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‘Roma’ Director Never Showed Marina de Tavira a Script

A supporting actress Oscar nominee for playing Alfonso Cuaron’s fictional mother in “Roma,” Marina de Tavira has played pivotal roles in Mexican adaptations of plays by Bertolt Brecht, Harold Pinter and David Mamet, appeared in TV series such as Amazon’s “Falco,” and films including Hari Sama’s Sundance entry, “This Is Not Berlin.”

How do you feel about your Oscar nomination?
It was such a huge surprise. I was expecting “Roma” to get nominations in various categories, but I wasn’t expecting a supporting actress nomination. I never imagined I would reach this point in my life.

Where did you get your inspiration for your character?
Firstly, Alfonso’s memories of his mother, then my own memories of my mother. I grew up in the mid-to-late ’70s, early ’80s. The character Sofia in “Roma” represents a whole generation of women who were in the same situation during that time, facing single motherhood alone, and stigmatized for being divorced and even blamed for it.

I heard that Cuaron did not give anyone a script. Was this your first time to work in such a way?
He had a detailed script but didn’t show it to anyone, not even the production designer, Eugenio Caballero. I believe he gave one to producer David Linde of Participant, but it was in Spanish. We had no idea what was going to happen each day and it was shot chronologically. On days where I had more dialogue, Alfonso would give me my lines the day before, but I had no idea what the others would say or do. Having studied improv at acting school helped, but it was a combination of improv and scripted lines. I had to find the right balance.

I read that “Roma” has favorably impacted domestic workers rights in Mexico, and even in the U.S. How do you feel about this?
It’s a movement that began some time ago but “Roma” has helped to draw more attention to these women’s rights. Their work is fundamental. It’s been long overdue.

What is next for you?
I have a theatrical company in Mexico. I’ll be starring in a play by David Hare called “Skylight,” which I have translated into Spanish for the Mexican stage.

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