On the Season 3 finale of Fox’s Glee (airing Tuesday at 8/7c), the graduating seniors may be saying goodbye, but they’ll also be saying “hello” to Gloria Estefan — playing Santana’s mom, Maribel Lopez.
While she won’t be singing during this TV appearance, the three-time Grammy winner will be delivering “zingers” at Breadstix. In the following Q&A, the self-proclaimed “Gleek” previews a “monkey wrench” for Brittana, talks about her in-depth preparation for the role and even gives her suggestions for Season 4. (And Ryan Murphy is listening!)
TVLINE | You’ve always been a fan of Glee. How did this role come about?
Funny story: I was visiting my son in L.A. about a year and a half ago and we all went to the set, just as fans — as Gleeks. I met Naya [Rivera], and she was super sweet and said she was a big fan of mine. [Later on] I got a call that they wanted me to play her mom, and I was beyond thrilled! I spoke to Ryan [Murphy] and we were on the same page about who Santana’s mom was, and it was a lot of fun to create that character. Plus, I was upset with that grandma! Santana needed a supportive mom.
TVLINE | What is Maribel and Santana’s relationship like? We haven’t met her before — has she been away?
The tradition with Glee is almost Snoopy-like with no parents around, but they’ve been sneaking them in little by little. The way Ryan and I imagine Maribel is that she had the musical talent, but she put her life on hold because she got pregnant and probably helped put her husband through med school. Since Santana’s tough-cookie grandma was probably rough on Maribel — maybe even instrumental in making her decide against going after her music career — it makes Maribel want to see Santana to really fly and be successful. Plus, since she couldn’t go to college, it makes her want to see her daughter go to school even more.
TVLINE | Is it “like mother, like daughter” when it comes to Santana’s snark and sass?
Yes! They are very close, and Maribel is very sweet and supportive of Santana, but they are alike in their sarcastic sense of humor and attitude. In the scene when she is with Santana and Brittany in Breadstix, there are a lot of reactions to things the girls are saying back and forth — and Maribel has got a couple of zingers there, too! I’m actually very thankful to Naya’s fans because when I went online to do my research, they had edited together clips with every scene that she has been in! I was thinking that there was going to be some shared physical reaction that I could add; she’s got a little thing that she does with her head a lot that she might have gotten from her mom! [Laughs]
TVLINE | Is the dinner at Breadstix just a graduation celebration, or is Santana coming out?
No, no. This [relationship] has been going on for a while, and there’s no way that Santana’s mom wouldn’t know what’s going on with Brittany. She’s involved in her child’s life, she wants Santana to be happy and she’s going to support whatever and who Santana is — there’s no issue there.
TVLINE | I heard this episode has ‘Brittana’ facing an obstacle regarding their future. Is the dinner a part of that?
It’s definitely a part of the scene; it all comes to light there. It’s a dilemma, you know? It’s a fun scene, but there is information that changes, kind of like, ‘What?!’ It it is something that throws a monkey wrench into things and leaves more questions than answers.
TVLINE | You were supposed to appear earlier in the season and sing. Were you disappointed?
No. [At the time] I had this idea that a song I wrote called “Along Came You” for my daughter would have been perfect for them. But honestly, I really loved this role because it was acting, something I don’t normally do, and I would rather use the time establishing the character than singing a song. I can also, hopefully, always come back and do something else, which was the original plan — an arc. So, we’ll see!
TVLINE | Hypothetically, what would you like to do next season?
I already put the bug in [producer] Brad Falchuk’s ear about having a scene and having it out with the grandma, because if this all continues, you can’t just leave that relationship out. And how funny would it be if we could do do it in Spanish with subtitles? [Laughs]