Queen of the South Interview: Strong Women, Role Reversal and What's Next

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What did you think of the premiere of USA's latest series, Queen of the South?

While at the ATX Festsival in Austin, I had the chance to sit down with the cast of Queen of the South to talk about the premiere and what to expect as the series moves forward.

They were quite interested to share their thoughts on this fast paced and engrossing character-driven drama.

Queen of the South Cast

I was surprised to learn that most, if not all, of the cast had read the book by Arturo Pérez-Reverte and/or watched the Telemundo version of the show. That was how they first encountered the characters they have grown to love.

There have been some changes for the USA version of the series, but not when it comes to their love of the characters and the story. Alice Braga, who plays the central character Teresa Mendoza, shared her thoughts on her character.

"She's a character that's a survivor in a way. She is the one who came from very poor life circumstances and was thrown into this life by her boyfriend, who is the only person who showed her love and cared for her."

Braga continued, "And jumping into this world for him and with him when he passes away, she starts running for her own life, and through that it comes so many things that she just needs to keep on challenging herself to keep on going."

"But she's never victimizing herself, never feeling sorry for herself, just adapting to the situations and being alive."

"I think they're the type of characteristics that are normally displayed by a man, and it's very interesting to play a character that's not the classic type of woman."

To compare her character to another currently on television, with Olivia Pope it's politics and with Teresa it's drugs. The drugs are a secondary character.

"It's not the main thing, like Narcos," Braga said, which tells the story of drugs through the characters. It's about the characters themselves but being told through their drug-running story.

The characters drive the story, rather than the plot driving the characters.

Veronica Falcón, who plays Camila Vargas, weighed in about what kept Camila from killing Teresa in the premiere. "It's not so much intentionally that she helps her, but I think they start getting a connection. She sees a survivor, a strong woman, someone unexpected."

"People took Camila for granted. Starting with her husband. She was someone who needed to prove herself. That's one of the big drives of Camila. She recognizes in Camila the strength, the survival instinct, the intelligence, so there is a connection that starts growing through the story."

"This is not a nice lady," Falcón continued. "She is not going to willingly train someone to sell. But in a way, she kind of takes her under her wing because of that connection. She wants something from her. Camila has an agenda all the time. This is a woman with many layers, but she's always like very Machiavellian in a way.

Joaquim de Almeida, who plays Epifanio Varga, Camila's husband, jumped into the conversation, "NOT the woman I married!"

How will Epifanio feel seeing those two women working together? "They give me a hard time. They give me a hard time. [laughs] It's true! First, I have to find out where she [Teresa] is, and I find out she's [Camila] been protecting her, and you know, that she's been buying from my rivals."

"Because I want her to come back, so I don't sell her the drug, and I keep playing games with her and she ends up getting the drugs a different way and she protects her. I think to get that book that she has, it's the only thing that gets to me deep. And now that I need the election to be governor, actually it ends up my election...

Is HE the bad guy, I wonder?

"No, no. I'm not the bad guy! She becomes much worse. She's a bad woman. She becomes cruel," Almeida says about the character of Camila.

What wasn't easy to overlook was that Jon-Michael Ecker was with the cast doing promotions, even though his character, El Guero, was killed off on Queen of the South Season 1 Episode 1.

"I think when you read the book, the character is always very present in her, such as when she's comparing him to her future love interests. In the Telemundo series, they use flashbacks just to illustrate that Guero is always present in her mind and in her relationships and that kind of thing. So there are different ways to be present other than to be still existing."

Braga mentioned that there is a beautiful relationship between Teresa and Pote (Hemky Madera) in the book. Apparently it will carry over onto the series, as well.

Hemke was more than willing to discuss something other than his cool outfits. "Pote is an interesting guy. He's a hitman and a soldier. He's a killer with a heart. He doesn't take any satisfaction from his job. Some people work at a bank, some people work behind a bar. I'm sent from my boss to go kill somebody. Within that journey, he becomes an ally with the people he was sent to kill and builds a beautiful relationship as a protector."

"Pote is the character who watched in anger as Teresa was being raped. He didn't think it was fair, because she was Guero's woman. He gets no satisfaction or pleasure in seeing someone tortured or murdered. His goal is to do the job as quickly and painlessly as possible."

"He has more of a moral ground than Gato, for instance, who takes satisfaction in torturing and raping those he runs into."

Peter Gadiot was not in the pilot, but will appear in the second episode onward as James. "He'll make a little swagger down the catwalk where Teresa is being held," Gadiot said.

Gadiot continued, "James is quite internalized, conflicted in terms of trying to figure out how his external actions match up to his internal moral compass, which are often opposed, leading to a lot of thinking and conflict."

"James is a good guy who has to do bad things. Working that out in terms of finding some peace and hope and a future, that's a lot of what goes through his mind."

"Ultimately, he's defined by his job in terms of his actions, and in those moments of pause in between those physical activities and tasks, he dwells and tries to analyze and compartmentalize and find some resolution in what he does."

"He's the third point of a triangle in a relationship between Camila and Teresa, and before Teresa comes, his world is pretty straightforward, he's successful and things are going well. Then she arrives and things are thrown into..."

Braga says, "She makes his life hell!"

Gadiot continues, "She makes my life difficult. So yeah, she causes a bit of trouble."

Braga says, "Yeah, you actually have the line on the USA teaser, "I've seen a lot of girls that are trouble, and you – are trouble."

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Queen of the South Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

You could say that I am living proof that the American dream is alive and well.

Teresa

My name is Teresa Mendoza. I am from Mexico. I was born poor, not that that's bad but take it from me, I've been poor and I've been rich. Rich is better.

Teresa