(Interviews translated by Isabel Abal Couceiro)
We continue our two-part interview series here with the talented Berta Hernandez, the actor who plays Cristina in the Telecinco Spanish television series Tierra de Lobos (TDL). Cristina is a prostitute who seduces Isabel Lobo as a way to get even with Isabel’s father, Antonio Lobo, but in the process ends up falling in love. As I suggested in our previous interview with Adriana Torrebejano (Isabel), check out this website put together by AfterEllen.com readers for the start of a Spanish-English translation project.
(Special thanks to AfterEllen.com reader Cougar.)
Afterellen.com: Crisabel recently won the AfterEllen.com “Cutest Couple” poll. The win thrilled Crisabel fans and introduced Tierra de Lobos to many readers who were not familiar with the series. What do you think it is about Crisabel that has impressed so many people?
Berta Hernandez: From the moment this storyline was conceived, we tried to be very tactful with it. We wanted to approach it with affection, but most of all, with a lot of respect. On the one hand, I think the scriptwriters have been really thorough with the writing, and on the other hand, Adriana and I discussed it at length. We talked about the characters and about what we wanted the viewers to feel when they saw the evolution of Isabel and Cristina. Our goal was, not only getting to the gay audience, but also make it so all the people who watch the show could fall in love along with us. We wanted them to understand how easy it was for these two women to keep loving each other, despite the time they live in and all they suffer. It’s love in its purest form… It’s hard to imagine someone not getting moved by so much passion.
AE: The first two seasons of TDL have not revealed much about Cristina’s past. What do you know about where she comes from and how she ended up working in a brothel? Do you think her relationship with Isabel is her first same-sex experience?
BH: These kinds of details were unknown to me as well when I started working on the character, so I made up a little story with some important facts of her previous life: Cristina is a girl from the South, from Andalucía, which is not that far away from the place where Tierra de Lobos is set. Her life has never been easy. She was an orphan that fled her village, that’s how she ended up in Tierra de Lobos. She had no choice but to work in the brothel, where she got lucky, though, because Lobo took a liking to her and for the past few years she has been his favorite. That meant she solicited to Lobo exclusively. Cristina has been with many men, mostly for money. For her, sex had always been a job, sometimes a game, until she met Isabel and had her first experience with a woman … that’s when she discovered what sex with love meant.
AE: Many of the relationships on the show revolve around forbidden love. Do you think the Crisabel storyline is treated differently because it depicts two women rather than a man and a woman?
BH: I believe that, in this show, those who fall in love suffer. It doesn’t matter if you’re het or homosexual. Whoever falls in love is doomed to suffer. It’s natural that this kind of thing was a scandal, considering the period in which the show takes place. Unfortunately, it still is for some people nowadays. Maybe the torments they’ve put us through are a little bit more extreme (like the torture at the convent, or all the times I’ve had a gun pointed at my head), but I don’t think César and Almudena have suffered any less, neither have Nieves and Aníbal. Each pair has suffered in its own way. There are no easy love affairs in Tierra de Lobos, but love is love, and our storyline isn’t treated any different than the others.
AE: At what point did you learn that Cristina would seduce Isabel to get even with Lobo? How did you feel about it?
BH: For Cristina, Isabel was a game from the very beginning. She’s a flirt; she loves to charm and seduce people, and to be looked at all the time. She feels powerful when she uses that weapon, and most of all, she feels confident. When Lobo disowned her, she had already had a couple of chance meetings with Isabel where just some looks and words had been exchanged. She thought Isabel would be an easy target, and she loved to play with her. She was aware of the fact that one of the most important things for Lobo was his honor, especially his family’s honor. There would be nothing worse for him than to have that honor tarnished. A whore [lying] with his daughter, his whore [lying] with his daughter…that would devastate him. But, her plan couldn’t have turned out worse (or better), because she fell into her own trap.
AE: When do you think that Cristina fell in love with Isabel rather than using her to get back at Lobo?
