By now, more than six months after Netflix announced it is making a scripted TV show about the life of Tejano music superstar Selena Quintanilla, producer Jaime Dávila has gotten used to talking about the project.
Or rather, not talking about it.
“Who?” he jokes.
In truth, Netflix has been tight-lipped on the series, releasing only a short teaser trailer and announcing no release date for a biography that is generating huge interest among fans. It’s expected to be available sometime next year.
“Netflix has been very strict with trying to make sure we don’t reveal too much,” Dávila says. “I can’t say too much because Netflix has an anklet on me, and if I say something wrong, they buzz me.”
The road to being part of a much-anticipated television project for the McAllen native has included a stint producing TV shows at the Bravo network and then starting his own Los Angeles-based production company called Campanario Entertainment.
Dávila — whom we spoke to earlier this month at the ATX Television Festival, when the producer was in town for panels about inclusion and international markets — has credits on Bravo’s reality series “Mexican Dynasties,” which aired its first season earlier this year; a documentary on border separations called “Colossus”; and “Camelia la Texana” for Telemundo and Netflix.
But it’s “Selena: The Series” that is earning his seven-person production house some extra attention and that has fans asking lots of questions.
Dávila said the project began when he got connected to Selena’s sister and former band drummer, Suzette Quintanilla, and convinced the family to work with him.
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Growing up a major fan (“You’re not born in McAllen in the '80s without loving Selena and all her music”), he wanted to emphasize what she represents to so many people. “It’s that story of success and the story of a woman who persevered in a different era that stuck with me. We know it’s a big deal, and we’re excited to really showcase and highlight her story and tell it as truthfully and authentically as possible,” Dávila says.
Selena’s popularity has not waned since her 1995 death. Her fans include Beyoncé and Katy Perry, and Cardi B and Kacey Musgraves performed her songs live this year.
Dávila attributes that legacy to the quality of the work Selena did. “Her sound and music is great, and her family has done a good job protecting that legacy."
Despite her fanbase in Texas and around the world, the show was not an automatic sale, even with the cooperation of the Quintanilla family. “Selena is someone we all know so well, but you’d be surprised, a lot of Hollywood doesn’t know who she is,” Dávila says.
A series based on the book “To Selena With Love” (by the late singer’s husband, Chris Pérez) has been stalled in legal battles, while one based on a book about her murder and trial is on tap for Telemundo. In 1997, a biopic starring Jennifer Lopez brought a significant amount of mainstream attention to Selena’s story.
At the television festival in Austin, Dávila spoke about the changes happening in entertainment without overselling the opportunities available to people of color.
He says that his company does get more calls and interest in working on projects, but that the sea change of representation is gradual. “I still hear more ‘No’ than ‘Yes.’ It’s definitely a better time now” with the rise of so many streaming platforms, but “it’s still challenging, it’s still hard.”
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As a development executive at Bravo working under network boss and “What What Happens Live” host Andy Cohen from 2010 to 2013, Dávila tried to get several Latinx shows made but didn’t have success. “I was taking a lot of pitches from producers, but not hearing pitches from my own community,” he says.
His father, Jaime Dávila, Sr., a former president of Univision and executive at Televisa, suggested he start his own company.
Dávila's father is now chairman of Campanario Entertainment, which has been busy working with Amazon, Netflix and other distributors for its shows. “We’re trying to be the bridge between Latin America and Hollywood,” Dávila says.
“Mexican Dynasties,” a reality show about rich families in Mexico City, came out of Dávila’s own background. Though his father was from South Texas, his mother hailed from the Mexican capital, and he spent many summers there. In producing the series, he wanted to show the city’s lush, vibrant culture, the kinds of things he’d been telling his friends since his childhood.
“They have more museums, better food, it’s such an incredible place,” he says. The show ended up debuting on TV two months after Netflix released the Oscar-winning, Mexico City-set film “Roma,” giving “Dynasties” an unexpected zeitgeist boost.
“It really worked out and helped a lot,” he says. The production team is waiting on word of whether there will be a second season of “Mexican Dynasties.”
The international success of films like “Coco,” “Black Panther” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has helped shift interest in stories about characters from a range of cultures, which Dávila sees as an opportunity.
“It’s proving that Latinx stories are mainstream, they are for a general market,” he says. “White people will relate to (these characters), African-American people will relate to them. At the core, they’re human.”