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Jorge R. Gutiérrez & Sandra Equihua Discuss Creating Netflix’s Maya and the Three

Netflix’s Mesoamerican animated series Maya and the Three is now streaming and features a star-studded cast that includes Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna, Allen Maldonado, Stephanie Beatriz, and Gabriel Iglesias.

“In a fantastical world, where magic turns the world and four kingdoms rule the lands, a brave and rebellious warrior princess named Maya is about to celebrate her fifteenth birthday and coronation,” says the official synopsis. “But everything changes when the gods of the underworld arrive and announce that Maya’s life is forfeit to the God of War — a price she must pay for her family’s secret past. If Maya refuses, the whole world will suffer the gods’ vengeance. To save her beloved family, her friends, and her own life, Maya embarks on a thrilling quest to fulfill an ancient prophecy that foretells the coming of three great warriors who will help her defeat the gods and save humankind.”

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with husband and wife duo Jorge R. Gutiérrez and Sandra Equihua about Maya and the Three, embracing Mesoamerican heritage, and more.

Tyler Treese: Jorge, I was really just blown away by the amount of talent you got for the voice cast. Were you, even you a bit surprised that you were able to get all these great names?

Jorge R. Gutiérrez: Yeah, honestly. The power of social media, I basically would write people on Instagram and Twitter, like DM them like a crazy fanboy.

Sandra Equihua: A stalker.

Jorge: We’d be like, “Hey, I wrote a role for you. Here’s your character. Queen Latifah, you gotta do this.” People would write me back. So I still can’t believe we got that all-star team.

Sandra: I swear to God, yeah.

Sandra, this is such an interesting series. You get to tell this very Mesoamerican story. We get to see all these gods and goddesses. How exciting was it to tell this great story and have so much culture involved?

Sandra: It was pretty cool. I mean, it was a little bit of a challenge because there’s just so much. Like a smorgasboard of culture and you don’t really wanna insult anyone. So we kind of did a mismash and a nice little soup of all these cultures. It’s so nice that they lend their traditions and everything that we got from them. Hopefully, people will love it. We try to be as respectful as possible. It was great. It was just too much, just too much goodness.

Jorge: And also of referencing ancient cultures, but we also said, I wanna reference ancient cultures of pop culture. So I referenced movies from the eighties, video games from the nineties, like literally Street Fighter, Akira, like that’s basically what we do in Latin America. We take things from all over the world and we reinvent them.

Sandra: Plus we didn’t want to get 100% serious with that. We wanted to put a little bit with the pop culture we mixed in that was the ingredient and made it a little more lighthearted.

This had to be so much research because you’re dealing with multiple ancient civilizations here. Jorge, what was the most interesting you learned while doing research for this?

Jorge: I got really lucky. When I was a kid, I got to go to the best Mesoamerica museum in Mexico City, and then I got to travel a bunch. So you fall in love with all these places, and you’re told this used to be this, but all you can do is imagine it because there’s no traces of it. So honestly for me, it was right now that I’m researching all this stuff, now that I’m looking into all these mythologies, unfortunately, I’m finding the female characters in the mythologies are sleeping princesses or the prize or the victim. So we said, well, with all due respect to mythology, let’s hack mythology. Let’s create a warrior princess that reflects today and reflects the warrior women that at least I grew up with. I married one. So why not? [laughs] Why not make something that resonates with what’s happening in the world today, while at the same time acknowledging look at where we come from.

Sandra, I was so impressed with just how much heart was in this series and there’s so much great action, but at the core it’s all about family. Can you speak to just the importance of that theme and how it all kind of circles back to that?

Sandra: I think at the heart of it, it’s all about the family. A lot of it was based on ours. We have a trio, technically we’re a very strong trio. It’s Jorge, myself, and my son, Luca, who’s on the autism spectrum. A lot of that heart was taken from that interaction that we have here and injected into our project. Hopefully, it reads through.

Jorge, I love that this is a limited series rather than a movie because you have so much more time and we have full episodes flushing out the characters and so much time for the backstory. So what was the biggest advantage to just having that additional time?

Jorge: I love movies that are giant movies and in animation, unfortunately, we’re limited to 90 minutes and if you’re a fancy director, you get an hour and a half or maybe two hours. But in live-action, you get to do these three-hour, four-hour epics. So for me, this was the only way to tell that type of story in animation. If you watch Lord of the Rings 2 and 3, you basically get cold opens in both of those. So I said, that’s what I wanna do. I want to get basically shorts at the start of every episode where you get to tell all the backstories and in The Book of Life, I must have cut an hour out of that movie to get it down to length. So here, you know, I got to go into the buffet and eat as much as I wanted.

Sandra: The cool thing also is that you finish one, you can binge. You have to go to the next one and wait for the next one and wait for the next one.

Jorge: So it’s a burrito and we got a sushi chef to chop it up into nine little rolls.

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