Danielle Mustarde chats to VIDA’s Mishel Prada as series two drops

WORDS DANIELLE MUSTARDE. IMAGE MARI (CHELSEA RENDON) AND EMMA (MISHEL PRADA)

If you haven’t already heard of queer, US, Latinx series VIDA, just where have you been?

We interviewed stars of the muy bueno series, Ser Anzoategui and Mishel Prada, way back in October 2018 after the release of the first series – and now they’re back.

This time we catch up with Mishel Prida once more to find out what’s been happening behind-the-scenes since the first series, what to expect from series two and how it’s felt coming back to VIDA…

DIVA: Hello again Mishel! First off, how did it feel to come back to VIDA? 

MISHEL PRADA: It was like coming home! As a cast, we developed a very close affinity towards each other: slash obsessions [laughs]. Myself and Melissa [Barrera] were like sisters, on and off-screen. It’s more than you could even ask for. Bringing these characters to life again felt great!

Given the wild success of the first series, was it nerve-wracking?

Of course, because in season one, you don’t know what it is you’re doing, you’re building the house from the inside. But in season two, you’re building the house from the inside out.

It’s like when musicians say the second album is the hardest?

Yeah! You feel a little bit of that pressure. Often I’ve been asking myself, “Is she still there, is Emma still in my bones?”, but then you get on set and you get to work with such amazing actors and all of a sudden she’s there.

Was it the same strong, queer female and non-binary crew and cast?

It’s actually gone even further! What we did with season one was truly unique in that most of our writers’ room was queer and Latina women, our directors were all people of colour and, on top of that, the crew too. With season two, we’ve gone a step further by making sure that all of the directors are Latinas. That was really cool because it truly gave a lot of people much-needed opportunities.

It’s great that VIDA can give back to the local community!

It’s so important because I’ve been inspired by so many women that came before me and now we’re being gifted the opportunity to do that for a whole other generation of fresh voices, showing people their ability and their potential. It’s telling them: “Hey, you exist – you matter.”

Screenings of VIDA were also held within the local communities where filming took place, what was going through your mind when those people were seeing VIDA for the first time?

I wasn’t there, but [the VIDA team] felt it was really important because, it’s easy to distrust a production company coming in and saying, “We’re going to represent you,” because for so long they’ve got you wrong. It was really important to have the community there and to make sure that they knew that this was something that was for them. VIDA is a love letter to those neighbourhoods.

Does the anti-gentrification storyline progress in this series? 

With the second season, we really get to see a lot more of those layers and different points of view. Specifically, with gentrification – these characters are not outsiders coming in, they left and came back, so then, are they now outsiders? Equally, if they don’t do what they need to do, then [locally-owned venues] are just taken away by a developer and then you have a building being gentrified by someone that’s not even from the neighbourhood. What’s better? Is there a right, is there a wrong? We get to really live in that grey area and have that conversation on screen. 

Is that conversation resolved throughout this new season?

It’s definitely an open conversation. We see similar themes as well with Emma choosing not to identify as queer. That’s another one with a lot of nuances, a lot of layers. There’s not one way to be queer. It’s the same as there being no one way to be a woman and, in being the woman that you are, you’re still a daughter, a mother, a wife, a student, an employee… any and all of those things. We get to really explore that in VIDA.

Lyn (Melissa Barrera), Emma (Mishel Prada)

What’s been the biggest change for Emma in the second series? 

With Emma, we really see her change. We get a little glimpse of what her life was like before and it’s very different. You see that she did have a life but she really pulls all of that aside to face the skeletons in her closet and try to heal, grow and learn – [something] I think is hard for her. She was in a very rational world where one plus one equals two and now she just needs to figure out how to make this new world works.

But what I really love, is that you get to see how important Lyn is, not only for Emma, but also for Vida, the bar. Lyn really grows up and takes on her own trajectory and self-worth in this series. She has to discover herself and, with Emma, we understand how much she needs Lyn to do so.

Why is it important to you that VIDA stays on our screens?

One of the biggest things is understanding the importance of a show like this being on television. It’s important for us to reach out to other people like us, especially in times where immigration is a very hot topic in our country right now. We can show people what immigrants really look like.

Melissa is from Mexico and I’m the child of an immigrant and we are not rapists or murderers and I think that, personally, has been a great honour and something that’s been really beautiful to be a part of.

Season two of VIDA is available on STARZPLAY now

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