Interview with Alice Braga of “Queen of the South” on USA Network by Suzanne 3/23/21
It was great to speak with Ms. Braga. She was very chatty and kind. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
Here’s the video version of it.
Question: …Can you talk a little bit about such a wonderful show with such a strong female character coming through? [What] has the journey been like, and what do you want to tell other female storytellers who want to tell stories like this? It [has] such amazing, powerful characters.
Alice: Yeah, it was very, very powerful. Thank you for what you said about my work and myself; I really appreciate [it]. I mean, since I read the book, I thought it was a very powerful character to play. I absolutely love the journey that she goes through the book. It was decided to not follow the book and create a new journey for her for the show, but I always tried to portray that character from that journey. And I thought it was very interesting to have a [female], and especially Latina, being the leader of the cartel, and trying to create that, without falling into the stereotype of being just a villain or someone that is just mean, but trying to create an arc that goes different ways and meet different characters. And a lot of people die in the cartel world, so, so many [ways] that it could happen. But it was nice. I always try to honor what Arturo Pérez-Reverte wrote for this character, and kind of understand how she would respond to the situations that were created. And I feel that having characters that are empowered in that sense, it’s very interesting. It is a character that doesn’t victimize herself; it is a character that [is] trying to survive. And through that, even if she’s the anti-hero, because she’s, of course, the drug dealer and all that, she’s the heroine of her own life, because she is the girl from Culiacán. Even though all odds with the situation that she was put in, she kept on thriving, and she kept [her] focus on survival. So, I think it was a very interesting, powerful journey to face as an actress.
Suzanne: Hi, thanks for being here today. It’s great to talk to you.
Alice: Thank you, Suzanne.
Suzanne: I went on a bunch of social media sites and asked your fans for questions. There’s one who really gave me a lot of questions named Brenae; I’m not sure how she pronounces it, but she wanted to know if you and the cast did anything special on your last day of shooting?
Alice: We did actually. We all got together. We were all tested, and we were all connected all the time, because of COVID. It’s kind of like our little NBA bubble, because we’re literally going from my house to the set and set to my house, because it’s such a crazy environment with COVID. We had to be very strict with what kind of lifestyle we were having, and all of us were very committed and very devoted to the show. We just had a drink together, actually, with a few people from the crew and the show runners and our makeup artists and the hair stylists that have been with us since season one. We got a couple of tequila, a couple of Japanese whiskey, and a lot of hugs and a lot of cries, even though was COVID. We were all tested, and we were trying to stay away from each other, but it was very emotional. It was beautiful. But yeah, we got together, everyone.
Suzanne: Thank you. That sounds really great…
Question: You’ve played this character for quite a while now. How is it leaving her behind? And this show is going to have a second life in streaming now. What would you say to get people in the door to take the whole thing in?
Alice: It’s very interesting, because before, I’ve done – Queen of the South was my first TV show. I’ve never worked on television before. I’ve only done films, and the work that you do in films, you get connected to the story, you do the work, and then, after that, you wrap it up, and that character is alive but on that moment forever. With the show, you kind of put it aside for a couple of months, and then you revisit. So, you’re always going back to it. And that was my first experience with that. The heartbeat of the character is still alive, even though if you’re going away for a little bit, like on offseason, you’re doing a film; you’re doing a play or something else. So, it’s been a big part of my life for the past five years. So, definitely, when we said, “It’s a rap,” it was very interesting.
I remember calling Hemky Madera, the actor that plays Pote, to look at me, because I said, “It’s the last time you’re gonna see me with the part [unintelligible] and wearing all white and all that.” And we hugged each other. We were like, “Oh, my God, it’s been six years of our lives together.”
And I feel very happy, and, of course, emotional, but very happy that we were able to complete the journey, to have five seasons, to be able to finish, because there’s so many shows that end up being canceled, and at least we were able to finish the total journey that we were there to do. And I’m definitely going to miss her, but it’s wonderful to be able to complete that path with her, especially being my first TV experience. I’ve never thought it would last that long. So, it’s been a true honor.
And for whoever is streaming now, I really hope you enjoy the ride, because there’s so much action; there’s so much drama. There’s so much intensity and so many different characters that come and go, because the drug dealer world is this kind of world that there’s so much to explore. I really hope they tune in, and they enjoy the ride. It’s quite a ride for a girl from Culiacán to become the drug lord that she becomes.
Question: I interviewed your executive producer right before the show started, and he said he was standing in his backyard, and there was a billboard for Queen of the South that he could see, and it was his proudest moment. Did you have kind of a moment like that?
