Santa Evita’s Natalia Oreiro, Ernesto Alterio, Francesc Orella, Rodrigo García & Alejandro Maci

Santa Evita was conceived as an original project for FOX in Latin America several years ago. When production was finally given the green light, the pandemic paralyzed the world, but nevertheless, the series began filming and will finally debut on July 26 on Star+ in the region.

Santa Evita is based on the best-selling book by Argentine novelist Tomás Eloy Martínez, which tells the tale of Eva Perón’s embalmed body, which remained unburied for three years while plans were made for a monument that was never realized.

Natalia Oreiro plays Eva Perón in the show, Ernesto Alterio portrays Colonel Carlos Eugenio de Moori Koenig, and Francesc Orella makes a special guest appearance as Dr. Pedro Ara. The production also counts Alejandro Maci and Rodrigo García as co-directors. Garcia also serves as an executive producer on the series.

Developed and co-produced by Non Stop, Santa Evita is executive produced by Mexican actress and producer Salma Hayek Pinault and José Tamez, both from the production company Ventanarosa. The series was written by Marcela Guerty and Pamela Rementería.

TV DRAMA: How did this production come about?
GARCÍA: I came on board about four years ago. Salma Hayek and her partner José Tamez reached out to see if I was interested. They were already in conversations with the team at Star+. I believe some scripts already existed, but they weren’t happy with them, and they were willing to start from scratch. I pitched my ideas, which included working with a team of writers from Argentina, Marcela Guerty and Pamela Rementería. I was already familiar with the book when it was published in the ’90s, and I believed it could be ***Image***turned into a successful series. It wasn’t a difficult decision to come on board and make the series.
MACI: I became part of the team later, when Rodrigo and the writers already had a version of the scripts. So, I arrived at the project with existing scripts, with a concept for a seven-episode series. We began working together on many aspects [of the production] that dealt with historical research and all the elements needed to bring the story to life and authenticity to the process. Development was complex; once the five main roles were chosen, we began assisting the talent in preparing for their roles. They were excited. It was challenging, but it was an incredible experience, even at the heart of the pandemic. I disagree with people who’ve said that Covid put life on hold. Life wasn’t put on hold; life changed, and the process continued.

TV DRAMA: How did you prepare for the role of Eva Perón?
OREIRO: With my heart and soul. Although this is what you must do as an actor when you play characters who are so important to millions of people, who are so rich, and there’s so much to draw from. You must also respect the story.

Preparing involved many months of research, studying and working with a speech therapist. I had to work on my voice because Eva’s voice deteriorates from the beginning of her career as an actress until she gets cancer. She had intense speaking engagements, with four or five speeches per day, which caused her voice to become very hoarse toward the end of her life.

Interpreting her entailed not only finding elements of her energy, color, gaze and charisma but also establishing imitation. The work was extremely exciting, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my career.

TV DRAMA: How did you develop these characters, which are based on people in real life?
ALTERIO: Yes, my character is based on a real-life person, but Tomás Eloy Martínez, the author of the book, is inspired by him and constructs him for narrative and dramatic purposes. There’s fiction and fact. Apart from the novel, there was additional documentation that helped me prepare for the role. The character has a very reserved and private life. He was military intelligence and didn’t leave any traces and had little to no details about who he was. So, I worked on being military from Germany during a time when Germans were well regarded. He had strong German traditions with his family, his parents, and this also plays a role  in the series. He is very cultured, a music lover and well versed in art and artistic manifestations. He was refined and very detailed-oriented. He devised plans with an extreme level of detail, and this is interesting because we get to see this character develop throughout the years, and we finally get to see him as a 65-year-old man after everything that happens to him. He’s now psychotic, an alcoholic and completely delirious; a broken man.
ORELLA: In contrast to Moori Koenig, Dr. Ara didn’t really care about covering his tracks because he took a lot of pictures with Eva’s embalmed body. He wanted to be known as the person behind the embalming. He was proud of his work and passionate about being flawless. In the case of Eva Perón, it was the challenge of his lifetime. He’s a real-life character that was unknown in Spain.

TV DRAMA: I imagine that the challenges in making a project of this caliber were great, not only because it is scripted and historical, but also because you filmed at the height of Covid. Tell us about those challenges.
GARCÍA: Covid was a double-edged sword. Initially, it delayed production for a year, but it allowed us to carefully revise all the scripts. I think they improved significantly. Then, we began filming in Argentina, and the vaccines started rolling out, but in Argentina, vaccinations were only for the elderly in the first phase. Very strict protocols were in place. But all in all, I think we were lucky because it didn’t cause havoc during production, although there were people who got sick; it was all about adapting.
MACI: You learn that people can adapt to everything, and we were obligated to work under those conditions without vaccines. One of the bigger challenges was when people got infected and had to isolate. We had to change our plans, and that was very complex in itself. After seeing all the effort everyone made in all those modifications and seeing the product, it became a celebration. Covid made it very difficult because a big part of filming came before the vaccines rolled out. Also, the vaccine kicked in 15 to 20 days after being applied, so we continued working on every process even though we were exposed.
OREIRO: Yes, it was a difficult time. Filming was suspended a couple of times; it was a project that had been in preproduction for some time, and we were ready to jump in and start, but there were delays. Even so, we were able to go ahead just like many other productions. We were happy to celebrate the opportunity of completing filming.

When you review history and play real-life characters, you must be very detailed-oriented—from the art direction and lighting to wardrobe—and there was a best-in-class team in place that worked on the different areas. And you can see this in the result.

TV DRAMA: What was the research process for a series that surely needed plenty of fact-checking? How do you walk the line between history and fiction, and how is that reflected in the series?
GARCÍA: Regarding walking the fine line between history and fiction, our guide was the novel, which included many real-life elements as well as fiction. There were also myths and stories that people talked about that weren’t verified that Tomás Eloy integrated into the book. With the historical parts, we had to work carefully. As a foreigner in Argentina, I insisted on having Argentinean screenwriters. I wanted them to be women. I had great meetings with many screenwriters, particularly with Marcela Guerty and Pamela Rementería. They are both great, but Marcela had outstanding knowledge of the historical facts, Peronism and Eva. We also worked with history advisors, people who shared footage from that time in history.

Once Alejandro came on board, and we had an entire year to review the scripts in detail, we all did our own research. Fortunately, the novel also provided some space where one could create with a certain amount of liberty.

TV DRAMA: Why is Santa Evita appealing to worldwide audiences? It portrays an iconic character but also tells a unique story.
ALTERIO: Absolutely. It’s a story that’s not very well known: what happened to her body after she died. It was a corpse that was wandering around for over two decades. It’s a very attractive series. It’s a thriller broken down into three aspects: the important moments in Eva’s life until she dies, the journalist who reports on what happened to her corpse during the ’70s while he delves into an increasingly dark world and the one that deals with my character, who is appointed to take care of the body. They task him with making her an ordinary deceased person. They wanted to erase her legacy, but it wasn’t possible.
MACI: The story that Tomás wrote, and the one from which we’ve worked and thought on, becomes a metaphor. It’s not a local narrative, but it becomes a metaphor for the metaphysics of power, its perverse nature, excess and ownership and, above all, something currently at the center of everything, which is the woman’s position and role in society.

It’s like a metaphor where you have a corpse that you fall in love with, argue with, move around and are passionately trying to give life to after it’s already gone. It also encourages us to reflect on the state of our society and the necessary changes that must be made. Additionally, the fact that what happened did happen makes it a compelling thriller. The plot is great—horrifying on a personal level but magnificent from a narrative one.