Isabel Garcia Lorca plays Rosalia Gris in Son of a Pig
Q: Tell us more about Senora Gris?
A: “She’s very proud, intelligent and very ambitious. She likes to be in control and to wield her power and authority. She also loves her husband, which is strange because he could have been her grandfather, given the difference in age.
One assumes she was a beautiful young girl who didn’t come from money, but when she met her husband, she really needed him and fell in love with him because he could protect her.
And then she became extremely loyal to him and what he stood for, because he was central in her life.
She also loves her two sons. When she discovers what has happened to them, she is genuinely shocked as this is not how she would have expected her life to turn out.”
Q: She’s not a very sympathetic character when we meet her. Do you like to play those distant parts?
A: “She isn’t a particularly sympathetic character, but she is human, and I hope that part of her comes through, a bit! But it is hard to sympathise with her as the audience. Of course, as an actress I can’t judge her, which is a big challenge for me because of my personal history.
I usually play the extremes: I’m either very, very good, or very bad – hardly anything in the middle, which is always interesting, but I think the most difficult roles to play. There’s a very strong impulse to play kind, generous, vulnerable or a little crazy, vicious, or cold because at least at the extremes you have something to grab on to.”
Q: Have you modelled her on anyone in particular?
A: “What came to mind when I first read her was the wife of the dictator, Franco (Carmen Polo), who was feared, as was he. She was very domineering and off-putting; she would always stand straight, wear pearls, not a hair out of place. She was a real character. She was known for going into antique stores and taking things without paying for them.
When shopkeepers knew she was around, they would simply close their stores to stop her from entering them. I also thought about a distant relative of mine who was very wealthy. The way she treated her maids who served the table with white gloves and little white gloves. The maids were the maids, the butler was the butler – they each had their place.
She was actually a wonderful person, but very distant with her children. I guess if you were casting her in the States in the Forties, you’d be thinking of Bette Davis or Joan Crawford.”
Q: What attracted you to this role?
A: “I actually auditioned for a part in the first series of The Mallorca Files and had lots of fun at the time. I really enjoyed working with Bryn (Higgins, the show’s director) and that made me feel very comfortable and interested in the show. So, when I was approached for this role I had absolutely no doubts.
And I also thought the storyline was important to from a very personal point of view. My uncle was Federico Garcia Lorca, who was assassinated in 1936 (by the Nationalist forces) and my life as a result has been determined by the Spanish Civil War. My father was his brother and my maternal grandfather was Minister during the Republic and was sent as Ambassador to Washington during the war to try and get President Roosevelt’s support.
Neither side of the family could have lived in Spain.
So, I was born and raised in New York and my whole relationship to Spain, as you can imagine, has been coloured by this. It wasn’t until I was eight years old that I actually came to Spain for the first time.
My parents always longed to move back to their country but wanted to wait for Franco to die. But since he took so long to do so, they ended up returning while he was still in power. I stayed in the US, visiting my family often, but I didn’t definitely move to Spain until I was 53 years old.
It was on one of those family visits during the Franco years that I was jailed. It was 1968 and the socialist party was organising a protest. The nationalists had caught and tortured members for details, so the socialists needed people with no record to go and meet students and workers who were gathering from all over Spain, to tell them that they needed to go home. They asked me to do that. I felt compelled to help but was worried that I was going to be arrested as I was still only a young woman.
My feelings for Spain have been very affected by the suffering the war caused for my family. At the same time, the love they felt for the country was huge, so I have that too.”
Q. This a very sensitive storyline for Spain. Do you think it’s important for drama to address sensitive topics like the Spanish Civil War from a human point of view?
A: “It is important to tell this story from a human point of view. Spain is still in the process of recovering from Franco’s rule and there’s still work to be done, such as teaching young people about our history. Very few of those really understand or know what happened eighty years ago.
Culture and art have great power, and it’s terrific to address these extremely important things, provided it is done well.”
Q. You are naturally bilingual. Was it easy to perform in both English and Spanish?
A: “It’s funny, when people ask me what my native language is, I really don’t know.
My formative years were spent in the US, so I only really spoke Spanish at home. Everywhere else it was English – my school, my boyfriends, and my jobs. I actually prefer acting in English as that is my ‘professional’ language, while Spanish is the language of my family.
In fact, for this role I had to work hard on my Spanish accent and used the accented English my parents used when they were exiles in America.”
Q: What’s it been like on set?
A: “It’s been very easy and worked very well. Bryn (Higgins) created a very good atmosphere on set. He’s very clear about what he wants and is very sensitive to the situation. He treated everyone with great respect, so it was a delight to work on the show.”
Q: Any funny stories from filming?
A: “Son of a Pig was filmed in Block One, so we were shooting at the end of 2019 and it was freezing cold and had been raining heavily. In fact, we had to postpone filming because of the weather, but we needed to do this shot, which comes at the end of the episode, because it is important to the storyline and very dramatic.
