Brazilian TV giant Globo has brought to this year’s NATPE conference in Miami one of its biggest access prime time hits in the last eight years. “A Life Worth Living” underscores that, as Globo and its SVOD service Globoplay explore ever more shorter series formats – “Second Call,” “Aruanas,” telenovelas and melodrama are still kings in Latin America.
With a daily audience of 36 million, the show turns on Paloma (Grazi Massafera), a dreamy seamstress and mother of three whose life is turned upside down when she’s diagnosed with a terminal disease. Wrongly, as she later discovers, along with the really terminally ill Alberto (Antonio Fagundes) a wealthy book publisher, on the verge of death. Between them a friendship blossoms inspired by a common love of literature and an awareness of how finite life is.
Variety talked with novela writers Rosane Svartman and Paulo Halm- whose work together has already earned them an International Emmy nomination for “Total Dreamer” -about their new hit.
It seems to me that Globo is driving into series which recast female and male representation, such as “A Life Worth Living, about s strong and caring head of family with love interests that are also caring, attentive and respectful. This has a broad impact on characters relationships and story dynamics as you bend trad telenovela narrative. Could you comment?
The telenovela is supported by melodrama and is a resilient narrative – which still attracts massive audiences in a world of increasingly fragmented viewership. The perception of the feminine and what an aspirational woman is for the audience (and society) has been changing over the last years and the telenovela needs to follow the construction of this new paradigm. In our opinion, a strong woman who supports her family while being a present mother has the right to live a love story and the right to dream, substituting the figure of the fragile, passive and romantic girl. The new protagonist is not passive; she acts and takes the reins of her life, of her destiny. This change in the protagonist leads to a change in all the characters related to her.
Literature is one main theme of your show, including fantasy sequences dramatizing literature, impacted by their own lives, as when Paloma, dressed as Alice in Wonderland, talks with the Cheshire Cat. What was your thinking, introducing literature to a wider audience? references for the dream sequences?
When we pay tribute to literature, we also celebrate the great stories and narratives that are important influences for a telenovela. And of course for us creators. We never underestimated our audience, and so from the outset, we believed they would accept this plot feature. Obviously, the texts were chosen because they establish a dialogue with the feelings lived by the characters in different moments of the plot. We used Shakespeare’s Othello; Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis, Don Juan Tenório, amongst others. Dream sequences attempt to portray the enjoyment of reading a good story. It was gratifying to hear that women realized that Paloma “traveled” in the stories as they “travel” by reading a good book. The aesthetic we used was proposed by the director Luiz Henrique Rios. He avoided realism, tried to unify dreams, which have different universes, using a studio language with some references from the story told.
Your show embraces the idea of living live at its fullest and also plumbs the idea of death, whose presence is felt throughout the novela. Again, could you comment?
Talking about death is taboo in our society. We spend a lot of time talking about uncertain things related to work and our love life, for example, while death is a real and inevitable fact, as Ana Claudia Quintana Arantes says in the book “A morte é um dia que vale a pena viver” (literally: “Death is a Day Worth Living”). But by treating death as a certainty, we immediately begin to talk about the importance of full life. This book was certainly an inspiration for the character of Alberto, played by Antonio Fagundes. He suffers from a terminal illness and begins to plan a good death, as he begins to see the need to live well, to be happy, to say goodbye to his loved ones in a healthy way. And who teaches Alberto to live this way is Paloma, by showing him the simplicity of her world.
One of the standout qualities of “A Life Worth Living” its versatility in modulation of tone from a more comedic approach to a far more dramatic scenes without ever losing its light-hearted pace. Seeing the success of the series on access prime time, what do you think today’s audiences want or expect of a good telenovela?
A telenovela in Brazil needs to appeal to various audiences – and this partly explains its massive audience. People of various ages and social backgrounds watch the same work, creating a kind of social bond. So it is common for a telenovela to have humor and drama. On the other hand, we authors also laugh, get emotional; we can be silly or deep in our daily lives. I think the dialogue with the public comes from the sensitivity of the authors behind the work. Also because the hardest thing about writing is to please the audience. It’s hard to make it work, in any media, as a matter of fact. In our case, besides Paulo and me, we seek diversity and representativeness beyond talent in our collaborators, and they enrich our way of seeing the world. This common sensitivity is what sets the tone of the telenovela.