Who Is Melissa Barrera From 'Keep Breathing'?

The Mexican actress stars as Liv, a lawyer who fights to survive after getting stranded in the wilderness.

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(Image credit: Ricardo Hubbs/Netflix)

Netflix's latest sleeper hit is a must-watch for fans of wilderness survival thrillers (but maybe skip it if you're on a plane). The limited Netflix series Keep Breathing follows a New York lawyer whose private plane crash lands in the remote Canadian frontier. With no one knowing where she is, Liv, played by Melissa Barrera, has to battle both the harsh environment and past demons to survive.

The six-episode series is powered by Barrera's performance, and it's the latest showing of the multi-hyphenate's star power. Here's everything we know about the actress whose resumé ranges from to a legendary horror franchise to a hit movie musical.

She grew up in Monterrey, Mexico.

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The 32-year-old actress and singer grew up in the traditionally conservative city of Monterrey, Nueva León, Mexico. She fell in love with theater at a young age, after playing an ensemble member in her school's production of The Wizard of Oz. At 18, she moved to the U.S. to study at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where she hoped to act on Broadway.

After graduation, Barrera ended up moving back to Mexico and made a name for herself while starring in telenovelas, including Siempre Tuya Acapulco, Tanto Amor, and Club de Cuervos (opens in new tab). In an interview with The Last Magazine, she said that the U.S.' visa process influenced her decision, as it was hard to stay in the country after graduating. "I had seen my older friends struggle with that after they had graduated. You either have to go back or go back to school and figure out a way to not get deported, basically," she said.

Her first TV role was on the Starz series 'Vida.'

Eventually, Barrera moved to Los Angeles, and landed her starring role in Vida after one month. In the drama about two Mexican-American siblings who reunite after their mother's death, Barrera played Lyn, the free-spirited, outwardly-confident sister who actually felt lost in life.

In an 2020 interview with Marie Claire (opens in new tab), Barrera reflected on the series months before its series finale. "It started a movement in brown and Latino content, queer representation, and the representation of women of color. It was groundbreaking and still is."

She played Vanessa in the movie musical 'In the Heights'.

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Barrera made her U.S. film debut in the adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In The Heights, playing the aspiring fashion designer Vanessa. In a Harper's BAZAAR (opens in new tab) interview, she said that the stage musical partly inspired her to move to New York and study musical theater. She also auditioned for the stage musical several times while she was in school.

"I went on a school trip to New York City, and a few of us escaped our hotel to see the show, she told the outlet. "I remember crying uncontrollably. It was a strange feeling, because those were tears of hope and pride—pride in seeing the Mexican flag on a Broadway stage and seeing people who looked like me and roles that I could play—I felt like I was on the right path."

She also stars in the reboot of the horror franchise 'Scream.'

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After In the Heights, Barrera filmed several projects including the indie film All the World is Sleeping and the upcoming musical Carmen, which co-stars Normal People's Paul Mescal. She also joined the relaunch of the Scream franchise, starring in 2022's Scream and the upcoming film Scream 6 as Sam Carpenter.

She did underwater training and performed some of her own stunts for 'Keep Breathing'.

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Barrera told Women's Health (opens in new tab) about her training for the survival thriller, which included scuba, breath-holding, and cold-water training. "I admire people that are scuba divers so much because it's honestly the most nerve wracking and claustrophobic feeling I've ever felt," she said. "The depths are something that is terrifying to me, so it was nice to conquer that fear in a way during this show."

She also said that she prefers doing her own stunts whenever possible, and that she had previous stunt experience in Mexico. "I always wanna do the most that I can without putting the production at risk and myself. It's always better for me if the camera is free to see the face, 'cause the stunt person always has to hide and then you can kind of tell that it's not the actor," she said.

Her husband is also a singer.

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Barrera married singer Xavier (Paco) Zazueta in 2019, after the pair met on the Mexican musical reality show La Academia in 2011. She told Variety (opens in new tab) that the singer supported her throughout the show's run, even though they were technically competing. He even wrote a song for her called "Melissa," (opens in new tab) which he performed on their wedding day.

The actor also is also a dog mom to two adorable puppies named Rambo and Zeus.

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She loves playing complex Latina women.

Barrera has been outspoken about representation in Hollywood. In several interviews, she's said that she pursues different roles to make sure that she doesn't get "pigeonholed."

"I’m grateful to have played such rich and complex women, since flawed women are rarely depicted on screen, especially Latinas, and my whole point has been to subvert categorization," she told NBC News (opens in new tab). "This has caused me to lose a lot of opportunities and has slowed my career down a little bit because I’ve said no to many things because I actively haven’t wanted to be pigeonholed, and it’s very easy for this industry to do that."

She also told PopSugar (opens in new tab), "I remember when I was doing Vida, I started to get all these offers and all these scripts for movies where I was playing the exact same character as Lyn, and I remember being like, I don't want that. I don't want to become just that. I don't want people to see me as just that. And I made it really clear, and it's something that I still try to do. Every time I finish a project, I want something that feels, if not the opposite, very different than what I just did. I want to keep people on their toes and keep the people that follow me guessing."

Quinci LeGardye
Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.