'Deadly Class' Maria Gabriela de Faria Talks Importance of Mental Health and Telling Latinx Stories

‘Deadly Class’ Maria Gabriela de Faria Talks Importance of Mental Health and Telling Latinx Stories

Maria Salazar is a hero. Yes, she might be an assassin at a deadly school called Kings Dominion. And yes, she did just kill Chico, aka the love of her life and the bane of her existence. But that doesn’t erase or change the fact that Maria is a Latinx hero, one who makes me feel proud and honored to know her and join her on this journey on Deadly Class.

We got a chance to speak with Maria Gabriela de Faria, the amazingly talented actress who plays Maria, on what comes next for Maria now that Chico is dead, her character’s mental health, being a Latina in charge of her own narrative, and the strength of her relationship with Saya.

To start things off, it’s going to get much worse for Maria and the rest of the gang now that Chico is dead.

“It’s gonna be really really bad,” de Faria explained before continuing, “She’s not used to being without Chico. Chico is her captor, but at the same time the love of her life. And she’s used to being this type of person that follows and protects Chico. And after he’s gone, and after what she’s done, she’s gonna be full of not only regret, but fear.”

Love is complicated and that’s especially true for Maria and Chico. She hates someone she loves and it’s tearing her apart that she was the one to end her tormentor’s life. Maria has to live with that and the only way she’s seeing a possible way to survive is to go off her meds.

“She’s gonna go off her meds completely,” de Faria said, heartbroken at the turn this is taking for her character but also excited for us to see the exploration of Maria. Because Maria, dear Lord, “She’s gonna start to lose it.”

As someone who deals with anxiety every damn day of her life, de Faria was especially intrigued in how these mental health issues play a significant role in Maria’s life, especially after “Saudade.”

“The mental health issues is the reason why Maria is such a complex and compelling character. For me it was really important to play it as truthful as possible because I deal with anxiety, every fucking day of my fucking life.” We couldn’t agree more. Stress is hard, it’s difficult, and for many it stops us from living our lives to their fullest, loving those in our day to day struggles, and taking opportunities that will change our lives.

It’s something that we should talk about and that de Faria believes we should bring into the light with no shame because everyone experiences mental health issues.

“I believe it’s something that we should be able to talk about more because when we do we know that it’s not our problem. It’s like a shared situation. We all deal with fears and anxieties and some sort of mental health issues now a days.”

Mental health and fear, it’s all wrapped up together. The fact that the actress feels and understands this so deeply, makes her an even better person to bring to life Maria’s upcoming struggles. And it’s because of this that de Faria is proud of her time playing Maria and feels like she has changed because of this young woman.

“For me, playing Maria, gave me that strength of talking about it and sharing that side of me. And it’s been better. It’s been a cathartic experience to play Maria, and also I get to talk about it a lot. So, it’s been really helpful.”

Maria’s mental health and the issues/journey that come with it aren’t the only things that she loves about playing this fierce hero. It’s also a means of battling stereotypes. As a young Latina woman myself, I get the challenges that are inherent with this battle of stereotypes and as an entertainment writer I’m on the lookout for any story about women like me who have shared my culture and experiences.

“To me, playing Maria was such a responsibility because she’s one of the leads, she’s a badass, she’s kind of a hero, and she’s fucking Latina. And to me it’s really important because I wanted to show the industry that Latinos can be leads on a TV show, that we are not only able to play one kind of character, that we have this great talent that we wanna show the world. And most importantly, I wanted to show the industry that people want to see us playing these characters.”

PRAISE BE. de Faria hit everything on the head with this astounding and brilliant look at how our actions now as actors, writers, and everything in between, bring forth the future of Latinos and what changes will happen next because of us and said actions. It’s so important and honestly, this was the part of the interview where my own Spanglish started coming out and I felt the need to embrace my culture as much as de Faria did as an actor and as Maria.

“To me it was also important to embrace my culture. To embrace Maria being Mexican. So I really tried to bring a lot of that into the character. And you get to see it more often after “Saudade.”

It’s also really important for de Faria for her character to be flawed and to have the ability to accept that for herself as a woman, person, and hero. “I really related to Maria a lot because I found that strength within myself playing her. And at the same time it made me embrace my flaws as well and say, “Ok, so I can have different parts of myself. I can be really strong in some areas of my life and then really need support in others.”

Basically, being flawed is ok in real life and in a show like Deadly Class. It’s normal, it’s something that we all experience, and according to de Faria, “It’s what makes me human.”

Being extremely flawed is ok. “It’s what makes me human.” And embracing these parts has made de Faria feel like a different woman & a better and more grounded one. For her character though…well, Maria is going to be losing that grounding beneath her feet so fast and so hard, that it’s going to really affect the most important relationship in her life: Maria’s love and bond with Saya.

Like de Faria revealed earlier, Maria is going to go off her meds. And it’s going to be a really really big mess and one of the reasons why Maria and Saya’s relationship will start crumbling before our very eyes.

“That’s a really sad part. Since Maria is going to go off her meds and she’s gonna be really fearful. She’s gonna be freaking out all the time and thinking that everybody’s against her, even Saya. Because you know, Saya is really an experienced woman and they’re best friends, but truly, Maria doesn’t know much about Saya’s past. And that’s gonna play a huge part because she’s gonna believe that Saya is gonna go against her.”

As someone who loves the bond between these two women, this hurts. We don’t get to see F/F friendships grounded in a love and appreciation for each other and where there is actual time being focused on something other than a boy in their life. (It’s not until you start paying attention to female friendships, that you see how twisted up they are with that of the man in their lives, which, BORING!)

That doesn’t mean that Maria and Marcus aren’t going to grow closer in this mess that’s surrounding them all. Maria and Marcus are going to start dating in the midst of the former deciding that being off her meds is the way to go. And dear Lord, it’s going to be messy and not nearly enough to keep her floating, because her relationship with Saya is crumbling.

“On one part she has Marcus, and that’s great. But on the other hand she’s losing Saya. I believe that’s even worse. Saya, I think the real love between these people is between Maria and Saya. And when that disappears, it’s going to be heartbreaking for both. It’s gonna be really bad for everybody.”

But at the end of the day, after all the struggles that her character has gone through, the real life repercussions of playing Maria as a means of self reflection shine brighter than anything else de Faria has experienced on set. “Playing Maria has taught me so much. I grew up thinking that women were the enemy. My mom raised me that way.”

It’s true and absolutely not fair for other Latinx women to be thought of as the enemy. It’s what de Faria’s mother taught her and what my mom taught me. Other women weren’t your friends, really. They were competition, someone you could take down to the get the man and life that you wanted. And it’s a horrible thing to think about being present in the Latinx community.

de Faria revealed that, “Playing Maria and getting to know Lana Condor (Saya), just seeing how much of a team we were, changed the way that I saw women and my relationship with them. Which was life changing,” and very welcome for a young Latinx woman who continues to learn through every single challenge that comes her way.

Be it, staring mental health straight in the eyes, re-examining her time as a Latinx lead and hero, or changing the way she looks at other women, de Faria is all about taking these challenges head on. “Challenges are only making her stronger”

So, whatever comes next for Maria Gabriela de Faria, she’s got this. Be it Deadly Class season 2 or whatever great project she books next, she’ll face that challenge with her head held high and with the knowledge that whatever is coming will only make this Latina stronger.

Deadly Class airs Thursdays at 10/9c on Syfy.

Lyra enjoys loud mouthed, damaged characters, with a penchant for rescuing people and drinking their sorrows away. When she isn’t splurging on Netflix shows she’s not so quietly ranting about Teen Wolf, The Walking Dead, and Supernatural!