"Love is not about gender; it's about the needs we have inside"
Roxy Bourdillon chats to the stars of Locked Up about sexual fluidity and working with women.
Spanish prison drama Locked Up is so riveting I forget I’m reading subtitles. In case you haven’t seen it (and you can rectify that unfortunate situation via Channel 4 Catch up now), here’s a quick rundown of the key players.
Macarena (Maggie Civantos) is our resident fish-out-of-water, trapped in a high security prison after helping her sleazy boss-boyfriend commit fraud. Luckily, she meets Curly (Berta Vázquez), who’s all smiles and jokes and, “Nice to meet you, wanna be my prison wife?” But life on the inside isn’t all fun, games and romantic propositions in the shower room. Zulema (Najwa Nimri) is the terrifying Top Dog. She keeps a scorpion as a pet and has inmates who cross her boiled alive.
The new series premieres tonight on Channel 4. I met up with the three lead actresses to find out more.
DIVA: Locked Up is the first Spanish TV series to be shown on British TV. How does that feel?
NAJWA: It’s an incredible thing. We talk about a lot in Spain - “It’s the first series that goes on Channel 4 in London.”
MAGGIE: I say that! [In the UK] you have a long traditional culture of theatre and movies and TV shows. You really respect the actors’ work. I’m not saying that in Spain not, but it’s different.
BERTA: Right now [in Spain] we don’t have much money for culture. People are a little bit sad. We don’t have this energy you have here, with fashion and music and everything. It’s not easy to do something that crosses the limits of the country and goes outside.
Well congratulations, it’s quite an achievement! I love the show and I especially love that it's all about women.
NAJWA: For me, that was really important. It was amazing how we managed to handle it so well between us. And it was because no men were involved, believe me.
BERTA: We had a chance to show something very different on TV. Strong women - fighters, survivors, sexy, beautiful - and a lot of unknown actresses also.
MAGGIE: It’s a special feeling working with women. We protect each other.
BERTA: We help each other.
MAGGIE: We are a team.
BERTA: I think women, we’re more passionate with everything we do.
MAGGIE: Especially in this story, we needed that.
NAJWA: In the beginning, the three of us, we were fighting all the time and punching and screaming and doing bad things. Physically, it was super hard.
What's the atmosphere like on set? Are you all having fun and being silly or is it serious and focused?
NAJWA: We cry a lot.
BERTA: We have a lot of mood swings. Days where you laugh a lot, days where you are very tired, physically and emotionally. But every day we were happy to go to work.
MAGGIE: We had to be very focused on the work but at the same time [points to Najwa] she’s so funny.
BERTA: She is!
NAJWA: I need to laugh. If I cannot laugh, for me the world is over.
BERTA: I remember you crying one day at the end of the first season - “I can’t keep working with this character, I’m suffering.”
NAJWA: I was super tired. And everybody loved the violent thing. It was a weird moment because I thought everyone was fucked up in the head. I didn’t like that my son liked me. I thought, “No, this is a bad person”. I got super responsible and I thought, “I have to take the heart of this girl and put it on the table”. I don’t want them to love me only because I’m violent. They have to understand that I’m sick.
All the characters are so intriguing. Maggie, do you think Macarena had any lesbian experiences before she went to prison?
MAGGIE: No, she didn’t have any. I can understand my character very well because I think the same. Maybe you think you are very straight but one day you fall in love with someone. Maybe because you need some kind of love or you really fall in love with a person. I think that’s the case with Macarena. She’s straight but one day when she’s in jail she finds Curly. At the beginning it’s weird for her.
BERTA: I think love is not about gender. I think it’s about the needs we have inside of us.
Berta, do you think Curly was interested in women before she went to prison?
BERTA: I think Curly’s the type of person who loves both. I think actually she had a boyfriend outside, they told me, but she tried with both girls and guys. She’s very open.
Are there many queer characters on Spanish TV or is that quite a new thing?
MAGGIE: On Netflix you can find a couple. It isn’t very frequent.
BERTA: We do more traditional series.
MAGGIE: But I feel like it’s changing. Now it’s easier to find gay characters. It’s society. Now you can speak about that.
NAJWA: Being gay in Spain is kind of -
BERTA: It’s something cool right now.
Yay, I’m cool in Spain!
NAJWA: Lesbian is not so cool.
Oh sorry, I’m not cool in Spain!
MAGGIE: No, you’re cool! I feel very honest. A lot of actresses or artistic people like both - men or women. I have a lot of friends who are actresses and they try with women too.
BERTA: Beautiful girls being together… I like it.
NAJWA: Madrid is super gay.
MAGGIE: I have a theory that it’s very hard to find a boy in Madrid because 80% are gay, I promise you.
BERTA: If he’s gorgeous or handsome? He’s married or gay.
MAGGIE: It’s true. So I am thinking about finding a woman.
NAJWA: You were thinking about finding a woman before!
MAGGIE: I’m very open. I am straight, but who knows. I can’t say never because I feel like… I can fall in love with the person.
BERTA: I don’t know what I am.
NAJWA: I’m an animal!
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