BH: I don’t think she was aware of where that game would lead her, or how far it would go. She just went with it. It’s true that, at first, it was a strategy to get back at Lobo, but … she fell in love. I wouldn’t be able to tell you in which precise look she fell in love with Isabel, but I know that the first time they kissed and made love it was also the first time for Cristina. She was clumsy and nervous, as if she had never been with anyone before, and don’t forget we’re talking about a whore. There’s a line in one of the scenes we have in the forest where I tell her that, all my life, I’ve been in the hands of men, and that no one had ever treated me the way she does, nor had anyone ever looked at me the way she does … Cristina doesn’t need to consider anything else. It doesn’t matter to her if it’s a man or a woman; it’s a lot simpler than that. The only thing she wants is to be loved, and Isabel gives her all that she needs. It’s something so basic but so essential. I believe that, in the end, all we look for in life is to feel that kind of affection.
AE: What do you wish people would ask about Cristina or your experience as an actor playing her character?
BH: I like it when people get curious about the evolution of a character, about the drastic change of going from being Lobo’s kept-woman to falling in love with his daughter. I like talking about my experience as an actress portraying this passionate character, and also to convey how happy it makes me to give life to Cristina. So, ask away, ask …
AE: The last we saw of Cristina she was knocked unconscious at the brothel while Isabel was sent home to her father where she learned she could either go back to the convent or get married. What can we expect for your character in Season Three?
BH: I cannot reveal anything, but … you can expect a bit more love, suffering, happiness and fight in store for me. Emotions, emotions, emotions.
AE: If you could write the story of Crisabel, what would you like to see happen to this couple and your Cristina?
BH: I would love for them to be happy. That they could enjoy their love just like any other person that loves and is loved in return does. I wish they could have plans for their future and be a part of society with the same acceptance than any other couple, never mind the period.
AE: How did you get involved in acting?
BH: Ever since I was a little girl I knew for sure that I wanted to be an actress. The road to get there wasn’t easy, but … I made it. [It was a mix of] Education, tenacity, perseverance, and enthusiasm … especially that last one. I always say that, the day I lose the enthusiasm, I will stop working as an actress. It’s a long distance race, so it’s all about staying on that race. You have to keep your feet on the ground and have the courage to get what you wish for. After finishing my Performing Arts degree, the audition process for Nacho Cano’s musical “Hoy no me puedo levantar” (“Can’t get up today”) began. So, I fled Seville and went to Madrid with the certainty (and that marvelous feeling you get when you have a hunch) that, I had to be there. And that’s how it happened. Now, it’s been almost seven years since I came to Madrid, and so many things have happened … the rest just fell into place.
AE: Are you working on another project outside of Tierra de Lobos?
BH: I’m currently engaged in different projects, mostly in theater. As an actress, I’ll première a play at MicroTeatro in March: “Pulpa, lechuza o culebra (o en la cama con Andie MacDowell)” (“Octopus, owl or snake (or in bed with Andie MacDowell)”). It tells the story of a couple of girls trying to reach an agreement in order to choose their baby’s donor. Also, this February I’ll be at Garaje Lumiere, with the play “Futuro 10.0” (“Future 10.0”). We’ve put together, in a sort of futuristic cabaret, all the plays we performed at Microteatro last December. On another note, these last couple of days I’ve been filming a short film (medium-length, actually. It’s almost 30min. long) in Granada. I’m the main character of the film, which is called “El Silencio de Afrodita” (“Aphrodite’s Silence”). It will be premiered and promoted in festivals all over the world. And lastly, I’m trying my hand at directing, under the tutelage of Chos, a theater director. I’ll be helping her with a new project “Tú no, princesa” (“Not you, princess”), along with three great performers: Jazz Vilas, Andrea Ros and Andrea Masselli, with the script of Olga Iglesias. It’s a treat to be part of this project.
AE: This last question is based on the famous Six Word Memoir project. If you’re not familiar with it, the premise is to write your memoir in six words. Here is an example: Comedian Stephen Colbert’s “Well, I thought it was funny.” What is your Six Word Memoir? What is Cristina’s Six Word Memoir?
BH: Cristina: “Life did not let me choose.” (“La vida no me dejó elegir.”) Berta Hernandez: “Can only say: “Thanks for coming.’” * (“Solamente puedo decir: ‘Gracias por venir.’”)
(*Translator’s Note: It’s a fragment of a very popular song from one of the most famous revue performers in Spain, Lina Morgan. It was her way of thanking the public for going to the theater.)