American Gods star Herizen F. Guardiola is riding a wave of renewed interest. As she's vacationing in Costa Rica (her one vacation after a busy year of working), she's noticing her socials are booming with new fans — many of whom are discovering her from either the recent Netflix pickup Dare Me or the Season 3 premiere of the Starz supernatural drama.
Based on Neil Gaiman's novel, the third season of American Gods follows ex-con Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) who, after reuniting with the all-father who happens to also be his biological father Odin, is sent on a journey of spiritual-awakening that will ultimately lend some help in accomplishing his mission in the overall battle of Old and New Gods. Guardiola joins the cast as Oshun, a powerful orisha (goddess) of purity, fertility, and love. According to the plot description, the orishas will play a major role in Shadow's trip toward self-awareness.
With Afro-Cuban roots, Guardiola was a no brainer for the role — something that producers recognized as well when they offered the 24-year-old actress the role in 2019. "Of course, I accepted. It's such an incredible honor to get to play my favorite Orisha that I grew up with," she said. "Everything about it was very empowering, and it felt like the perfect time, especially because of this year with empowerment of especially black women and getting to be influential in that movement was a no brainer."
Part of that spiritual awakening Whittle's character must go through involves a trip back in time to the slave trade. For Guardiola, whose notable credits are far from slave plays ( playing Mylene, a teen girl with disco dreams, in The Get Down and Addy Hanlon, a cheerleader with a few sinister secrets, in Dare Me), she describes the experience of having to play a slave as "very intense."
But, different characters aren't something she's shying away from. Even the jump from an '80s period piece to a modern-day murder mystery wasn't daunting for the young star. In fact, she seeks new ways to embody diverse personalities.
"That's what I'm going for. I'm trying to do it all. You know, I don't want to just do one kind of character. Dare Me was really fun because of the range and how dark it was. My favorite type of book or a movie is a psychological thriller. So I was in my element for that."
Guardiola, as Addy Hanlon, makes being a teen cheerleader look like the peak of bad-bitchery — doing things she knows she shouldn't do and with a devil may care attitude until her choices catch up to her. The show, based on the Megan Abbott novel of the same name, dives into the ruthless world of competitive cheerleading while also examining the relationship of two friends (Guardiola and Marlo Kelly) whose lives are suddenly shaken by a new cheer coach and a mysterious murder that shocks their blue-collar town.
After being added to Netflix's roster in December, Dare Me earned a second wave of interest as fans flocked to the thriller, keeping it in the streamer's top 10 for a full two weeks. Once part of USA Network's slate, the series was axed after the first season due to the network's focus shift toward "on live and unscripted programming," according to THR.
"It's been awesome," she said of the new interest. "My social media has been going up a lot. I've been getting new fans, which is always so fun to meet the new wave of fans. Cause they're like freshmen, it's like freshmen, literally in high school."
Since then, fans of the show have been putting pressure on Netflix to pick up the show for a second season. "We've been getting some insane reviews. And I know it's canceled, but I'm like hopeful that maybe like through this new way, then all this positive energy we've been getting something might happen," she said. "None of us were really expecting that much love and support, especially cause it already came out."
As far as her thoughts on Netflix potentially picking it up, she says, "I think they got to do it, bro. I think they're going to f— up by not doing it."
She added, "It is a perfect show for Netflix. It's a teen flick. It brings this whole weird energy around teenage girls that no other show I've seen has, so it would be perfect."
In the meantime, fans can still catch her in the upcoming episodes of American Gods. "You're gonna get a lot of special effects, and I may or may not be in a few dreams sequences," she teased. "I may or may not appear from a really cool place and just like magically, which is really cool for me because I got to do special effects and behind the scenes, it's not glamorous at all because I was struggling the whole time."
"I'm very excited to see the special effects and the dream sequences because they're really incredible," she shared.