In order to kick off our new feature, Latino Spotlight, what better way to do so than with a TV show review and interview with one of the cast members of Profugos, HBO’s promising series about a group of men who become fugitives after a drug deal goes wrong, I was lucky enough to get a chance to watch the first two episodes of Profugos that were screened at New York Latino Film Festival and at this very moment I cannot wait to see how this series unravels.
Profugos takes place in Chile, first time that HBO goes to this South American country to do a TV series and expect nothing but excellent work. From the direction, the script, editing, Profugos tells the story of four men who are put to work together to do a drug deal, each one of their characters has different backgrounds and motives to be there. The first episode starts off with a car chase trying to escape from the cops, all four fugitives are in the same car and one of them is badly injured, without really knowing what is really going on or how they ended up being followed, the story line goes back three days to establish how they ended up there. The first half of the first episode sets up a little bit of background story for each character. The drug deal is led by Kika Ferragut (Claudia Di Girolamo), head of the Ferragut cartel from Chile, she is supervising everything from the inside of one of Chile’s jails, appointing her son, Vicente Ferragut (Nestor Cantillana), who is pretty much oblivious from his family’s past, never really taking matters in the drug business up until now. The job is to pick up liquid cocaine in Bolivia and get it into Chile so the drugs can leave to go overseas through Valparaiso, one of Chile’s main ports. In order for Vicente to complete the job, Kika appoints Mario Moreno (Luis Gnecco), who has worked for the family in the past, Oscar Salamanca (Francisco Reyes) who is doing this one last job to provide for his daughter and last but not least, Alvaro Parraguez (Benjamin Vicuña) who recently just started working for the Ferragut family and is an undercover police officer.
Meanwhile, the first episode sets up the background and how they transport the drugs from Bolivia to Chile, the second episode is the actual delivery to Valparaiso, where hell breaks lose and the four men become fugitives. However, the second episode showed us a more human side to characters like Salamanca, who worries about his daughter, as well as Moreno, who goes through a very tragic moment in this episode. New characters are introduced in this episode, changing the dynamic of the show, and that there is still so much to know about each character and their motives. Both episodes complemented each other and left me intrigued about what will happen next.
The series debuts on HBO Latino on September 24 at 10pm and runs nightly (Monday – Friday)
Here are 2 trailers of the show:
My Interview with Francisco Reyes
Francisco Reyes: FR || Luciana Villalba: LV
LV: Good morning Francisco how are you?
FR: Good morning Luciana, I’m doing well thanks and you?
LV: I’m good thank you
FR: Where are you exactly?
LV: I’m calling from Miami
FR: Oh right, Miami
LV: Yup (laughs), well let’s start off this interview. First of all, I would like to congratulate you for your work in Profugos, I have seen the first two episodes and I’ve thought the series is excellent, the story, direction, has left me intrigued and I cannot wait to finish the first season.
FR: Thank you so much!
LV: No problem! To start off, how did you prepare for the role of Salamanca? What attracted you the most about the project?
FR: Well, what attracted me the most about the project of course was working with HBO, this obviously meant working with production standards as well as character standards of another level, this also meant other audience standards, and that was of course the first impact when someone came up to me and said if I wanted to work with HBO, and I said “yes, let’s go let’s go”. And then getting into character with Salamanca was very interesting because Salamanca’s story is so dramatic that in my case it worries me because in my country (Chile), he is an ex-combatant, a guy that because of the country’s political situation, he decides to arm himself against the military dictatorship that Chile once had, and this created in Chile some cases in which men like Salamanca who are ex-combatants, once the country takes on a different political direction, they end up without any political support. Becoming a combatant isn’t like becoming a member of a parliament, becoming a combatant means taking on a political position and being able to give up your life because of that, and this would mean change your whole family, emotional and social structure by becoming a combatant. So then once the combat “ends” by negotiations, which I don’t personally think they are wrong but that is how it happened, a lot of these combatants end up in some sort of limbo, as well as an existential limbo. And a lot of them are able to reinsert themselves in the society and they have the support to do so in the new social process, but some of them don’t, and this is Salamanca’s case. Some of them like I’m telling you, kept on doing what they knew to do, which was combat, and they start working with drug dealers or just delinquents in the cities.
LV: Of course, that would have been the easiest way out for Salamanca’s character, getting into the whole deal with the Ferraguts. Next question would be, Salamanca from the get go is like the leader of the group, but in my opinion this doesn’t really happen until Kika calls them and says “make sure to do what Salamanca says as if he was God” that the whole power is being given to him, starting from there, have you had any experience in your life in which you had to be a leader under such pressure?
