When Netflix debuted the first season of Fate: The Winx Saga in 2021, the show was met with plenty of criticism from fans. The modern-set fantasy is inspired by Nickelodeon's animated Winx Club, but the streaming live-action version didn't include Flora, a Latina character, instead substituting in a new white character named Terra (Eliot Salt) who had many of Flora's magical characteristics.
At the time, cast and creatives responded to the white-washing criticism in interviews by promising that Terra was not intended as a replacement, and that Flora could be on the way. Fast forward to the show's second-season debut, and the fan-favorite character is finally here in the form of actor Paulina Chávez.
"People are very excited for Flora to come and I'm excited for them to see her — I think they're going to love her," Chávez tells Metacritic. "Diversity is very important on- and off-screen. We're showing it, and so that's important. One tweet I saw when I first booked this was someone saying, 'Guys — the girl playing Flora is Latina. We won!' and it made me tear up at the time. It's so important and it's going to impact a lot of people in a positive way."
Flora makes her debut in the season's second episode as Terra's cousin. At first it seems like a happy and joyous reunion, but as the episode unfolds it becomes clear there's some tension under the surface. That tension bubbles over after one reckless move in the greenhouse.
"They had a really strong bond, but it's that thing where now they're older, and they're trying to find that relationship again," Chávez explains. "And of course, with any relationship, sparks are going to fly because they're opposites. But they're just trying to find their way. And I think they do, pretty fast."
The second season also kicks off with the core friend group — Bloom, Terra, Aisha (Precious Mustapha), Musa (Elisha Applebaum) and Stella (Hannah van der Westhuysen) — trying to dethrone Rosalind (Lesley Sharp) as the evil new headmistress. Even though Flora has no personal stakes in the fight when she comes in, Chávez explains she still wants to help.
"She's trying to support as much as she can, but she's also trying to find her place," Chávez says. "She's very much the type of person to help other people and she cares about how other people feel and think."
To prepare for the role, Chávez wrote pages and pages of internal dialogue. She also wrote a letter as Flora to herself and then burned it, almost like a ritual. "I've never done that before but I think it's something that I'm going to do with other roles," she says.
Speaking of other roles, the 20-year-old reveals Winx is probably her most grown-up role to-date, but she's on the hunt for more diverse and powerful roles on- and off-screen over the next five years. She recently finished filming the Julio Quintana-directed indie flick Mustang Miracle, based on the critically acclaimed, self-published book by Humberto G. Garcia. In it, she plays Daniela Torres, an aspiring writer.
"She is so ahead of her time in the 1950s, when the movie is based," Chávez says. "She's amazing and she plays the love interest of one of the main golfers — it's a golf movie based on a true story. It's a fun one and I'm really passionate about it. I would love to do more films like that."
Chávez also wants to get into producing and directing; she even shadowed director Jody Hahn while filming her previous series, The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia, which was co-created by Mario Lopez.
"That was a lot of fun," she says "And I hope to shadow more directors in the near future to get that experience, so that one day I can actually direct." She says she has many role models that's looking up to until then, but one person who has been her "role model since forever" is an easy one to name.
"Zendaya just won another Emmy for Euphoria and that's really f---ing cool," she says with a laugh. "That's so cool and empowering. It's cool to see her making her mark."
Fate: The Winx Saga is streaming now on Netflix.
Get to know Paulina Chávez:
This young talent is just getting started, but already she's headlined her own series, The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia. She's also starred in the TV movie Feliz NaviDAD, appeared on Game On! A Comedy Crossover Event, helmed a part on Padre Pio and played a young Kim Kardashian on Scandal Made Me Famous.