Alice: Absolutely. I think when I started feeling the responses from the fans. I remember I was doing a show in Italy last year – not last year, 2019. Well, 2020 is a blur for everyone, right? It was kind of like a blur, but when I was filming in Italy, I remember walking, and I walked into vinyl store. And the guy was just watching a game, and he looked at me, and his reaction seeing me, I could see that he couldn’t picture why I was in the tiny town in Italy in his store. He literally flipped, and that reaction for me – I remember, oh my god, I’m so thankful to be able to play a character that has been seen in a way from people all over the world from Italy to Brazil to South Africa, receiving messages from the Philippines, all over the world. I think when you do that – we do it for the fans, but when you see that more than one nationality connected to it, it really fills my heart, especially like being represented and playing a Mexican in an American show. That’s the world that I believe in, that we should all communicate and tell stories to each other.
Question: …What was the biggest takeaway for you working on this show that you would like to carry forward and further your storytelling journey?
Alice: You mean as the character or as Alice Braga?
Question: As an actress, and as an executive producer…hopefully you have power to create more stories, or at least help create the kind of stories do you want to tell. What are you going to take from this?
Alice: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like it’s been a true honor to be able to – like I was saying, this was my first TV show. I’ve never done TV before, not even in Brazil. We do a lot of telenovelas soap operas, [but] I’ve never done it before. So, to be able to not only jump on board and be included, [but to] be the lead of a TV show in the United States being Latina, it’s been an honor and a great experience, and also being able to executive produce, meaning having an input in the character’s journey and what is her journey and where she’s going, and being included in that conversation has been an honor. And I feel like representation really matters, not only in front of the camera, but behind the camera. That’s why it’s great to have Latinas like [unintelligible]. She’s half Cuban; her mom is Cuban. Ben Lobato, he’s Latino as well. I think It’s important for us to have more and more and more writers, directors, executives, that are of color, because that’s the only way that we see ourselves in front of the camera. So, it’s not only about hiring actors, but I think it’s also changing the perspective of the business to have more people of color, both behind and in front of the camera. Like I was saying, that’s the future that I hope [for], and that’s the world that I want to live in, for sure.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Teresa Mendoza, “Queen of the South”
The Brazilian born actress received critical and international recognition for her stirring performance in “City of God,” which helped catapult the film to multiple Golden Globe® and Oscar® nominations. A multiple-award winning actress, Braga received best actress awards at Miami International Film Festival, International Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro and Verona Love Screens Film Festival for he role in “Lower City”; at Brazilian Film Festival of Toronto for “The Milky Way;” at Paulinia Festival for “Blindness;” and at Punta del Este Film Festival for “Cabeça a Prêmio.”
Next, Braga will be seen in Kieran-Darcy Smith’s “By Way of Helena” co-starring opposite Woody Harrelson and Liam Hemsworth. She will also appear in Stuart Hazeldine’s “The Shack,” alongside Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer and Tim McGraw. Braga was last seen in the Neill Blomkamp’s futuristic drama, “Elysium,” opposite Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. Additional recent film credits include Walter Salles’ “On the Road” alongside Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams and Garrett Hedlund and based on the book by Jack Kerouac; Mikael Hafstrom’s thriller “The Rite” opposite Anthony Hopkins; Miguel Sapochnik’s thriller “Repo Men” opposite Jude Law and Forest Whitaker; as well as Nimrod Antal’s science fiction film “Predators” opposite Adrien Brody.
In 2008, Braga had three films. “Blindness” in which she re-teamed with director Fernando Meirelles and starred opposite Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo; as well as David Mamet’s “Redbelt” which followed the life of a Jiu-jitsu master, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and co-starring Emily Mortimer; and finally Wayne Kramer’s film “Crossing Over,” in an ensemble cast led by Sean Penn and Harrison Ford. Prior to this, Braga starred in the blockbuster success film, “I Am Legend,” opposite Will Smith.
Other film credits include Heitor Dahlia’s “Drained” (O Cheiro do Ralo) opposite Selton Mello; Eric Eason’s “Journey to the End of the Night,” featuring Mos Def and Brendan Fraser; Carlos Bolado’s “Only God Knows” (Sólo Dios Sabe), opposite Diego Luna; as well as the riveting drama “Lower City” (Cidade Baixa) about the dangers of a love triangle. For her performance, A.O. Scott of the New York Times hailed Braga as “one of the most forthrightly and powerfully sexual screen actresses in the world.”
Braga is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English.
QUEEN OF THE SOUTH tells the powerful story of Teresa Mendoza (Alice Braga), a woman who is forced to run from the Mexican cartel and seek refuge in America, and her eventual rise to power over her own drug trafficking empire. The original drama series is based on the global best-selling novel “La Reina Del Sur,” by internationally acclaimed author Arturo Pérez-Reverte. The literary page-turner also yielded a popular super series for USA’s sister network, Telemundo.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda