Devils Nation lost a fan favorite last night when Raquel Saldana, played by Valery Ortiz, succumbed to a heart condition on the penultimate episode of Hit The Floor's third season. We had so many questions surrounding Raquel's death (mainly WHY???) but we, along with many fans, couldn't help but wonder if losing Raquel was a tribute to Devil Girl Stephanie Moseley, who passed away in 2014. Show creator James LaRosa gave us the whole scoop on how he plotted Raquel's death, and how most of the tears you saw during the casts' goodbyes were genuine and real.
Why did you decide to have Raquel die this season?
James LaRosa: I gave this story to Valery Ortiz this season for a few reasons. First and foremost, I knew it would be heartbreaking, and as a storyteller you want to hit people in all their feels. Raquel is the one character on the show who, really, has no enemies. She had a special relationship with almost every member of Devils Nation, so taking that away would be pulling the rug out from under everyone. She's Kyle's wife, Ahsha's mentor, Pete's ex, Sloane's fellow investigator, Jelena's only friend. It created so much story. At the same time, Raquel had always been confined to the Devils Playground. We even had a joke in the first season where Pete says he doesn't know what Raquel looks like in daylight. I wanted to break her out of her comfort zone, physically and emotionally. This young mother who lives for everyone else, what would it be like to live for herself? That's a gift Kyle gave her. I also knew Valery had the chops to handle it. So much story was resting on her shoulders, so many powerful scenes, and I just really wanted to see her fly. She not only flew, she took over. Telling her was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do as a producer, because I love her as a friend too. We all adore her. She took it as a show of confidence and attacked the story line full-on. It was a loss in the story, but it was also a loss for the show itself.
Fans have seen the death as a parallel or tribute to real-life Devil Girl Stephanie Moseley, is there anything to that theory?
People have drawn comparisons between Raquel and Stephanie Moseley, and it's only natural. The truth is, Raquel's death was not only planned out but completely scripted before Stephanie was taken from us. The difficulty for us was executing it in the middle of tragedy. Stephanie left us in December 2014, we held a celebration for her weeks later, and weeks after that we were filming Raquel's visit to the doctor. Of course everyone on the show felt the similarity. I knew the dance was going to wreck us, and to be honest, it did. As much as everyone respects Valery and Raquel, I'd be lying if I said the dancers weren't also dancing for Stephanie. I'm tearing up just saying that now.
Our choreographer added the element of lining up the lanterns to spell an "S" for Stephanie. This dance meant so much to us. Was Raquel's death inspired by Stephanie? No. But in the midst of trying to get through it, it gave us all an opportunity to show how much we loved her --- love her to this day --- which wound up being a gift. That's on film and no one can take that away.
What was the cast's reaction when the learned Raquel's fate? What was it like to film?
For the entire season, it was a secret Valery and I kept. There were warning signs at the beginning of the season and the cast is incredibly savvy, especially having seen how Hit The Floor works from the inside. Still, I don't think anyone really thought we'd go there. They found out when the script for 308 came out. And even then, they didn't think it was real. Filming everyone's final scenes with Val, well... many of the tears were real. Valery is an original member of the cast, she's a core member of the family (and always will be). Saying good-bye to her on the show was never going to be easy.
In another surreal bit of timing, the entire story line was shot and edited when my own mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. In a matter of months, she went from healthy to hospice and then she was gone. Literally in no time flat. So knowing this story line was coming and watching it play out over the weeks has been difficult for a whole other reason. I will say this: People say Raquel handled it so bravely, so calmly, while they themselves would freak out. My mother handled it the exact same. In the end, she was at peace. She felt she was lucky in having the life she had, having her family and so much love. I believe Raquel felt the same. Raquel had a beautiful boy, and friends who'd do anything for her ---- stage an epic dance in a field, snap naked pics of a hot doctor, make her laugh by telling her she looked like hell... No matter what, as Raquel said to German, the people around you define you. Raquel was loved. And she knew it.
Any funny or lighter moments during the filming of Raquel in the hospital?
On this show, always. I'm an idiot who, like Kyle, can't take things too serious (a trait I got from my own mother). We filmed in an abandoned hospital, and there were all these medical supplies laying around. I found this rubber glove, put it on and got so creepy putting on a weird voice and touching everyone's face. Remember, I'm directing, so the actors have no choice but to talk to me close. I'd be like, "Valery, can you look at Kat when you say this line and also RUBBER GLOVE CARESS TO THE FACE WEIRD VOICE." Valery screaming is music to my ears so if I couldn't stop, it was all her fault. The basement was haunted which was super fun. And McKinley, Logan and I tossed around the rubber babies in the nursery like footballs. The three of us should really never be allowed near children.
Raquel's death plays a major role in next week's season finale. Which is, if I may say, out of control. Devils Nation is not gonna want to miss a second of it...
Tune in to the season three finale of Hit The Floor next Monday at 10/9c.