‘Deadly Class’ actress María Gabriela de Faría on exploring mental health on TV

The Venezuelan talks about the responsibility of playing such a powerful character, living a sustainable lifestyle and more
By Avital Norman Nathman  Published on 02/21/2019 at 11:41 AM EDT
María Gabriela de Faría understands the weight of her role as Maria in Syfy's 'Deadly Class.' Allen Fraser/Syfy

“It’s sort of like if you take Harry Potter, but replace witches and wizards with assassins” is the closest I can come to describing Syfy’s new show, Deadly Class. María Gabriela de Faría (who plays Soto Vatos gang member Maria Salazar) says I’m not far off, “We do the same thing to explain it!” This dark, twisted, and thoroughly engaging show provided the Venezuelan actress her first lead role on American TV.

Maria has had a long career in her home country of Venezuela, acting in popular telenovelas and teen dramas. She’s incredibly proud of her role in Deadly Class, particularly since she plays a young woman secretly struggling with mental health challenges, something that the actress can relate to. We asked her about this complex role and more for our 5 Deep Questions.

  1. Do you believe in God?
    Yes, I do. I didn’t before though. I was a very rational person, and I used to not want to believe in anything more than science, and what I can see and feel. But then, shit happens, and you start looking within. I’m actually just leaving a Kundalini yoga practice right now, and the teacher said, ‘When you don’t look within, you go without.’ That to me means a lot. And I don’t believe in a God that makes all the decisions and rules our lives, but I do believe in a higher energy that keeps everything together.
  2. What do you think happens when we die?
    I believe that we don’t die. That we choose to come back over and over again. I believe we go back to the source, whatever that is, and we choose what our next life is going to be in order for us to evolve as a soul, as a part of the whole. So, that’s what I believe in.

    María Gabriela de Faría
    María Gabriela de Faría connects with her character’s mental health struggles in ‘Deadly Class.’ David Lee
  3. What were you like in high school?
    I’ve been an actress forever, since I was five years old. So, high school for me was kind of my escape from work. Not escape as in I hated my work, but as a free time for myself to be with my friends and to be a kid. I really, really liked high school and I enjoyed every single class. I was such a nerd. At the same time, I would read my scripts and rehearse my lines and everything in class as well. So I kind of lived a double life in high school. I had friends. I’m still friends with them, but I was kind of the outsider. It didn’t hurt me at all. I thought it was cool to have a job outside of high school!
  4. In Deadly Class, your character Maria is struggling with mental health issues. How do you handle that responsibility of this role?
    I’ve been dealing with anxiety forever. For years. You have no idea how many panic attacks I’ve had during interviews, or during a party with my friends, or at work, and I wasn’t able to say anything because if I said something I was “weak” or I was “going crazy,” and I didn’t want people to see me that way. And Maria feels the exact same way as I did before, and she hides it. Since she’s ashamed of it, she doesn’t take action and she doesn’t try and heal herself. Whatever that means for her. For her, it means taking her meds. So I really enjoy that I get to—in one scene— explore so many layers and different emotions. It gave me new tools in my acting career. But also, for me, it’s a great platform to start talking about mental health issues in a more candid way. And to have people out there see that we all deal with anxiety and fears and insecurities nowadays and the stakes are so high. It’s normal, and we have to talk about it. And we have to normalize it. So to me, it was really important. I really felt the responsibility to play it right.
  5. You’re known for being vegan (and vocal about it!), and for your fashionable yet sustainable lifestyle. What’s one sustainable, green action folks could take today to help the planet?
    I would say the greenest thing you can do is go vegan. But I know that’s a really personal step for everybody and I hated it when people used to push me toward it when I wasn’t vegan. Although I kind of do it now, I try not to, ha! In terms of fashion, choose brands that work with sustainable materials and eco-friendly materials. But sometimes those brands can be expensive and we’re not all able to afford it. So what I do, whenever I can’t afford a brand like that, is that I go to thrift shops. And I buy most of my clothes that are not from sustainable brands, are definitely from thrift shops. And I have the most amazing clothes. I have things that nobody else has because they’re really old or they don’t make them anymore. And I would go to a thrift shop with $50 and I would come out with so much. And my budget isn’t harmed in any way. And I get to give second chances to clothes that people otherwise would have thrown out and would go to the landfill and create waste that would not disappear for years and years and years. So that, for me, is huge.
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