Pacific alumnus steps up as writer for “Selena: The Series” on Netflix

Jamie Lee Curtis and Jorge Ramirez-Martinez

Jorge Ramirez-Martinez with actress Jamie Lee Curtis. (Courtesy photo.)

Confidence, enthusiasm and ambition are key reasons that Jorge Ramirez-Martinez ’08 landed a screen writing role for the popular Netflix show “Selena: The Series.”

Those attributes also were on display during his years at University of the Pacific. He recalls one such moment with hearty laughs.

“There was a time when actress Jamie Lee Curtis came to Pacific. I introduced myself and told her that I was going to be in Hollywood someday,” Ramirez-Martinez said. “She looked at me and said, ‘Oh, OK.’ Years later, when I was working on the NBC series “Black List Redemption,” she was filming “Scream Queens,” both of us at Paramount Studios. I saw her in the lot one day.”

Curtis, who attended Pacific, is the daughter of award-winning actress and iconic Pacific alumna Janet Leigh ’47. Ramirez-Martinez approached the actress and said, “I told you once when you were at Pacific that I would make it to Hollywood. Well, here I am.” Several days later, Ramirez-Martinez—wearing a Pacific sweatshirt—and Curtis crossed paths when he was having coffee.

“I asked her if we could have a picture together. She had not been to hair or makeup so she got herself beautified. It took all of one minute. She grabbed my phone and said ‘let Momma do it.’ I cherish that photo.” 

Ramirez-Martinez has been beating the odds his entire life. He is a first-generation college student whose family lived across from campus on Pacific Avenue. He filled out the last Community Involvement Program application his Stagg High School teacher had—and wound up being accepted into the program. A triple major at Pacific—English, Spanish and film—led to a master’s degree in film at University of Southern California.

“When he was a freshman, he started out as a Spanish major. He was struggling,” said Susan Giraldez, assistant professor of Spanish, and Ramirez-Martinez’s college advisor. “At the same time, he was saying I’m going to be an English major and I’m going to be a Spanish major and I’m going to be a film major. I said ‘Jorge, Jorge, get some focus.’ But he did it. And he won’t let me forget what he accomplished with that triple degree. He was an amazing student.”

Ramirez-Martinez’s passion for writing and films and previous work helped him land a job on the 10-person writing team for the Netflix series on the life of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, the queen of Tejano music and an iconic Mexican-American pop star who was killed at age 23 in 1995 by the president of her fan club.

He worked on many of the nine episodes in the first season, but his highlight was episode seven, which he co-wrote with Pamela Garcia-Rooney.

“The pressure was on us as writers for that episode. It was the love story of Selena and Chris—when they meet and fall in love. It’s a big life event in her life,” Ramirez-Martinez said. “We had to really know her life inside and out. People understand it’s not like the movie about her. It’s complementary material to the movie. It was surreal watching something that I wrote showing on TV in front of millions of people.”

The second season of Selena will be available on Netflix on May 4. Ramirez-Martinez solo wrote one of the episodes.

“The episode is called ‘Oh, no,’ if that tells you there will be drama involved,” he said with a smile.

Ramirez-Martinez lives in Los Angeles and gets home occasionally to Stockton to visit his mother and brother. Stockton, however, remains on his mind.

“I just finished a pilot for a show I’m calling “America’s Law” and on the first page the main character comes back to Stockton to try her first case,” Ramirez-Martinez said. “My writing often finds its way back to Stockton.”

Other creative projects at various stages of development—or in the idea phase—include a police show with storylines about the defunding of police departments, a book trilogy set in the future, a children’s book and, ultimately, his dreams of becoming a director.

“I want to do it all and create as many projects as possible,” he said. “I am very grateful for the role Pacific played in my life. Patti McCarthy, who was my film professor at Pacific, was such a great mentor. Patti told me ‘you are a writer.’ And at the time, I did not want to believe her. But she was correct. I am passionate about writing.”

“Some students want to write the next ‘Avengers’ movie, but Jorge wants to write about characters who are real and vulnerable,” said McCarthy, now assistant professor of film at Whittier College. (She taught at Pacific from 2005–18.) “He has the ability to peel back the layers of the characters and make you understand them. He has the gift of making characters seem authentic with his words.”

“Everyone wants to be a director. But the first class in which I had Jorge at Pacific, I knew he was a writer. The greatest gift you can receive as a professor is to see your student succeed. I am very proud of Jorge.”