(Courtesy photo)

When his parents weren’t looking, young Carlos Alfredo Jr. would take a few quarters from his family restaurant’s cash register to cue a few songs in the jukebox in the dining area.

Four quarters bought him three songs, and more often than not, the CD’s in the brown music machine would stop flipping at Selena Quintanilla-Perez.

Those coins may have been the best investment his parent’s have ever made because Alfredo’s love for the Queen of Tejano music led him to starring in the recently released Netflix show, “Selena: The Series.”

The Oakland native played Joe Ojeda, the original keyboardist of Selena y los Dinos, in the biographical drama show which was released earlier this month. Alfredo said since he was a child, Selena’s passion for music inspired him to have the same drive for his goals.

“One thing that resonated with me the most about her was that she was a dreamer,” Alfredo said, the son of Hispanic immigrants (his mother is from Mexico, and his father from Ecuador).

The series, in which one of the executive producers was McAllen native Jaime Davila, tells Selena’s story from childhood to her rise to fame, not leaving out the struggles she and her family encountered along the way.

Alfredo remembers spending all of the tips he would receive at his family’s restaurant to play “No Me Queda Mas” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” during his shifts, and making up choreography with his two sisters at home.

Alfredo has a natural love for playing music; he taught himself how to play the guitar when he was 10, then later learned how to play the drums, piano, bass and harmonica. He would often entertain his family with cumbias and rancheras.

He was in elementary school when the 1997 “Selena” movie directed by Gregory Nava came out, and said he and his sisters were captivated by her story. Playing a role in the latest film to commemorate the Latina star was a dream for Alfredo.

“I got to live one of my ultimate dreams as an actor: to be a performer on a show about Selena, who has had my heart since I was a child,” he said.

His journey to acting on the show, much like Selena’s climb to fame, came with many difficulties.

After graduating from Expression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville, California with a degree in animation and visual effects, Alfredo was interning at Pixar working on “Toy Story 3.”

His talent for drawing and painting pushed him to want to become an animator, but an animator told him: “If you want to be a great animator, you have to be the best actor you can be.”

So, Alfredo moved south to attend acting classes at The Meisner Technique Studio in San Francisco. At the time, he considered himself a shy and reserved person who would hide behind his instruments or computer.

He remembers throwing up before his first few acting classes because of how nervous he would get. But he pushed on.

He soon fell in love with acting and decided he wanted to do it for the rest of his life. For a few years after graduating from Meisner, Alfredo worked on small-scale gigs, such as a commercial in the 2017 Superbowl. Then in 2018, he produced and starred in his own comedy series, “Mutt and Chopps,” which was nominated as a finalist in the 2019 ARFF Barcelona Spain International Film Festival.

While jumping from project to project, Alfredo also had to wait tables and perform on the streets of L.A. to make ends meet. That all ended when he received a call on a September day in 2019 from his manager while washing dishes at a Japanese restaurant. Before she said it, he knew he landed the role as Joe Ojeda.

(Courtesy photo)

Alfredo hopes through the show, viewers learn about the value of struggling.

“Everyone knows Selena’s story, but this show is a more indepth version of her story. You;ll see more of the struggles, and the thing I want people to understand is that the struggle is good,” he said. “It’s all about the journey.”

Alfredo attributes much of his work ethic to how dedicated his parents were to running their family restaurant, Tacos Jalisco in the Bay Area.

“I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that hustles, my parents taught us the importance of working hard for what you want,” he said. “And working at the restaurant I got to see first hand my parents hustling, and me and my sisters being part of that hustle.”

Alfredo grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in the Bay Area, and added that “Selena was the person who really helped me embrace my culture more than anything.

“And the fact that Selena is still helping out Latinos to this day… She opened the doors for so many Latinos, so many talented people in front and behind the camera, and I am lucky enough to be one of those people.”