LOS CABOS, Mexico — Cultivated and connected, Carla Gonzalez Vargas has discovered her calling. The result, “Luis Miguel – The Series,” is one of Latin America’s drama series sensations of the year, catapulting lead Diego Boneta to fame, sparking a litany of extraordinary social media stats, and turning Gonzalez Vargas into still one of the very, very few Latina women show runners in the business.
Few Latin American TV executives have ever hit the ground running faster.“Luis Miguel – The Series” was Carla Gonzalez Vargas’ first gig as an executive producer and showrunner of a drama series. It was conceived a month or so after the launch of Gato Grande Productions, a joint venture between MGM Television and Gonzalez Vargas, husband Antonio Cué and Mexican empresario Miguel Aleman Magnani.
Screened Sundays on Netflix and Telemundo from April 22, “Luis Miguel” has become one of the biggest hits of the year, a social phenomenon, with demand expressions per capita almost as high in Argentina as the singer’s native Mexico, according to a Parrot Analytics study.
One of the series’ biggest virtues is merely existing. MGM TV’s Mark Burnett, Gonzalez Vargas and Aleman spent hours with the notoriously discreet Luis Miguel to persuade him to not only authorize a bio-series but reveal his real life’s story.
Here, Gonzalez Vargas was a source of assurance.
“We met about five times, I’d say like three hours each time. They were very long meetings, very intense,” she recalls. “My first decision was to make sure that all that story was transmitted the right way to the writers room and oversee the whole process.”
Another achievement was finding a narrative way into a life whose biography is characterized to date by extraordinary but soulless sales numbers.
From Ep.1’s get-go, this is a son’s struggle to emerge from the long shadow and pathological exploitation of his father. In the opening scene, Luis Miguel, played with absolute conviction by Boneta, learns that his father is dying back in Spain. His reaction? To burst into song on stage, as if nothing has happened at all, in a massive suspect act of disavowal.
“The father is basically the person that makes him a star but also the person that bankrupts his son emotionally,” Gonzalez Vargas comments.
Once the series went into production, with Pablo Cruz’s Canana providing production services, Gonzalez Vargas’ role was to hold it together in narrative tone and development – a hugely complex challenge as it shot by location, not chronologically.
In several ways, however, Gonzalez Vargas has been preparing for this role all her life. She has written two books on Mexican cinema, studied screenwriting and production at UCLA, wrote and directed a documentary “Alivio.”
Going forward, as discussions advance about a potential Season 2 of “Luis Miguel,” Gonzalez Vargas can look forward to show running more series she has a personal interest in, and overseeing others set up at Gato Grande. A player is born.