FR: (laughs). Well, yes I’ve had experiences before being a political leader, but nothing ever to the level of the story in Profugos, my experiences have been very pure minded in comparison to Profugos (laughs)
FR: Kika Ferragut trusts Salamanca so much because they come from the same past. Salamanca is a guy who has high principles, have you noticed that?
FR: He’s trustworthy, and he is only in this drug dealing business because he wants to leave some money for his daughter, the one that he left when she was only 2 years old because he was in combat, and he technically lost her forever, and now that he knows that he is going to die because of a terminal sickness that he has, all he thinks is about getting money now to give his daughter a chance later on in life. That’s why he gets into this whole deal, and he has Kika’s trust because he is loyal and very right-on in what he does, not like Kika’s son, who is also one of the fugitives, who has never been involved in this kind of situation. Then there is Mario Moreno’s character portrayed by Luis Gnecco, who is the most evil of them all and has no principles whatsoever and worked for the dictatorship, and then there’s “Tegui”, portrayed by Benjamin Vicuna, who is relatively knew and can’t be trusted. Therefore, there isn’t any other option to do but trust Salamanca and since the characters’ personalities clash with each other, the story is about that, about four guys that escape that need to be together despite their personalities and their character’s origins, they need each other’s support in order to survive, and that’s basically the theme of the series, beyond the themes of drug trafficking, etc
LV: Yes, in my opinion the saying “you never end up knowing people completely”, should be the slogan of Profugos because each and every one of the characters has so many layers that we can’t really tell from the beginning, is there a part of Salamanca that we will get to see later on that we haven’t seen yet? Because from what we have seen so far is that he is someone who does not trust anyone, doesn’t matter who they are.
FR: Well in that world is almost impossible to trust anyone
LV: Of course
FR: The moment you start trusting someone you’re dead. It’s a world in which trust doesn’t exist. Salamanca brings out a more human and emotional side, unlike the other characters, mainly because of his relationship with his daughter.
LV: Something else I really liked about the series was the landscapes, the music, how up until now we haven’t seen that many series taking place in Chile, especially here in the US, and starting from there… was there a limit of how many times you could say “huevon”? [FYI: huevon from it’s Chilean context is kind of like saying dude in English, but in some countries they use it as an offensive word meaning idiot]
FR: (laughs) “So what’s up huevon?” “Que huevada!”
LV: (laughs) yeah, I have a lot of Chilean friends and I know they use “huevon” for almost everything, it’s like a birthright if you’re Chilean to say “huevon”
FR: It’s a wonderful word. It’s a verb, an adjective, an adverb, it’s everything. I think that the Spanish that we speak in Chile is the one that lacks most vocabulary, that’s maybe why it’s so complex for people to understand it. The word “huevon” has so many meanings…at the beginning the idea was to take it out from the series, to make it more approachable to the Spanish of the rest of Latin America, and it was a huge argument that kept going during filming as well, it was taking away from expressing as a Chilean. What’s interesting is looking at other TV series produced in other Latin American countries and they all keep their dialects, and just like I enjoy watching Mexican productions and they use “cabron”, same thing for Colombian and Argentinean productions, taking care of the language in a way that everyone can comprehend, and we thought that the Chilean essence needed to be in it too [by adding huevon], so we kept it. About the landscapes, one of the good things that HBO has to offer everytime they film in a Latin American country, they let the world know about the locations that we have, human geography… I think that Latin America has so much to tell and many locations to show and we also have a really good level of professionalism in our work, after this production I felt like in Chile we could do anything, and these are windows that open for us so we can work with big productions in Latin America, in this case with the Hispanic people in North America
LV: Agreed, I hope that with Profugos is succesful over here, because it has everything to become succesful, and that HBO wants to do more productions in Latin America. Briefly, to conclude the interview, tell me some reasons why should people watch Profugos?
FR: Because it’s a series that is completely entertaining, which is the main reason for series like this one, also dramatic, it shows our country to the world, seeing Chilean actors in action, and because.. it’s awesome!
LV: (laughs) yes it is. Well, Francisco thank you so much for your time.
FR: Thank you Luciana for your questions, take care.
LV: You too, bye.
Remember, the series debuts on HBO Latino on September 24 at 10pm and runs nightly (Monday – Friday)