EXCLUSIVE | Grand Army’s Marcela Avelina ‘in awe’ of show’s representation and conversations it sparks

In an exclusive interview with MEAWW, Marcela Avelina who plays Flora Mejia explained that the biggest story arc for the character on the show in her first season was 'advocating for oneself'


                            EXCLUSIVE | Grand Army’s Marcela Avelina ‘in awe’ of show’s representation and conversations it sparks
Marcela Avelina (Photo: Joe DeAngelis)
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Marcela Avelina never thought that booking the role of Julie in the original play 'Slut' would pave her way in the entertainment industry. But now that very play has been adapted into 2020's 'Grand Army' show for Netflix.

Born and raised in Manhattan to a Honduran mother and Irish American father, she was part of the theater production staged at the Cherry Lane Theatre in the West Village, while attending high school and also a part of the play's first national tour.

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In the Netflix adaptation, she will play Flora Mejia, a strong-willed and opinionated Latina, who is an honor-roll senior student and in a serious relationship with fellow senior, Sid Pakam (Amir Bageria). 'Grand Army' will be Avelina's television debut. In an exclusive interview with MEAWW, she explained that the biggest story arc for the character on the show in her first season was "advocating for oneself" -- which, according to the show's trailer, is also one of the main themes of the series as several minority characters struggle to voice what they are going through in different ways. 

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Having toured with the play, Avelina has the perspective of being part of a play, mainly about sexual assault, becoming a full-fledged show as a member of the cast. "It’s amazing to see how the world of the play has expanded. The talkbacks are what stick with me when I think about the tour. There was a safe space for young people to ask questions and receive answers about consent and healthy communication surrounding sex, friendships and relationships. These conversations are nuanced. It doesn’t just end at 'be nice to your partner'; that’s so lazy," she said.

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She was fortunate enough to have got a chance to be part of a table read for the series as well, prior to casting and was hired. "I had never read anything that resonated so closely to my high school experience in New York City. I was in awe of the representation. I was immediately drawn to the honesty of the writing," she said about reading the show's script for the first time. "It’s incredible to see how [creator] Katie [Capiello] has reflected all of these necessary conversations in the show. It’s real," she added.

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Marcela Avelina (Photo: Joe DeAngelis)

The experience of acting for the camera in her first television project couldn't have gone better. "I had an amazing experience on set. I felt incredibly cared for and listened to. One day that comes to mind was when Amir [Bageria] and I were shooting the diner scene that Darnell Martin was directing. Darnell was right there with us during the scene. The approach was so hands-on emotionally. Darnell didn’t cut any corners with me and I’m so grateful for that. I was definitely pushed. At one point, Darnell said something like, 'this is the last time you’re going to smell his neck. Do you ever miss the smell of someone’s neck?'” she said, revealing how she got into character. 

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Playing a Latina character, she was also very conscious of the representation of the community. "I am excited for people to see themselves on screen. I love that we’re seeing a young Latina girl that is exploring her sexuality, but not reprimanded or objectified because of it. We get to see a young Latina girl get into an Ivy League. Again, we get to watch Flora advocate for herself. Flora embodies so many beautiful characteristics, and my hope is that she contributes to a variety of Latinas we will be seeing on TV, as opposed to the same caricature. The representation on this show is refreshing, and I hope people that haven’t seen their stories reflected before can find themselves somewhere in 'Grand Army',” she remarked.

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She also wanted to honor her character's particular vulnerabilities with care to address the false dichotomy between "being emotionally available and being independent", a toxic standard taught to young girls, who then hide their feelings to project strength. "Flora is beautiful proof that before we become multifaceted women, we are multifaceted young girls," said Avelina, when asked about what she liked best about her character. 

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On the music front, Avelina is also set to release her newest single 'Took Me Out' in October 2020 as well. While 'Took Me Out' will be available to stream internationally, Avelina is also looking to release an album "I’m working on an album right now that I’m really excited and scared to share!" she revealed, about what we can expect from her post-'Grand Army'.

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'Grand Army' will premiere on October 16, 2020, on Netflix.