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Exclusive Interview w/ Wizards of Waverly Place’s Maria Canals-Barrera

Most recently you’ve probably seen her in Cristela and the Big Bang Theory, but Maria Canals-Barrera is best known for playing Selena Gomez’s mom, Theresa Russo, on the Disney channel hit Wizards of Waverly Place. Not only was Wizards the longest running Disney series at 106 episodes, it still holds the record for most watched finale, with 10 million viewers. Therefore it should be no surprise that we talked about bringing the show back when we met with Maria at Denver Comic Con where she was celebrating another reunion with her Justice League cast members. Here Talk Nerdy With Us asks Maria (who is even more stunning in person) about playing Hawkgirl, reuniting with her Wizards family, her two talented daughters and keeping showbiz in the family.

We’re here celebrating the reunion of Justice League. What has it meant to you to be part of the series as Hawkgirl?

First of all, to even be part of this kind of company: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman. It was like an honor that they even had Hawkgirl, because her profile wasn’t as popular as some of the others. Then to get the part, to be able to voice her, it was thrilling. You know, we did it so long ago and I had both my children during the four years that we were recording the Justice League. So I joke with my girls, I said, “You know, you guys were part of it too. You were there every taping, every recording.” It’s been a wonderful experience. I mean, I had no idea how many fans already existed and how many more we would get. And so many people really appreciate it. Like I said, the fact that Hawkgirl’s profile was raised with the Justice League and they have such affection for her. And I loved, loved being her.

 Has there been any talk about having you join Justice League Action either as Hawkgirl or another character?

Not that I’ve heard of, but you know I haven’t really pursued it, I haven’t pushed for it or asked about it. But that would be a tremendous honor and a total blast.

 How much fun has it been for you to get back together with castmates at this convention?

.It has been a total blast. We crack each other up. We have genuine love for each other. Our first night here we had dinner for, like, three hours. We were talking and laughing and sharing stories. It was wonderful, wonderful.

 I know recently your Wizards of Waverly Place family got together for David Henrie’s wedding. What was it like to be together again and how long had it been?

Well to have every single person in the group together…I don’t…I think we…before David’s wedding I don’t remember all that—well yes, we went to dinner and I think Selena could not make it to that one, but before that we went to dinner and she was there. So, for David’s wedding, first of all, for such a wonderful event to happen was wonderful enough and then on top of that we all were there. So it was great to see everybody. It was so much fun. We couldn’t believe how much time had gone by. It had been…ten years since we started, right? And six or seven since we ended. It was just a wonderful, beautiful, meaningful event. David married a wonderful girl. The fact that we were all able to be there for him and to support him in his wedding meant so much to all of us. We had a great time. It’s like, all the good stuff just keeps happening, you know. The only thing that would be even more exciting, perhaps, is when everybody else gets married, has their kids, and if we’re blessed enough to have another reunion. That would be incredible.

After everybody saw the picture of all of you together at the wedding, Selena was asked in an interview if she’d like to do a Wizards of Waverly Place reunion and she said, “I hope so.” Is that something you would love to see happen and is there any way for fans to help make it happen?

Definitely. Well, if Selena’s on board, you know, she’s a very busy girl right now, so if she’s on board I think that’s a good sign. I would love for it to happen and I think fans definitely make the difference. I think we’re all willing and excited about it. I know our creator is excited about it. And, wow, that’s really great to hear. If the fans really, like, fight for it, then I think it’s a very big possibility. Now whether it’ll be a television or feature film…that would be all good. If it’s a feature film I would think that would be incredible, because I know Todd Greenwald, the creator of the show, wanted to make it very different if we do get together for a feature. And I think that would be—not completely different of course, but bring a lot of new things as adults to it that would make the fans who’ve grown with us, and with the show, very excited to see some deeper stuff go on. Just as funny. But a bit more, um….

Mature?

Yeah mature, but not mature in any kind of negative way, because we want our kids to see it too. I think it would be a lot more cinematic and I would love to do something like that too.

I know you have The Wedding Do Over coming up. What can you tell us about that?

Well that’s a very sweet movie, again family friendly movie, and it’s going to be on Pixel, which is a network kind of like Hallmark in that it’s very family friendly and what I love about Pixel is there are no commercials. So I play a wonderful role and the lead actress is also from Disney Channel. Her name is Gail Anderson. I kept asking,“So, when is it coming out?” They said when we were shooting it’s going to take a while, because they do so many films, so it’ll probably be this year.

