One of these curious teenagers was Rowi Prieto, Peruvian actor who is currently studying Film Directing in Buenos Aires. Without expecting it, the news that VIX+ (the platform of streaming of Televisa and Univisión) would be making a blockbuster of the same name inspired by the book, filled him with emotion. His character, the ‘fat’ Paul Escobar, is the best friend of the protagonist Juan Pablo di Pace, which has guaranteed him a stellar role in the production.
In this way, Prieto joins a series of Peruvian actors that make up this project, such as Vanessa Saba, (“She and him.” “Locos de amor”), Javier Dulzaides (“Al fondo hay sitio”), Mauricio Abad ( “Luis Miguel, the series”), Nidia Bermejo (“Born to succeed”) and Nicola Porcella (“Come, dance, quinceañera”). In an interview with El Comercio, he tells us about the details of the production, his role as cultural adviser in the series and the controversial political position of his character.
“Bad Girl Antics”
It is the story between Ricardo (John Paul di Pace)a man trapped in a routine and his teenage love (Macarena Achaga)a maverick and adventurous woman who will take you out of your realistic framework.
—How did the project come into your hands?
I was calm studying Cinema in Buenos Aires, and a friend, Alexandra Graña, who is also an actress, writes to me. It was any given day, around nine at night, and in that she asks me: “Rowi, are you fat?” And I, puzzled, told him that unfortunately yes. He was a few pounds heavier than he would have liked, and then she asked me to send her pictures of him looking even fatter. I didn’t understand, but later he told me it was for a casting. Not long after, someone from Televisa writes me to record a project in London and Paris. Fortunately I was only studying and I was free, so I did my casting by zoom and two weeks later I was already selected with a direct ticket to Mexico to start the pre-production of the series. It was like winning the lottery. The news really came to me like news falling from the sky. From that moment until the last day of shooting, it has been a gift. I am hallucinated with the experience I am living, because it is not so easy to access these types of opportunities.
—When did you find out that the series was an adaptation of Mario Vargas Llosa’s book?
I knew it from the beginning. I had read the book halfway and secretly when I was at school, because when it came out I wasn’t old enough to read it; even so I read some parts secretly, it was strong. Now that I reread it, I understand it better and I am proud that I do this project inspired by my compatriot. This is a Mexican production, so I was there representing Peru, that was also beautiful.
—Your character is characterized by having contradictory nuances. How did you get close to him?
Yes. When I read the character in the script, I thought they had made a mistake, because his description and the scenes he had to perform made it seem like they were two totally different people. I play the fat Paul Escobar, a military leader of the MIR of the revolutionary left movement. In the texts he is very harsh with his words and on the other hand, in his description, he is a happy man with an eternal smile; a lovely person. So finding the balance was interesting. Later, the director told me that it was my proposal that had convinced him the most to cast me.
I put on a lot of kilos. When I did the casting he was a little past dessert, but when he read the description they only talked about how “giant” he was and how hard he was to breathe. So I started eating casually and I must have gained more than 30 kilos. I don’t recommend it to people, but I felt that the character needed it and I should feel more uncomfortable with my body. Eating without limits was not difficult for me, obviously, however, it took me more to prepare myself mentally.
—The production has been highly praised for the well-achieved Peruvian accent on the part of the main cast, the Argentines Macarena Achaga and Juan Pablo Di Pace. Have you been practicing with them?
Yes of course. In the credits, apart from my role as an actor, my real name “Roberto Prieto Silva” appears and I appear as a cultural advisor. I worked very closely with them and in fact, they have become lifelong friends. I even lived for a while with Juan Pablo in an apartment.
—As it happens in the novel?
As it is. Went roommates and the coach Peruvian accent. Both actors have different ways of working, Juan Pablo is like a chancón, he studies a lot; Macarena, on the other hand, needs you on the set so that you can repeat it and she grabs it at the touch. Luckily I connected very well with both.
—And beyond teaching our accents, what were your duties as cultural adviser?
They were nonsense that in the end contribute a lot to the quality and credibility of the product. For example, there was a party where I saw that guests were served a plate with a cause, two picarones on the side and olives on top. It’s a silly example, but I called the art manager to let him know, they thought the picarón was salty. Sure, they did some amazing research work, but there are things they miss. Another time, they placed the Peruvian flag inverted, or used several blue ponchos; that, although they exist, generally we have red, yellow or more related to earth color pigments.
—I deduce that, because of that work as a consultant, you were very present throughout the filming.
Of course, you don’t know everything I learned. I study cinema and for me it was like a gift to spend three months there where the rocket explodes. Buying myself a lot of time with a super Hollywood production. It was amazing.
“Going to the story.” Your character Paul is very complicated, because due to his position on the left, he comes across the context of Sendero Luminoso, a very sensitive issue for our nation.
This topic is touched on in the series and I had the opportunity to speak with the directors to take great care of these details. My character is a communist militant who talks about the Revolution and there are speeches that could be sensitive in Peru, we take great care of all of this, even though there are more or less similar stories throughout Latin America. As much as the series was made in Mexico for an international audience, there are some symbols and some phrases that we didn’t want to mess with. Fortunately, my character appears in the 1960s, long before the appearance of these subversive groups in Lima and Peru. So, luckily, my character doesn’t directly apologize for any of that. He is full of illusions, he is very detailed and he really believes in what he professes. He may seem to you that he is wrong or not, but he is not a bad person nor does he want to hurt anyone.
—Right now we have a situation of social protests where ideas of equality flourish. How would you imagine it in this scenario?
I think that if there is something that my character has, and that is what I like the most about him, is that he is idealistic to the limit of knowing what is wrong. He is a person who is not in favor of death, and that, although he can die for his ideals, he would not kill anyone or carry weapons. That is why he has the particularity that he is never armed. He is convinced of what he believes, but with solid morals, principles and values, with great respect for human life and great respect for democracy.
—You are in our country these days. Does it bring you any reason other than the festivities?
I wasn’t prepared for the opportunity to do this series, so I don’t have a marketing action plan. I will see my sister, my four cats, my friends and my mom. I have plans to go back to Mexico to work there, which is kind of my idea. Nor do I rule out working in Lima, although I have not received any proposals. In my mind I am eating turkey, and on February 2 I return to Buenos Aires to continue with my studies and whatever life throws at me.
I have worked as a journalist for over 10 years and have written for various news outlets. I currently work as an author at 24 News Recorder, mostly covering entertainment news. I have a keen interest in the industry and enjoy writing about the latest news and gossip. I am also a member of the National Association of Journalists.