do the work fearlessly, be kind to people and love what you do. Don’t don’t forget those three pillars. Those pillars helped me transition smoothly here.
This show has a huge Mexican American influence, how important was it for you to be a part of a series that really celebrated that?
Marianna: That’s the most exciting part because, at first, I wasn’t quite sure why me and why this character. And as we kind of got to know more and more about the script and the story and getting to set and how authentic it felt, it really got me emotionally to realize how important it was to be a part of a changing narrative, in terms of how Mexican Americans are portrayed on our TVs and on film in this country. To be able to tell the story of a family who cares for their kids who are in positions of power, like the mom starts right off as a principal but then you learn that she has just been promoted. She’s someone that works really hard to be where she’s at. And the dad, who is a nurse and cares for people, and the girl is a superhero, but she’s also a girl, and the boy wants to be this and wants to be that you know? I feel that to be able to portray a family that cares for each other, their hard work has paid off and that have really beautiful family values, personal values, and that they mess up but they also fix it, you know, they get up.
To be able to tell those universal themes and that narrative within a Latinx context, I think that’s fundamental because I love that the show isn’t about a Latino family, it’s about a family, within a superhero context, with the coming of age and really finding where you belong sort of thing. So, the important thing is not that we’re Latino, that’s not like the joke of the show, and that’s not, you know, the heart. I think the heart is that we’re a family, and the fact that we actually have that ethnicity behind it is wonderful. It is wonderful. It just makes it more complex and it also takes off that veil of, you know, Latinos are this thing, you know, like Latinos are drug dealers or those connotations that we’ve repeated endlessly on film and TV about our background. So the fact that we’re not playing on the background, we’re playing on the characters that happen to be Latinx. I think that’s a treasure. That’s something to be celebrated and I feel very proud to be a part of it.
Yeah, just normalizing existing.
Marianna: Yeah, my character is Latino, therefore, I wear flowers in my hair and therefore, I have an incredible body and I’m showing my legs all day long, you know what I mean? Like, just normalizing the fact it doesn’t matter where we come from. It matters, of course, it matters, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the only thing we talk about. I was born in Venezuela, I’ve lived 12 years in Mexico, and that’s not something that you learn of me in the first five minutes we talk because I have so many other things to tell you. I’m a human before anything else. And I think that this show does that.
What is something that you are very excited for viewers to see when they watch the series?
Marianna: I’m excited for them to see how the characters all develop through different areas that we may not expect. It’s not an obvious show and I love that. I’m really excited for the audience to see what each one of us sort of grows into. Because the core will always remain, or for the season, has remained the same, I think we all learn something huge this season, as characters. We all go to places where we didn’t even expect we were going to take each other to. And that only happens because we sort of lead and push each other towards corners that maybe are not necessarily comfortable places, but we go there and really magical things happen. So I’m excited for the audience to see how the characters go on journeys that are not necessarily the expected ones.