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One of four Starzplay productions for the Spanish-speaking market, “Express” was commissioned by the platform in Spain and U.S.-based Spanish-language premium streamer Pantaya, marking the arrival in Spain of both international production companies which have fully embraced the not-so-hidden talent in the Spanish and Latin American markets and foresee their potential development.

Written by “Locked Up” co-creator Iván Escobar and co-produced by Spanish giant The Mediapro Studio, responsible for some of Spain’s biggest international TV titles (“The Head”), the show embodies the meeting of Spanish writing talent and international high production values. The result is a high octane thriller that spins the police procedural genre and devotes its attention to the emotional consequences that hit its characters with the violence of shrapnel.

The series’ thrilling pace is held together by the strong presence of its female lead Barbara, played by a versatile Maggie Civantos (“Locked Up”), a criminal psychologist who deals with express kidnappings, a type of crime where time is precious and losing an hour can mean losing the life of the victim. Herself a victim of a kidnapping and still dealing with its consequences, Barbara’s impatience when it comes to police protocols that often stand in her way to save a life lead her to more unorthodox methods that put everyone around her in danger.

Variety talked with Escobar as the series premieres on Starzplay.

What interested you about these types of crimes?

The seminal idea came from a meeting I had not long ago in which there were no chairs and when I asked about it they simply replied that it was meant to be an express meeting. This concept underlined the thoughts I’d been having around the express world that we live in. Everything is express, food, sex, divorces, even relationships are express. However, this type of crime is growing, especially after the pandemic. We spoke a lot with policemen about it and what is truly terrifying about this type of crime is that it democratizes fear. That is to say, very few people enter a bank with a shotgun to attack it, but anyone can have a bad day, a couple of friends and a car with an open trunk. And that’s where the drama begins, two eighteen-year-old boys, a trunk and anxiety can lead to a crime that changes you and breaks your life forever.

The show features upcoming technology which is represented by impecable VFX. Yet regarding special effects, it’s always a case of fine tuning how much of it works for the audience.

As soon as it was pitched that cutting edge technology was a clear selling point, but it proposed a risk we could fall into which was that this ultra-technological world pushes the limits of credibility by falling into an almost dystopian story with cold characters without families that solve kidnappings. We needed to include a human spectrum to ground this technological world, a world of silly jokes, of the mundane office, of going to the school because your daughter forgot her clothes for gymnastics.

The series plays around with the police procedural archetype, introducing non-traditional character archetypes to the format. I wonder what were your guidelines in terms of format?

Definitely, new models are being built and I think that in this world where fiction through streaming has had an absolute explosion, it gives us the opportunity to try to normalize a world that before was treated as a rarity, where a woman, trans or a non-binary character can be the protagonist and no one bats an eye. Because it’s true, we come from an absolutely Kafkaesque world, biased towards a rather masculine gaze. I think the nuances are much richer when avoiding already well-known places. The same applies to Barbara. The role was not simply written to favor withe wind in the sails of new femininity, but because we wanted to give this wonderful actress a character for her to showcase her true skills, dealing with this type of conflict and chaos. She’s a flawed character spinning plates like many women must between work, sustaining a home, building a family, healing the wounds of a marriage that is falling apart and acting as a leader.

As soon as it starts, “Express” goes into a rapid firing editing that formally underscores it’s ideas. How was this tempo found? 

We worked with the clear belief that the defined couldn’t be separated from the definition. That is to say, if we talk about an express society, then the narrative had to be express as well. Some conflicts cannot be fully fleshed out simply because of the thousand things that are happening at the same time, that was our intention and we could not have done that, of course, without Gabe Ibáñez and our editors who internalized that premise perfectly. Ibáñez, comes from the world of advertising where ten seconds is all you have to build a whole world. So he was the one who really gave value and presence to these sets and speed to this narrative. I know that there comes a time when today’s viewer gets bored, so for us that meant more sequences and sets, but I think we managed to create a thrilling pace.