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‘The Plague’ Creator Rafael Cobos Talks Season 2, Screening at Mipcom

MADRID — Writer-creator Rafael Cobos hosted the first market screenings for Season 2 Movistar Plus’ tentpole series “La Peste” (“The Plague”) at Mipcom this afternoon.

Season 1 bowed in Spain in January 2018 to the best opening results of any series, aired or available, on the Telefonica-owned pay TV giant, who have promised that Season 2 will be bigger still with increased action, new characters and a sped up tempo enhanced by agile camera-work focusing on a larger cast of key characters.

Set in 16th century Seville, a thriving global center recovering after a dark era of disease and political upheaval, Season 2 focuses on the arrival and rapid growth of the violent Garduña crime family. To combat the new threat, the monarchy has assigned Pontecorvo, a loyal military leader known for quelling criminal uprisings as the city’s new mayor.

Meanwhile, Season 1 protagonist Mateo is in Chile’s Patagonia establishing Spanish colonies, while Teresa and her son Valerio are attempting to combat a brutal sex slave operation plaguing the city.

Variety discussed the changes coming in Season 2 with Cobos ahead of the Mipcom screenings.

Mateo starts Season 2 in as inhospitable a place and set of circumstances as could be imagined in the New World. Why did you choose that as your starting point?

There were two fundamental things that I wanted the new world to have. First, a distant, unknown, and complex space where it is difficult for Mateo’s emotional healing to occur, but I thought it would be great for that to happen in the new world. At the same time, I was interested in a new world entirely separate from the turquoise waters and palm trees we normally see. A more hostile world. I had in my head an image of a whale among glaciers. Mateo needed to heal himself from melancholy, the depression that he felt before he could find himself in the old world again.

And when Mateo does head back, he does so at the possible expense of massive riches in the Chilean colonies.

He is a classic figure, a mythical figure, a returning hero who comes back as almost a different character all together, as Ulysses returned to Ithaca. I thought it would be interesting to add the incentive to colonize as well and give him a reason not to return to Seville. When the letter arrives he has a dilemma. Although he’s looking for the pretext to come back, in America he can be a rich man. His life there has transformed, it has a future. It also adds urgency as Mateo has only a short amount of time to return and claim his land in the colonies if that’s his desire.

Perhaps the key difference between Season 1 and 2 is that where the first was told from Mateo’s point of view, in Season 2 we experience the story through several characters perspectives.

That was exactly the idea. Season 1 was told from Mateo’s point of view which is that of a depressed melancholic. The narrative is affected by his sense of doubt. Season 2 is more choral. Characters that were secondary in the first season step forward into more prevalent roles. By introducing other characters’ points of view, we can better illuminate the bigger story being told, as opposed to Season 1’s more episodic format.

You’ve also introduced new characters. In Pontecorvo you have a by-the-book, loyal monarchist mayor to play opposite the unconventional investigator Mateo. And, while their methods differ, they seem like two sides of the same coin.  

There is an honesty, an integrity and a sense of the right and how unfair society can be that Mateo and Pontecorvo share. In that sense, I think it’s true that they’re like a bit of the same coin. Pontecorvo also represents one of the first cloak and dagger-type characters. That is to say, a character with noble upbringing and education and also a military background. I think that juxtaposition of traditional noble political strategy crossed with a military one is very interesting, especially in this season where we’re putting him up against the Mafia.

With Teresa’s step forward into a lead role, you’ve added a more contemporary feminine voice to the chorus you were talking about. How do you balance Teresa’s progressive politics with the prevailing ideas at the time of women’s roles in society?

I agree that Teresa does use very progressive speech for the era. It’s the kind of talk that we could apply to a feminist discourse in the word today. At that time women had very few rights, so extrapolate that to prostitutes and imagine how difficult they had it. Teresa’s motivations in Season 2 are representative of an era in which woman began expressing an awareness of that situation. Digging into the history of the period, there was a flash of progressive feminist action among certain women who struggled silently to improve things, similar to way Teresa struggles when she comes down from her ivory tower to have contact with ordinary people.

Season 1 was a record-breaking hit and enjoyed success that not even the biggest American shows have achieved in Spain. What are your expectations for Season 2? And did that success change your approach to Season 2?

First off, I really love Season 1. It still fascinates me. But I think with the second season we’ve gone one step further. I think we’ve managed to keep everything we did well with the first season, and in Season 2 sped up the narrative component, giving the story a bit more muscle. I also think the choral storytelling we talked about makes the story more dynamic and entertaining for the viewer. I have high expectations for Season 2.

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