It was last fall when EW originally broke the news that pop superstar Gloria Estefan would be appearing on Glee as Santana’s mother, Maribel Lopez. Now, Estefan is finally making her first appearance in the season finale! Sadly, Gleeks, the singer won’t be carrying a tune in the episode, fittingly titled “Goodbye,” which finds McKinley’s seniors graduating. “I don’t sing on the show but I kinda think that’s better because I think that would throw fans,” says Estefan. “Hopefully, we can come back and do the singing. But I love to be on there and establishing a character.” EW talked to Estefan about her character’s relationship with Santana as well as her favorite Glee number of all time—the answer may surprise you!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did this come about?
GLORIA ESTEFAN: First, we went to visit the set on the last season. My son lived out in LA and we were visiting. We were all a big fans so we finagled our way on the set.
Did you guys wear disguises?
No no! We were in the same room. I met Naya Rivera and I met Chris [Colfer] and Kevin McHale. I know Emilio had been talking with the music people on the show and stuff about different things. But then Ryan [Murphy] reached out to me to play Santana Lopez’s mom and I was thrilled because I think it was a great opportunity after what the grandma did to do something supportive.
You mentioned this but obviously Santana came out to her grandmother and it did not go well.
No not at all!
So is your character more accepting?
Yes. I’m very supportive of my daughter. You always have to have a back story even if you have one line. So my back story with Santana’s mom was she didn’t get to go to college so she really wants Santana to do that. Up until now Santana has had a good relationship with her grandmother, but when she confronted her the response was very hard. She was probably the same way with Maribel. Santana’s dad they mentioned was a doctor, so I think she helped put him through school, but decided for motherhood. [She] loved to sing and was a singer and put her life on hold because she thought being a mom was very important so she wants Santana to make it through. She’s supportive of her daughter. She just wants her to be happy—bottom line. I know the feeling because my daughter is getting ready to do her last year of high school and she’s gonna do a summer program. It’s the first time we’re all going to be separated. I’m there! It was a very hard thing for me to imagine.
How’s the chemistry between you and Naya? Did you all get along like gangbusters from the start?
Yes. From day one. She was so sweet when we met on the set. She was really really nice and sweet. I thought we fell into the roles well. She was fun to be around.
It sounds like you have scenes with Heather Morris, too.
Yes we did. We had a scene at Breadstix. I had to ask for a booster chair [laughs].
That must have been fun to be at such an iconic Glee location?
It was fun. There’s some very funny stuff with Heather Morris. It was a fun scene and it’s also poignant and there’s a scary moment there for the mom.
Did your family come to watch the shoot?
Yes. My husband and my daughter. My husband said to me, “You know what? You’re my wife but when you hugged her, I got choked up.” I know he’s probably feeling the same thing because of [our daughter] Emily . I go, “That’s a good sign!” [laughs]
Why do the Estefans love Glee so much?
I’ll tell you what I love: I’m a musician first and foremost. Music has been a really big and healing part of my life. I studied psychology so I tend to analyze a lot of things. But if you go back to WWII, you had musicals and happy things and escapist things because that’s what entertainment does—it takes you away. You couldn’t have done this before because we were all too cheeky back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and would have snubbed our noses at something so whimsical. Now, people need it! It’s fun. Great music. My favorite so far was “One Less Bell to Answer/House is Not a Home.”