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Maria Canals-Barrera: new projects, Halloween and holiday gift ideas

Maria Canals-Barrera is a Shutterfly brand ambassador.
Maria Canals-Barrera is a Shutterfly brand ambassador.

Actress Maria Canals-Barrera shares tips on simple and fun photo-inspired holiday gift ideas. (Photo courtesy of Shutterfly)

Actress Maria Canals-Barrera has found a creative way to combine her love for photography, family mementos, and her Hispanic culture.

The 49-year-old star, most popularly known for her role as Theresa Russo in Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place and as Daniela, Cristela Alonso’s sister, on ABC’s short-lived sitcom Cristela, has taken on a new role as a brand ambassador for Shutterfly, a market leader in digital personalized photo products and services.

According to Shutterfly, Canals-Barrera will be introducing new Spanish-language features including Spanish characters, in-language customer service and customization options, all which will be available on Shutterfly.com/mivida.

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“I’ve done little [product] campaigns here and there but definitely nothing like this and I’m very excited to be doing this because I love taking photos and creating personalized photo gifts is something I’ve always found to be so fun and unique,” said Canals-Barrera, who although she now lives in Los Angeles, was born in Miami to Cuban parents.

Canals-Barrera says she takes pride in being a bilingual mom to two pre-teen girls and confesses sharing her Hispanic culture with her daughters is very important to her.

Actress Maria Canals-Barrera talks about her favorite personalized photo gift ideas.

As the holiday season nears Shutterfly is promoting their personalized photo gift offerings. (Photo courtesy of Shutterfly.)

“Being Latina is an important part of my identity and I always found it to be something that added something extra, something good to my life, it’s a point for pride, our language, our traditions, our heritage,” she said.

“That’s why I like what Shutterfly is doing with Mi Vida, they’re adding the ‘ñ’ and other acentos and making it easier for moms, who are from Central or South America or want to customize items in Spanish, to do so.”

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However, Canals-Barrera has several other professional projects up her sleeve. She’ll be sharing the screen with Jesse Metcalfe and Melissa Joan Hart in God’s Not Dead 2, a sequel to 2004 drama God’s Not Dead about a philosophy professor challenged by a student who believes God exists.

Despite being a sequel, the actress explains God’s Not Dead 2 features a new story and new characters with the exemption of “two or three” who will also be showcased in this second installment of the film, slated for an April 2016 release.

Maria Canals-Barrera is currently filming God's Not Dead 2.

Maria Canals-Barrera shared this photo on Twitter: “Filming #GodsNotDead2 with these talented men, @davidarwhite and Carey Scott.” (Photo Maria_CB Twitter)

“It’s a nice supporting role, it’s going to be very good and the film has a great script,” said Canals-Barrera, who takes on the role of Catherine Thawley in God’s Not Dead 2.

And though she’s kept herself busy shooting scenes for God’s Not Dead 2, Canals-Barrera admits she’s looking forward to returning to theater now that her daughters are a bit older.

“When you do theater you have to rehearse a lot and perform every night and so it’s tougher when your kids are little, actually my husband [ Barrera] and I met doing theater and we both miss it a lot,” she said.

“So, I think I’m going to go back to doing theater soon. I think it’s because I was just in New York and I watched Gloria Estefan’s Get on Your Feet and Hamilton, which both happen to be written about Latinos or by a Latino in America, both shows were terrific and I felt really inspired to return to the stage.”

Halloween, Holiday Gifts, and Plain old Latina Mama Pride 

PPL: What are you going to dress up as for Halloween? 

Canals-Barrera: I just did Comic Con in New York and I voiced Hawk Girl on the Justice League on Cartoon Network so I was there hanging out, signing autographs and taking pictures and I saw a cos player and she had an amazing Hawk Girl outfit on and I said ‘Omg!’ Should I do something crazy?’ It would really make my kids happy if I order a Hawk Girl costume professionally done. It cost like $1,500 so my husband said ‘No, you’re not! you’re not gonna go and buy a super expensive costume when you’re supposed to be watching the girls’ and I said ‘Come on honey! I voiced the character and it would be fun’ so I don’t know if I’ll do it or not but if I do I will definitely put it on Instagram [laughs].

PPL: Do you have any creative ideas for personalizing Halloween trick o’treat items? knickknacks or gifts? 

Maria Canals-Barrera talks about Halloween gifts.

Canals-Barrera shows off her customized Halloween trick o’treat candy bag, which she made at Shutterfly.com. (Video still Shutterfly for Press Pass Latino).

Canals-Barrera: Oh yes! I’ll tell you about the one I’m most excited about. It’s a reusable candy bag where you can put past Halloween pictures printed on it. Isn’t that great? It’s big and cute and you can fill it with candy and show-off your previous glorious Halloween days on it.

I love that one and for Halloween I also love those pumpkin patch pictures printed on a big beautiful canvas!

PPL: If your house caught fire which is the one photograph you’d run in to save? 

Canals-Barrera: “Oh gosh! Why are you asking this torturous question? [laughs] I have to say my wedding album because those photos aren’t digitized. It’d have to be my wedding album for sure. I was married in 1999 so it was right before the digital photo era, just my luck!, so let’s hope my house doesn’t catch on fire!

PPL: Do you see your daughters following in your footsteps and your husband’s footsteps and pursue a career in acting? 

Canals-Barrera: If they want to they can and they can benefit from our experience and we can guide them and advise them but if they don’t want to that’s fine too. We just want them to be happy and do what they really want to do.

My eldest daughter actually had the opportunity to join the cast of Cristela, the last series I did but she wanted to go to Middle School instead. She’s really focused on her academics and she didn’t want to miss out on school. It was a great choice, and amazing choice so we’ll see if she wants to do it or her younger sister wants to do it but it’s not an easy life and you have to love it. I’m going to encourage them to do something that makes them want to jump out of bed every morning and go to work. Who wouldn’t want to live that way?

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I was actually taken aback at first when I told my daughter that she was chosen to join the cast but that she’d have to miss school even though I explained to her that she wouldn’t fall behind because there would be a tutor on set but she said ‘No Mami, I love doing it but I can’t. I want to go to Middle School’ and I thought ‘Wow!’ It took me a couple of days to…but my husband said ‘Leave her alone, it’s alright she doesn’t have the gaping hole that only applause can fill, like you and I do’ but after I thought about it more and more and I was just so, so proud of the choice she made. Sometimes, you just have to trust your kids.

For more on Canals-Barrera follow her on Twitter: @Maria_CB

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Daysi Calavia-Robertson has a BA in Mass Communications from Florida International University. Her articles have appeared in The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, The Sun-Sentinel, The South Florida Times and The Huffington Post. She's also conducted entertainment reporting segments on local television. No matter what the medium, Daysi believes in the power of storytelling.

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