Keep breathing is Netflix’s most recent limited series to quickly climb to #1 on the streamer’s top 10 shows list.
The six-episode series stars Melissa Barrera as Liv, a no-nonsense attorney living in New York City. She embarks on a journey to find answers about her family’s past, but finds herself stranded in the wild after her plane crashes at the Canadian border. The show is very much a survival thriller that finds Barrera in one of the most physically demanding roles of her yet, but those intense scenes are only a fraction of the story the show tells. The grueling physical scenes are balanced by the emotional breakthrough Barrera’s character goes through as she has to face the turmoil and trauma of her childhood that she has buried for so long after being abandoned by her mother.
The goal of her journey was to find her mother and get answers, but Liv has to face her demons alone and the show depicts those moments using flashbacks to tell the story. As she finds ways to survive, Liv realizes that she is the only person who can help her heal from her trauma and get out of this desert. Some viewers have trouble understanding the show’s ambiguous ending, but Keep breathing creators Martin Gero and Brendan Gall have already clarified how things end for Liv in an interview with entertainment weekly. We won’t spoil the ending, but the survival aspect of the show isn’t nearly as important as the process of growth and discovery that the main character goes through internally.
Before Gero and Gall cast Barrera in the role, Liv was not written as Latina. Barrera says that the creators rewrote the script with the help of writer Iturri Sosa to help add more authenticity to the character and her family. Latinxs are not usually portrayed like this in Hollywood; Liv is a lawyer, while her father is a university professor and her mother is an artist. They have internal problems, like all families, but they do not have economic problems, which is very different from the usual scope and stereotypes that Latino characters tend to give on television and movies.
“I love this kind of representation, it’s what I look for in the roles I play. The representation that is subtle and at the same time powerful because we are breaking down barriers and we don’t have to justify our existence”, Barrera, who previously starred in Life Y in the heights, he tells Complex. “There’s a little bit of Spanish on the show, but not much, and there’s no mention of her being successful and Latina and what that means, she just is.”
He added: “Latinos can be successful and they can have money in the United States and they can live well. And I feel like at Latinx shows, we’re always fighting. It is a reality and there are many merits in people who come from below and then go up, but also, that is not all we are”.
Netflix has had great success with female-led limited series like 2021’s Maid, and its star Margaret Qualley earned an Emmy nomination for Best Actress, and no matter what critics have to say on Keep breathingBarrera deserves the same kind of recognition for his performance. Complex caught up with Barrera to talk about the true meaning of the show, the extensive physical preparation and training he underwent for this role, and how grateful she is that there are more opportunities for Latinxs in the industry. [Ed Note: This interview contains some spoilers for Keep Breathing.]