As the Berlin series premiered last Friday, Episode writer Burcu Babal had the opportunity to meet with the cast. Answering questions about the series and the filming process, the team avoided giving any spoilers by skipping some questions.
La Casa de Papel, premiered on Netflix in late 2017, quickly turned into a global phenomenon. With a total of five seasons, the series remains one of Netflix’s most-watched productions to date. One of the undoubtedly beloved characters of this immensely popular series, for justified reasons, was Berlin, played by Pedro Alonso. Now, almost three years after the series finale, this iconic character, who fascinates with his intelligence, meets the audience as the first spin-off series of La Casa de Papel.
In this eight-episode series created by Álex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato, Itziar Ituño and Najwa Nimri return as Raquel Murillo and Alicia Sierra from the La Casa de Papel world. Almost entirely shot in Paris, the exciting series started on Netflix on December 29.
We met with these names from the main cast of the series and asked them questions about the series and the shooting process.
BERLIN’S CITY WAS PARIS, BEFORE LA CASA DE PAPEL
Set before the events of La Casa de Papel, Berlin, in his golden years, sets his sights on a Parisian auction house for one of his most ambitious heists yet. The target is $44 million worth of jewellery, and at Berlin’s side are three of the gang he’s worked with before: electronic engineering genius Keila (Michelle Jenner), philanthropic professor and confidante Damián (Tristán Ulloa), the ever-extreme Cameron (Begoña Vargas), his loyal friend Roi (Julio Peña Fernández) and the action-packed Bruce (Joel Sánchez).
After Berlin’s character faced demise in La Casa de Papel Season 2, he made a surprising return for the rest of the series. Now, he is once again gracing the screens with his own spin-off series. Did it take a lot of convincing for you to return as Berlin?
Pedro Alonso: The things that happened to me with this character continue to surprise me. I’m actually one of the most curious to see how Berlin’s journey will play out. At first, he was an uncertain character, then he died, then the series ended. I had to go through the mourning process and face this situation. Then he returned to the series, as in the past, and we watched him in flashbacks.
And now the dark side of the moon has started to lighten up in a way; I’ve come to Paris, I’m playing a character in a romantic comedy sort of way. So to be honest, even this whole journey of the character deserves to be a film.
I think, in a way, when you go back to the set, you take something back from the character. I think Berlin as a character still has so much to offer, so many layers to him, and it was a surprise to me that we were able to find a new tone to make that happen. I feel immensely grateful for all of this. Grateful not only for this but also for being able to bring this project to life with wonderful professionals who love and respect what they do. It’s truly a beautiful thing…
Julio and Begoña, how did you get involved in the project? What made you want to take part in this series? Was it the character, the script, the people you worked with, or something else?
Julio Peña: For me, it’s a mixture of all of these things. When they told me I would be part of this project, I was truly excited and happy because I had auditioned for the final season of La Casa de Papelbut didn’t end up getting the role. So when I got this part, I was so relieved, it was a really, really good feeling. And I was also very excited to work with such a talented and extensive team in every department. For example, the art department is truly amazing; the things they create are incredible… I was really thrilled to work with everyone on this team and with such a cast. I had the opportunity to work with actors I’ve seen in films and TV series since I was a kid. Everything was beautiful, it was a fantastic experience for me.
Begoña Vargas: For me, like Julio said, it was a mix of everything. My primary instinct when choosing which project to be a part of has always been the character. In this project, the character was as important as the project itself, and working with a production company like this felt like a gift.
For example, at the end of the eighth episode, there is an incredible scene where different teams work together like a well-oiled machine. Being in that scene, finding your place within it, was both a lot of fun and quite challenging…
Given that there are many dialogues in French in the series, could you share your experience in managing the French language on set? Did you take language lessons, or was there a language coach available during shooting?
Pedro Alonso: Yes, we had a coach on set. Actually, both Tristán and Michelle can already speak French. My girlfriend is also French, so I can understand a bit of French, but unfortunately, I can’t speak it very well. It was a really great experience to play a character in a scene where you feel all the emotions but you don’t actually know the language, you don’t understand it.
Julio Peña: I had really very few scenes in French. I think it was about three lines, and I remember taking 20-minute lessons just to learn these three lines. But it was really fun. I don’t speak French, I didn’t take French in high school, I learnt German, so I had no idea about French. However, we had a great coach on set. And it was very enjoyable to see our characters speaking French fluently, as if they really knew it.
