‘Grand Army’ Breakout Star Marcela Avelina Goes From Stage To Screen In Fall’s Most Anticipated Young Adult Drama

Marcela Avelina | Photography: Joe DeAngelis

One of the Fall season’s hottest and most anticipated shows on Netflix is ‘Grand Army’, created by Katie Cappiello and based on a successful play she wrote and directed. ‘Grand Army’ follows five students at the largest public high school in Brooklyn who take on a chaotic world as they fight to succeed, survive, break free and seize the future.

Star of both Katie’s play ‘Slut’ and now ‘Grand Army’ the series is actress and singer Marcela Avelina, who made her breakout television debut on the young adult drama. Marcela shines as Flora Mejia, a strong-willed and opinionated honor-roll senior student who has been in a relationship with fellow senior, Sid Pakam (Amir Bageria), for a year. 

Born and raised in Manhattan to a Honduran mother and Irish American father, Marcela booked the role of Julie in the original cast of ‘Slut’ which played at the Cherry Lane Theatre in the West Village, while attending high school; she was also a part of their first national tour. She played the role for two years and it helped shape her confidence to pursue a career in the arts. From there, Marcela began releasing music while also auditioning for acting projects.

In a year when the world is experiencing so much turmoil and unrest, ‘Grand Army’ is a timely commentary on how America’s youth are grappling with coming-of-age, social justice and political unrest, and figuring out their place in these uncertain times.

Not only is Marcela part of this cultural marker in 2020 in America, she has also been busy releasing new music. Her new single ‘Took Me Out’, released in October, was written as an ode to reflect on one’s actions, digesting a chaotic time period and providing closure for one’s self through self-realization. Written and produced by Marcela herself with additional production by Evan Lawrence and Mike Dvorscak, the track was also recorded with Beachball Records which is a music collective that Marcela started with fellow musicians that she has been playing with for years; their focus is to continue to uplift musicians and provide safe spaces for creation.

We got to speak with the breakout star about ‘Grand Army’, her music, and how her creative projects are influenced by her unique multicultural experience in New York City.

Marcela Avelina | Photography: Joe DeAngelis

How are you feeling about the release of “Grand Army” on Netflix and all the buzz surrounding it?

I feel immense gratitude. I’m so excited for the entire cast and I’m feeling honored to be a part of such a special family. 

The series is based on a play called “Slut” written by Katie Cappiello, which you were also in. Tell us about going from the stage to the screen in this production?

It’s surreal. Within the cast, there are a lot of moments of, “can you even believe that it’s gotten to this point?” Seeing how Katie has expanded “Slut the Play” to the universe of ‘Grand Army’ is inspiring. Again, I’m honored to have been a part of this process so early on and to be able to see it through to the series.

Tell me about your character Flora and what you loved about playing her?

Flora is a senior at ‘Grand Army’. She’s incredibly focused, determined and self-aware. I love how grounded Flora is. Being able to play a young Latina that’s so beautifully vulnerable and ambitious was amazing.

There is a lot in the series that mirrors what is happening in the world right now, especially when it comes to racial justice and politics. What messages do you hope audiences will take in when they watch “Grand Army”?

Representation is so important. Being a young person in high school does not eliminate experiences of racism. It doesn’t eliminate experiences of sexual violence. I think adults like to think that young people are shielded from that, but the reality is that it’s prevalent. Being a high schooler in general is difficult. Students of color, and particularly black students, face additional obstacles as they move through that time in their lives. 

Marcela Avelina | Photography: Joe DeAngelis

On the music side of things, you have a new single called “Took Me Out”. Can you tell us why you wrote it and what’s it about? 

I wrote ‘Took Me Out’ during a chaotic period of intense change. In hindsight, I was reflecting that sonically. It was part of my reconciliation process. It’s definitely a different production approach then I had taken in the past. Pre-COVID in 2020, I visited Berlin and was exposed to a deep house and techno scene that I had never really experienced in New York City. I feel like this song definitely took on its feel because of that exposure.

Living in NYC, as the daughter of a Honduran Mother and Irish-American father, you live right in the heart of a melting pot! How has this upbringing shaped your perspective on racial justice, immigration and intersectionality. 

I’m lucky to have parents that made sure I understand and love my culture along with knowing my place in it. They’ve nurtured me along with the New York City arts community. The art world keeps moving because of black and brown artists and the LGBTQ community. 

What makes you a powerful woman?

Executing my visions and allowing myself to be vulnerable and honest during the process.

You can watch Marcela in ‘Grand Army’ streaming on Netflix now, and listen to “Took Me Out” on Apple Music and Spotify.