Scene from Keep Breathing
Melissa Barrera as Liv
Melissa Barrera as Liv
Melissa Barrera as Liv and Austin Stowell as Sam
Last year, Melissa Barrera spent a couple of weeks isolating in a Vancouver hotel room, per SAG-AFTRA-mandated Covid safety protocol. But as the star of Netflix's Keep Breathing, a survival story about a high-powered Manhattan attorney stranded by herself in the Canadian wilderness following a plane crash, she didn't think of those days as downtime.
In the limited series from coshowrunners and writers Brendan Gall (Blindspot, The Lovebirds) and Martin Gero (Blindspot, Kung Fu), her character, Liv, struggles to stay alive while battling the elements. She also has to plunge a few times into a lake in B.C.'s Whistler Olympic Park, a body of water so frigid that in order to prepare, Barrera had daily Zoom meetings with a free-diving coach and took regular dips in an ice cube-filled bathtub. "They'd send ice to my room, I'd put it in the tub, get in and get my body acclimated to the freezing lake," says Barrera who, as prepped as she was, still lets out convincing yelps whenever she wades into the waters as Liv.
Aside from a few flashbacks to Liv's childhood, Barrera is in every scene of Keep Breathing. Sometimes she's joined by a lumbering bear; other times her scene partner is an advice-giving figment of her imagination. Mostly though, it's just Barrera alone and in full-on Castaway mode. "Sometimes they'd just say, 'Go build a fire' or, 'Build a teepee,' and let me try it out so all the emotions and frustrations you're seeing are real," says Barrera, adding that the long hours required for so central a character perfectly suited her temperament. "I'm such a workaholic. If I have a day off, I get major FOMO. I show up to set just to watch. I'm happiest when I'm working."
With her newest role, the actress adds a thriller to her already varied list of credits — which includes her work as responsibility-averse younger sister Lyn in Starz's all-Latinx drama Vida; dreamer Vanessa in the big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical In the Heights and Sam, who successfully battles Ghostface in this year's reboot of the Scream franchise.
Barrera currently lives in Austin, Texas, but grew up in Monterrey, Mexico. She rose to fame with roles in the telenovelas Siempre tuya Acapulco and Tanto amor, and with her growing cachet in the U.S., she dreams of channeling her bottomless reserves of energy into work as a producer. "For everything I'm doing, I'm always thinking of my Vida family, I'm always casting them in my head," Barrera says. "I want to work with them again. It's like Adam Sandler always working with his friends. That's my goal. That's what I want."
Keep Breathing is executive produced by coshowrunners and writers Brendan Gall and Martin Gero. Maggie Kiley (Dr. Death, Dirty John) also serves as an executive producer and director and Iturri Sosa (The Deuce, Gotham) serves as coxecutive producer and writer.
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