Popular Girl: Marcela Avelina
Oct 23, 2020
Grand Army is Netflix’s newest teen drama. Centered around the lives of five teens, the audience gets to watch how their lives unfold as they grapple with the realities of growing up in the world around them. Using the fictitious Grand Army High School in Brooklyn, New York as a backdrop, the students face issues presented in the source material provided by the Katie Cappiello play, Slut: The Play, as well as many other relevant topics such as sexual assault, racism, homophobia, and societal and economic politics.
Previously starring in the original play as Julie, Marcela Avelina is back, but not in her previous role. Portraying the new character Flora Mejia, Marcela described her as ambitious and smart. When explaining the story, Marcela explained,”It’s really incredible and surreal. Because, I mean, Katie (Cappiello)’s writing is just impeccable and it’s always been an honor to be involved with her projects, and to see how things have developed to this point, it’s just really inspiring honestly.”
Also pursing music, Marcela has just released a new single “Took Me Out” (stream below). Written and produced by Marcela herself, the song marks the debut single from her upcoming album.
With so much to look forward to, we talked to Marcela about her new role in Grand Army, her new single, and her high school experience in comparison to the on-screen reimagining.
1. Tell us about your character Flora and what we can expect from her in Grand Army?
Flora is a senior at Grand Army who is incredibly ambitious and focused. She’s emotionally intelligent and has power in her vulnerability.
2. How were you able to relate to the issues tackled on the show and what character do you most relate to in the series?
The series hits close to home for me. I grew up going to public school in New York City. I witnessed or experienced the issues portrayed in the series. When I first read the script, I was hit with a lot of nostalgia. I relate most to Flora, but I relate to so many of the characters. I relate a lot to Meera [Ashley Ganger] too.
3. Not only do you star as Flora in the screen adaptation, you were also in the stage production (as Julie). What was the process you took from taking your character from the stage to the screen?
Flora is actually a new character that was written for “Grand Army.” It was really exciting to be a part of the expansion of the “Grand Army” universe. Working on a set rather than the stage was a smooth and beautiful transition because of how loving the whole cast and crew was. There was a feeling of ensemble that is really special in theatre.
4. Of the two characters you had a chance to play, what did you take from each?
Exploring sexuality as a young girl/woman and being independent and smart are not mutually exclusive qualities.
5. Is there a moment or scene that you want the audience to take in on screen that may not have been felt as heavily on stage?
Theatre and television are so different but well-done theatre can always be felt heavily when the writing is strong. Katie Cappiello’s writing always hits hard and beautifully no matter what the medium is.
6. What was the hardest part about getting into character for Flora?
I wanted to make sure I was honoring girls in Flora’s position. When women go through heartbreak on screen it’s often depicted from a male perspective. Meaning heavy damsel in distress vibes. This is not the reality. Loss is not linear. We see Flora taking control of her narrative and being an active participant in her and Sid’s relationship and not just his cheerleader.
7. Who or what initially inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
The earliest moment I can recall being like, “I want to do that!” when it came to acting was when “The Cheetah Girls” came out. I loved and still love Adrienne Bailon! She was a singer and an actor, and I fully wanted that.
8. You are gearing up to release your debut single “Took me Out”. How did you go about developing your sound?
I usually tend to come up with melody and lyrics pretty simultaneously. This time it was the bass line. I had it going in my head for a while and knew I wanted a strong backbeat. I visited Berlin, pre-COVID 2020, and this track is definitely a direct influence from that trip, I think. During quarantine I made a logic file to lay down the bass line and the vocal. Soon after I added the first elements of the beat using an MPC1000 with Mike. My band, Jaylen Petinaud, Evan Lawrence and Loughlan Mclean and I all got together and started layering a bunch of elements over it and it was exhilarating hearing everything fall together.
9. What made you choose “Took Me out’ as your debut single and what does it say about you as an artist?
“Took Me Out” feels different than anything else I’ve written. This past year I’ve felt kind of different than I ever have. This song is about loss and resignation as much as it’s about learning to sit comfortably in change.
10. What artists have inspired your sound?
I’ve been inspired by so many artists. The list is incredibly long. There is so much music out there so it’s hard to not sit here and make the longest list ever, but I love Lianne La Havas and Frank Ocean.
11. Is there a dream role, character, or genre you are looking forward to in your career?
I really love comedy and dramas, but I grew up on Marvel movies and going to see them in theatres with my brother. It would be amazing to be in that universe somehow.
12. Outside of acting and singing, what are you passionate about?
I really enjoy spending time with the people I love and laughing. Like hefty hard, laughing. Quality time is in my top two of the love language quiz.
13. Banned Books Week took place the week from September 27 to October 3 celebrating the freedom to read. Do you remember what the banned books were when you were in high school?
I don’t recall any books being banned in my high school, actually.
14. What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?
My family has always instilled that it’s important to move with integrity and honesty in the work that you do.
15. What is something you wish you got asked more about?
Thank you so much for taking the time to ask what you have! Honestly, I’m grateful to be asked anything at all that involves my work.
Keep up with Marcela on Grand Army as it streams now on Netflix and Instagram.
Stream ‘Took Me Out’ below!
- Photographer Beatice Helman
- Make-up Laura Costa
- Stylist Onea Clare