So, when we picked up filming everyone was a little tense. We were using a drone to get an aerial view and the light was starting to fade. Just as we were about to start filming a flock of sheep suddenly appeared and crossed where everything was happening…but one at a time.
First one moved into shot…followed by another …and then another. It was just like what you imagine you see when you’re counting sheep to try and fall asleep. We couldn’t help but laugh, it was quite charming. In the end it couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes, but it felt eternal, and the poor guy who was lying in the shallow grave all that time must have been freezing.”
Q: Had you been to Mallorca before – either filming or on holiday?
A: “Yes, I’ve been twice: once to a very luxurious hotel and the second time with my sister and a friend when we rented a house in the country. It was in the days when solar panelling was hopeless, so we had no electricity, but it was beautiful.
Mallorca is such a varied island, but then so is Spain: it has both desert-like spaces and areas that look as green as Ireland. It has almost everything.”
Q: What are you working on next?
A: “While in lockdown I’ve been working on a Spanish TV series called Paraiso, which has been difficult because of Coronavirus and has meant Covid tests every week. We’d be rehearsing in masks and then had to take off them off when filming began. I play a living dead person (is that zombie?). That’s been fund, but like Rosalia Gris, she’s very powerful and is head of a terrible group.
I also had a small part in the latest Woody Allen movie (Rifkin’s Festival) which is due to open the San Sebastian film festival in September, but who knows if that event will still go ahead… “
Craig Kelly plays Lee Flack in Beautiful Game
Q: What can you tell us about Lee Flack?
A: “Lee’s a former professional footballer who’s now a sports agent. He’s full of charm and confidence and we get the sense that he genuinely cares for Rico’s future and is determined for this life-changing deal to go through.
But you get the sense that he’s hiding something, and you can’t quite trust him – you just can’t quite put your finger on why.
He was a footballer when he was younger and had a real nasty side on the pitch, which earned him the nickname of The Slicer. That reputation makes him an obvious prime suspect when things start turning ugly.
He’s complex to read, because he wants Rico to succeed, but you have to work out to what degree is he being selfish and how much he stands to gain from the deal.
When his true intentions are finally revealed you really get to see the person he is.”
Q: What drives him?
A: “Lee played football professionally when he was younger but didn’t quite make it into the big league and didn’t earn the big money, so he’s got a chip on his shoulder.
He sees this deal with Rico as his opportunity to make seriously big money and to prove a point. If he can get this deal over the line, then it will change all their lives, not least his. It will also be a huge thing for him because he will have proven that he can make it big as an agent, even if he didn’t make it big as a footballer.”
Q: As someone who wanted to be a footballer as a kid, was it like a dream come true to be cast as a football agent?
A: “It’s true, I’ve got a massive passion for football, although if this part really were a dream come true, then I’d have been playing Rico’s part as the new Messi, although I’m a bit long in the tooth for that now!
I’m not really a fan of these agents and super agents. They are pretty much sharks and parasites for me, however they are now a huge part of the modern game. Fair play to them though, I mean if you can make £15-£25 million by simply selling one football player to another club...happy days!!
That said, this job definitely ticked all the boxes, not least because I got to come to beautiful Mallorca, which I absolutely love.”
Q: We discover Lee’s in relationship with Rico’s mother. True love, or just a means to an end?
A: “He’s a complex guy, so I think it’s actually both. I think he fancies Marta, but I also think he’s ruthless. He genuinely loves Rico and respects him as a footballer, but he also knows that Rico is his meal ticket. If he can also get with his very attractive mum, then why not? It’s a bonus!”
Q: Have you modelled him on anyone in particular?
A: “The script was very well written, and there are some nice nuggets in there as to how to play him. I wouldn’t say that I modelled him on anyone, but there are elements of Lee’s character where I wore my father’s shoes: his charisma, drive, commitment to his job and passion to see something through. When my Dad was passionate about something (especially footy) he could sometimes have an intensity about him when communicating his ideas to people and from time to time they made the mistake of thinking he was being aggressive. He was very much an alpha male. Lee has these qualities too.
In the script there was also a reference to Vinnie Jones, who was the game’s hardman. His talent for playing top level football was as much about intimidating other players - by getting in their face - as it was playing the actual game. And you know, I can also turn on the charm. So there’s a bit of my father in there, a bit of me and a bit of Vinnie.”
Q. You’re probably best known for playing Vince Taylor in Queer As Folk. Is it nice to play the bad guy?
A: “Although personally I’m a nice guy, I love to play a bad boy because you can have fun with it. And I’m surprised that people don’t cast me more as these roles as I think I can do them well. I played a similar character in Coronation Street (Craig played Luke Strong between February and October 2009) and like Lee Flack, I laid on the charm because I often think the most powerful guys are the ones who don’t try too hard and whose actions speak for themselves.