I know that you’re very active on Twitter and one of the things you is post videos of your beautiful daughter Bridget performing. Does she have a desire to break into Hollywood and how do you feel about that both as an actress and as her parent?

First of all, thank you for watching. And my little one, Madeleine, too is very talented. She’s a great actress. She’s a natural comedienne. But the little one does not want to dabble into any professional stuff. They do it for fun. School show choir and musicals.

 My big one, you know, she played my daughter for the pilot of Cristela. And she said, when they got picked up to series, she said, this is Bridget I’m speaking about, she said, “Mom, I loved it and I had a great time, but I don’t want to miss middle school.” She said she wanted to go to middle school. The show, as you know, the part was recast and with a lovely girl who was wonderful, and Bridget went to middle school, got straight As every class, every semester. Kicked middle school butt. Then she says, in eighth grade, she says, “Okay, I’m ready to go back now. I miss being on set.” And I was like,“Okay. Alright.” And it’s great, because you have to follow their lead. It’s their lives and they have to do what they really want to do. As a parent you have to respect that.  So we let her, of course, do what she wanted, which was middle school and she had a great time, she did wonderfully, she got the lead in two musicals. And now we just got with an agent, we called her manager, got her an agent, and she had her first audition.

 She is going to go to high school still, but she’s also getting back into the business. How we’re going to juggle both, I have no idea, so we are going to play it by ear. My husband really wants her to experience school and be a real kid with real other kids, with other interests. He doesn’t even want them to go to, like, a performing arts school. Because then you’re just around other kids that have the same interests and he wants them to be exposed to all kinds of different kids with different passions. Because he said, “Well, what is she going to draw from as an actor?” Because he’s an actor too, David Barrera, my husband. And he’s like, “What is she going to draw from if she’s not around other kids with other experiences?” She has to have these friendships and these relationships with real kids that aren’t, quote unquote, kids who want to be in the business. And I thought that was interesting and that’s what she wants as well.

 We’re going to do it because she wants to try it now and I think it’s good for her to experience. And if she wants to do it for a living then we will support and encourage her. If she doesn’t and wants to major in something else I will totally support and encourage her. And being such a great student like she is, that they both are, I mean I didn’t get straight As in every class, every semester of middle school. Middle school was hard. And she’s in all those top classes too. I’m kind of like, “You know, if you want to do something else….”

 Because I think I wanted it a little bit more. Because I was in Cristela, I was in the show, and she was my daughter, I had so much fun with her doing the pilot, but it took me three days to really stop saying, “Are you suuuure?” And my husband was so funny. He said listen. I said, “But she’s so talented” and he said, “I agree with you, and if she wanted it I’d be right there with you, but right now at ten years of age, she doesn’t want it more than middle school.” And he said, “Leave her alone. She doesn’t have the gaping hole only applause can fill that you and I have.”

 I thought that was brilliant. He was right. She didn’t. She wanted to do what was most fun at the time. Remember she hadn’t experienced the lockers, changing classes. It was all new to her, so I’m so glad that we let her live her life. It is her life. So we’ll see where that goes but I know that she’s very talented and a very hard worker.

 And so is the little one. She cracks me up. She’s gonna do an improv theatre camp. Like to go do improv and have fun. And she’s so funny. She doesn’t even…I don’t know if she gets how funny she is, this is my little one. She’s also a fun singer, a great singer. So we’ll see. Are you a parent?

Yes.

Then you know…that balance of supporting them and letting them do what they want, but encouraging them in their gifts. And in the end you have to just support them in their dreams, and in their skills.

With a mom who’s so obviously proud and supportive of her daughters, we know they’ll succeed at anything they choose to do. And we can’t wait to see what that is!

Finally, WoWP fans make sure you make some noise and let the cast, Todd Greenwald, the Disney Channel and everyone else in the world know you want to see your favorite show have a magical reunion. You’ve got the power!

Written by Terri Clark

Terri Clark is an entertainment writer, TV addict, pop culture geek and award-winning young adult author. She loves the access Twitter has given her to the people behind her favorite books & TV shows. TV isn’t just a static sport anymore. (Yes, sport! Watching as much as she does requires commitment, dedication and endurance.) She's a writer and lead editor for Talk Nerdy With Us. Please follow her at terriclarkbooks on Facebook and Twitter. You can find info on her YA books at TerriClarkBooks.com.

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