FRENCH IS SEXY, BEAUTIFUL AND QUITE A MELODIC LANGUAGE
Begoña Vargas: Actually, throughout the entire series, I have exactly three sentences in French… And learning those sentences was really hard… Haha, just kidding, of course. Acting in French was actually quite an interesting experience. I took French lessons in high school, then in the university… It was nice to recall those lessons. And this is an open call to the French, I would love to take part in French projects, I find it to be a sexy, beautiful and quite a melodic language. I find it very fascinating and I would love to be able to work more in French.
Michelle Jenner: My mother is French, so I do speak French. I understand French and I speak it well, even though I’m not very fluent. Working on a French project was truly an enjoyable experience, and I think the person who was most delighted about me getting the chance to work in French was my mother.
Tristán Ulloa: I was born in France, and my mother is French. I come from a family that had to escape from Spain and sought exile in France. So, I really enjoyed playing a role in French.
Keila and Damien, both seem to be respectable individuals with decent jobs. What do you think could drive two such people into the world of crime?
Tristán Ulloa: In Damien’s case, I guess you could say that he’s kind of a philanthropist. I believe he gets involved in robberies because he enjoys being in risky situations, he enjoys the adrenaline at high levels. I think he does it just because he enjoys doing it, and he is not seeking financial gain. And I think he’s using his academic knowledge and ability to get better at what he’s doing.
Michelle Jenner: For Keila, I think money is partially involved because she needs funds for the VR (virtual reality) project she is working on, such as VR headset.
On the other hand, Keila is a very shy person who secretly wants to be part of this team because it is like a family for her, a type of family she has never had. Being quite a lonely person, she needs to interact with others, and this heist, this team, is the best opportunity for her to make that happen…
La Casa de Papel is one of Netflix’s most popular series worldwide. Did you watch the show before becoming a part of the universe, were you a fan?
Michelle Jenner: Yes, I had watched it. And yes, I was definitely one of the fans.
Joel Sánchez: Yes, I had watched it, and I was a fan too. Berlin was actually my favorite character. So, being part of the series Berlin has truly been a fantastic experience for all of us, and we are grateful for it.
So how was your dynamic on set with Pedro? Because he is the only one who knows his character before this spin-off and the world of La Casa de Papel, so I’m really curious about your dynamic on set.
Joel: Working with Pedro was truly amazing because he is a charming person who somehow always manages to make you smile. As for his character, we learnt new things about Berlin that are different from La Casa de Papel. Yes, it’s the same name and the same face, but everything else is different because you discover new sides of him, what he experienced in the golden age of his life before La Casa de Papel.
Berlin‘s first season is full of unexpected surprises. When you read the script, was there a moment that truly surprised you? Without giving any spoilers, can you tell us about the developments that surprised you the most?
Julio: This is a tricky question, we can spoil it with one wrong word. We have to choose our words very carefully.
Tristan: The thing is, talking about this is really challenging because the surprises in the series are spoiler-worthy. If I tell you about the surprises, I would essentially be giving away spoilers about the direction of the story. But I can tell you this, the happiness we felt throughout the series was probably the most beautiful surprise for us.
Could you each share a specific trait or characteristic of your characters that you find most intriguing or enjoyable?
Julio: I really love Roy’s loyalty to Berlin. Exploring his behaviors almost resembling a loyal dog, was truly enjoyable and a gift for me. And to be honest, I also appreciate his efforts to handle things in a truly professional manner, wanting everything to go exactly as Berlin desires… Discovering these aspects was a truly interesting experience.
Begoña: My favorite thing about Cameron is how intensely she lives life. She roots herself in everything, and she is a very generous and sincere person. I actually admire her perspective on life. I love her attitude towards life, her love for adrenaline, and her passion for living life to the fullest.
Pedro: I think Berlin has a very unique sense of time. As an actor, it occasionally forces me to speed up my work, and I have to adapt to it. I also love Berlin’s sense of humor. I think he is someone who challenges norms and loves to break taboos… Also, I appreciate his determination to push things to the extreme in order to eventually reach what is most real and authentic. We can talk about Berlin’s moral compass next time.