Those are pretty hard acts to follow. Directed by Walter Salles, “Central Station” was nominated for two Academy Awards, foreign-language and best actress for Fernanda Montenegro: “Brazil Avenue,” became Brazil’s most-watched, most-sold novel ever.
In “A Second Chance,” Carneiro returns to a story of a broken family reunited. This is also a woman’s empowerment tale about Luzia, forced to abandon her children and flee for her life, but returns years later to reclaim them.
But it has tropes of more traditional telenovela fare: a dastardly antagonist, the scheming, money-grabbing Karola, multiple cases of infidelity, hidden parentage – Karola secretly abducting Luzia’s baby – and large twists of fate – Beto failing to make a plane which crashes into the Atlantic.
In the build-up to Natpe, Carneiro talked about “A Second Chance,” telenovela addiction, the challenge of writing for Globo prime, audience figures U.S. network heads would die for….
What drew you to create “A Second Chance”?
Telenovelas have a large attraction when you are the writer. The idea that so many people watch what you do is very moving. You get addicted to creating telenovelas. “A Second Chance” is the story about a new start for someone, for a family. The story of a broken family that’s fallen apart. That’s the story of the telenovela for me. Things fall totally apart then gets rebuilt.
“A Second Chance” yokes highly contemporary concerns, such as woman’s empowerment, with more traditional telenovela tropes. Would you agree?
Yes, because of the main character. She is an empowered woman. But I love working on character nuance. Luzia did something wrong, abandons her children for 18 years. She returns, begs her family forgiveness. In traditional telenovelas, the lead is always perfect.
One major attraction of “A Second Chance,” suggested more maybe in its Brazilian title, “Segundo Sol,” is its setting, both Salvador and especially Trancoso/Boipepa. You describe it in near documentary detail, what people eat for lunch, how Luzia mussels hunts on the beach still using her hands, a centuries old tradition.
My telenovelas are seen pretty well everywhere. When you are local, show the particular, you end up being universal. That’s why series are becoming more and more local, because they ambitions to be increasingly universal. Bahia has a unique culture. African traditions that still live on. They say that Salvador is the most important city in Africa. This place, its people, has impacted me from when I was a child.
It seems to me that, compared to even 2012, writing for Globo prime time is now more challenging, given for broader leisure options which viewers have, from social media to OTT platforms. Would you agree? And how did you seek to counter this in “Second Chance.”
In one way, I’m now under more pressure. Everybody’s on Internet, saying something about your show. Everybody thinks they could do what I do. It’s a big problem, much worse than before. But the Brazilian population likes to watch telenovelas, and in primetime. The numbers have been god from five years ago, and re getting even better. It’s a habit that really hasn’t changed that much during the Internet era.
U.S. network honchos would die for your numbers….
“Brazil Avenue” had a record viewership of 75 million people, scored an average 39 point rating in 2012. “A Second Chance” had a record viewership of 54 million people and an average of 45 million people.
Are you conscious when you’re writing that scenes can legitimize certain behavior? Social behavior, sexual behavior?
Yes, because I reach 50 million households a day. You have to be gentle on this score. You can’t be too aggressive. At the same time you have to table questions which are some important for our society.
Ep. 1 of ”A Second Chance,” has a kind of pop art aesthetic, of primary colors. Do you see those colors throughout the series?
We tried to capture Bahia’s music, color and energy. It’s a very energetic place. I had to shoot the opening sequence and also for the directors it was a kind of guidance, to pursue this language. Also the story has a lot to do with this. It’s about sexuality, music because the main character is a musician.
You’ve also written very successful access primetime: “Shades of Sin.” What’s the difference between writing for the 7pm and 9pm time-slot?
The difference is that for 9 o’clock, the family is in front of the TV. For 7pm you have to grab them. It’s much more visual, action and comedy. At the same time the 7 pm slot has seen the most successful novelas nes in the history of Brazil, they are very dramatic.
As a young veteran of film and TV, what changes, or evolution, have you seen in Brazilian film and TV since you co-wrote “Central Station” at the age of 26, I believe?
When “Central Station” was released in 1998, there were only two-to-three movies that year in Brazil. Now we have a big industry, 100 or more films a year.
I like to explore the facets of a character, as I said. In “The Favorite,” a telenovela which ran over 2008-09, I created a character who was the heroine of the story at the beginning but who becomes more evil and darker as it progresses. But nobody knew who the real villain was until the end. I’m not sure if I could do that today. We are so passionate about cost, money and ratings. One problem now I feel in TV is that people are very afraid to try something new, opt for the more traditional.
What projects do you have for the future?
I have many ideas but the problem is I end up doing again the primetime show and it takes two-and-a-half years of my life. I have to stop the circle, do something different.