Lee Flack was a joy to play. You know, there are times as an actor when a script arrives, and you know you’ve landed on your feet. That’s what happened with this script. I genuinely read it and went ‘I think I’ve got this part. This guy and me can work together’ Not that I’m like Lee, but I can understand him. I thought it was my part to lose. It was such a weird feeling.
But trusting our director Craig Pickles, was also a key. And I really trusted him. When I first turned up, Craig said to me: ‘Just do what you did in your audition because you’ve got this guy’. And that was it. I did the first take and he went: ‘That was it. Keep doing that!’ And I thought ‘Well, that was easy’.
Stuff like that doesn’t happen very often, but me and Craig had a good vibe and I trusted him completely. He’s a very, very good director; he understands actors very well and from what I’ve seen, he shot it very well too.
Sometimes parts come along and they’re easy to play. What I’ve learned as I’ve become more experienced is that if you do all your study of the character, read the scripts and plan mwhat you want to do in the scene, by the time the camera focuses on you, you simply relax and are that character. That’s the holy grail! I had a good time and relaxed and hope that I delivered.
Q: What’s it been like on set?
A: I can honestly say that working with Julian, Elen, our director Craig Pickles and the whole of the production was fun. The whole production was just terrific, and it’s been a real highlight.
There’s a reason why the show is successful: the team behind it, and the opportunity they have given to the cast and crew, is to have fun making the show. There’s an energy on that set that can only be achieved from the top. They’ve also cast the show really well, as the chemistry between Elen and Julian is brilliant – I love them.
In my experience, if the script is good you’ve got a chance; if the director is good, you’ve got a chance; if the people around you are good, you’ve got a chance. It just felt like everything was set up for success. I loved the vibe on set. Everyone was efficient, everyone got on with their job, they were all happy, and I think that translates on screen.
Q: Any funny stories from filming?
A: I have a mildly amusing anecdote about my first day filming. Basically, your first day on set is like going back to school – you still get the butterflies, no matter how old you are (and I’m hurtling towards 50). As an actor you want to get a few small scenes in the can and then you can relax a bit and find your feet. But in this instance, I had to hit the ground running.
One of my first scenes was key to the storyline with about three or four pages of dialogue in which Miranda and Max quiz me about whether I’ve killed – or been involved in killing – one of the characters. We were filming towards the end of the day and I was completely in the zone, having done the rehearsals, and was ready to roll.
As soon as I opened my gob, all you could hear was the ‘brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr’ of a pneumatic drill from Spanish roadworks. We couldn’t stop them, so we just had to get on with things. I did the whole scene, knowing that we were going to have to do ADR at a later stage. That was kind of funny, but also kind of frustrating, because it’s always better to do it there and then when you have the right energy. Fortunately, because of my experience of voiceovers we were able to nail whatever line we needed in ADR.
Q: Had you been to Mallorca before – either filming or on holiday?
A: “Yes, Mallorca is beautiful and I absolutely love coming here. My mate, Eddie Hart has a restaurant on the island called El Camino, so it was great to be back and to see him.”
Q: What’s next for you?
A: “I’ve been on a ‘Coronacoaster’ during lockdown. There’s been very little work out there, so I’ve been focussing on my childcare duties with the kids (Craig has a four-year-old and a nineyear old). Fingers crossed, there’ll be some lovely scripts landing on my door soon.
In the meantime, I’ve been doing some home recording for my voiceover work. I also produced my first feature film last year called Trick or Treat, so I’ve been busy promoting that. I’ve just heard it’s being released in the US in October 2020, and it had a major digital release here in the UK on the 1st of June and is still available to buy or rent on major digital platforms such as Amazon, Sky Store, iTunes.
My main focus though is a new podcast I’ve started called Kelly’s Heroes. It’s a nod to one of my favourite films as a kid, and every time I had a five-a-side football gig, I called the team Kelly’s Heroes. My Fantasy Football league also goes by the same name. So I thought, okay, why don’t I interview heroes of either mine or other people and publish them as a podcast.
I’m just about to take a break while I go on holiday, but I’ve done eleven episodes so far, with guests including The Specials’ Terry Hall, boxer Joe Calzaghe, writer Russel T Davies and actors Julie Graham and John Simm, and cricketer Phil Tufnell. I’m growing the podcast organically, so I’ve basically done no press at all, but they’re going down great and have done really well.
I’m hoping to get Elen and Julian on the show at some point, not least because Julian saw the podcast on my Instagram account. He sent me a message, saying ‘Loving your podcast.
Cheers, buddy!’ and I couldn’t work out whether he was saying ‘Thanks for not having me on’ as he’s got such a great sense of humour, which is strange considering he plays a German!
I also suggested to director Craig Pickles that we should do a Mallorca Files spin-off on Lee Flack. I don’t think this character ends here. I think it’s only a matter of time...