“I love her! I love her story,” exclaims Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza of her character Maria Vega, “I just hope everyone understands her and learns to love her as much as I do.” Maria is a central figure in Showtime’s new series “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” and Barraza had a fantastic time inhabiting this fiercely protective mother figure. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Barraza was instantly drawn to the series because it featured a Mexican-American family at its heart. “That is not something you frequently see,” admits the actress. Her excitement grew further after an initial discussion with series creator John Logan, which left her impressed. “I was pleased to see how John Logan knew the Mexican way of thinking,” she says. That included depictions of Mexican folklore and traditions that were essential for both the 1938 Los Angeles setting, and the folk religion that features heavily in the plot.
“Maria is kind of a shaman,” explains Barraza. Her spiritual connection to the deity Santa Muerte often makes her the entry point into the supernatural side of this series. The angel may appear frightening at times, but is a “spiritual guide” for Maria, who calls upon Santa Muerte to aid her children as they face violence.
Barraza praises the actors who play her children on the show, chiefly among them is series lead Daniel Zovatto as Tiago Vega, Los Angeles’ first chicano detective. Barraza considers herself “really lucky” to work with Zovatto, noting that their mother/son chemistry is easy to achieve because “he’s a sincere scene partner.” Love of family is one of the most important aspects of Maria’s character, even if Barraza admits that the matriarch can be “too hard” on her kids at times. So, the actress mined each script “to try and find the humanity in each of her choices,” even the more aggressive ones.
Barraza earned an Oscar nomination in 2007 for “Babel,” which she describes as “an incredible honor for a latina actress like me.” That collaboration with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu brought her more attention than ever. Since then she has operated her own acting school and worked non-stop in film and television. Now, with “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” she is excited to share a “multidimensional” Mexican-American character and family with a large audience.
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