McAllen native emerging as young Hollywood storyteller

One evening in 2016 when Gabriela Flores was a junior at McAllen’s Memorial High School, she was in her parent’s bedroom begging them to let her take a shot at an acting career and move to Los Angeles.

Her dad posed an ultimatum: “If you could name the capital of California, you can go.”

Flores screamed “Sacramento!” and ran to her room to pack her bags.

“It was probably a joke to him but I took it seriously and convinced them to take me,” Flores said. She and her mom flew to the Golden State later that year, and Flores has called it home ever since.

Gabriela Flores is pictured on the set of the film “The Tax Collector.” (Courtesy photo)

The McAllen native who is now 23-years-old has starred in a variety of films and television series already, including Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood,” in which she played Marilu, and Netflix show “Atypical.”

After six years of living in California, a role in the new CW Television Network series “Walker” has brought Flores back to her home state. The show, which is currently in the midst of filming its eight episode in Austin, is a remake of CBS’ long-running ‘90s series “Walker, Texas Ranger,” featuring Chuck Norris.

Flores plays Isabela Munoz, a daughter of U.S. immigrants who are facing deportation — a role she says means a lot to her because her long-time best friend’s dad was deported.

The two met at Cathey Middle School in McAllen, and Flores’ friends’ dad was forced to move back to Mexico when she was 7 years old. Ever since, he has not been able to return to the U.S.

The Flores family reunites in California early on in Gabriela’s career. (Courtesy photo)

Though Flores’ friend crosses the border to visit him often, Flores has witnessed how deep the scars her friend had from being separated from her dad.

Flores’ character in “Walker” is an American citizen, unlike her parents.

“When I’m playing a character like this, I really get to feel those emotions and use them in my acting,” Flores said. “… I really feel like I’m Isabel when I play Isabel, and I’m going through what she is going through.”

She added that storytelling is her favorite part of acting, and considers it an honor to be able to do so alongside other Latinos in the film industry.

With the exception of LaBeouf, Flores said everyone in a part of the production of “Tax Collector” were Latino, and that “it just felt like home and they were all just so supportive.”

Though it’s been years since Flores moved to California, she is still receiving support from her mentors in the Rio Grande Valley.

Gabriela Flores has her makeup done on the set of “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.” (Courtesy photo)

For Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood,” Flores had to play violin. Though she was in orchestra in middle school, her skills and technique were rough, but her past music teacher at Cathey, Suzette Chavez, helped her prepare for the role through video chat lessons.

Chavez is now teaching orchestra at La Joya’s Domingo Treviño Middle School.

Flores said in her acting career so far, she has learned two main lessons: being open to opportunities, and accepting rejection.

“Being a good actor, you have to be open because you are taking your director’s vision and making it happen,” she said. “Then the auditioning processes, that’s the hardest part… You just need to know that what’s yours is yours.

“You just have to have a lot of perseverance, and I would say that part is really important off of the camera, because it’s really easy to get discouraged and give up. But if you believe in yourself, you will get the roles that are meant for you.”

Though the show is currently on a three-week hiatus of releasing shows, episodes of “Walker” are released on The CW every Thursday evening. The sixth episode is set to air on March 11.


by A. Colleen DeGuzman.