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‘There’s something special about working with the Spanish’: La Fortuna’s stars share their Secrets from the Set
Stars Stanley Tucci, Clarke Peters and T’Nia Miller tell BT.com about the making of La Fortuna, Alejandro Amenábar’s tale of a bitter battle over sunken treasure now on AMC with BT TV.
La Fortuna, the AMC drama based on the real-life discovery of a 200-year-old shipwreck off the coast of Spain, is sure to have viewers gripped with its blend of courtroom drama, relationship intrigue and a good old fashioned treasure hunt.
The six-part series, written and directed by Oscar-winner Alejandro Amenábar, is produced in both Spanish and English, was filmed on location in Madrid and across Spain and stars Spanish actors Alvaro Mel and Ana Polvorosa alongside familiar English-speaking principals Stanley Tucci, Clarke Peters and T’Nia Miller.
Tucci, Peters and Miller spoke exclusively to BT.com about working with the ‘patient’ Amenábar, the hidden depth of their characters and the growth of foreign-language productions across the film and TV landscape.
Working with Amenábar was a big draw
Both Tucci and Peters agree that the main draw for joining the La Fortuna cast was to work with Alejandro Amenábar. The Oscar-winning writer and director has a list of critically acclaimed movies on his resumé but La Fortuna is his first foray into television.
For Stanley Tucci, who plays treasure hunter Frank Wild, the chance to work with Amenábar, above centre, was too good to turn down.
“Alejandro is just a great director. He made one of my favourite movies of all time called The Sea Inside and to me it was an easy decision [to accept the role]. And he was extraordinary – I wish I had that patience as a director,” says the actor.
Clarke Peters, maritime lawyer Jonas Pierce in the show, also jumped at the opportunity, and acknowledges that even as a veteran of major series like The Wire, the TV newcomer at the helm could still teach him a thing or two.
I've worked with directors and you think 'You're a dictator!' Alejandro is a collaborator, a generous director
- Clarke Peters
“I was learning from him!” laughs Peters. “I had nothing to offer him and everything to gain from being with him.
“He’s a generous director who gives the actors a chance to play and also if something isn’t right, we just stopped until we figured out what was the issue.
“I’ve worked with directors who’d say ‘just get on with it’, and you think ‘wait a second, I know you’re the director but you’re also a dictator!’
“He’s a collaborator. He doesn’t take himself too serious as much as he takes the work serious, and I really do like that.”
T’Nia Miller, who plays Wild’s legal eagle Susan McLean, agrees that working with the Spanish-Chilean filmmaker had been a pleasure.
“Alejandro is a very generous director, he gives you leeway which is very nice,” she says.
“He’s a very quiet director. Sometimes he forgets his notes and he’ll just stand there for a little while. He knows exactly what he wants but he’s very gentle in the way that he gets it, and that’s not easy to do.”
The director created a ‘gorgeous’ working environment
Filming in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, with its regular testing and strict bubbles, had its challenges but director Amenábar created an on-set culture of mutual respect right across the crew, the star names and the extras.
“We had so much fun, it was such a respectful set,” Miller explains.
“We had all these amazing supporting artists in the court scenes. When you wrap a scene everyone gets a clap, but – and it was the first time I’d ever witnessed this on a set and it’s credit to Alejandro – this time the whole crew turned round and applauded the supporting artists, who generally don’t get treated too well all the time.
“The assistant directors knew every one of their names – there was no difference between the principal actors and supporting artists and it made for a gorgeous working environment.”
Working with a Spanish crew was also a marked difference for Miller.
“Crews are generally there to get the job done but there’s something very special about working with the Spanish. The Spanish and the Irish do it for me – they work hard and they play hard – and they care. It’s part of their culture, really warm,” she says.
Their characters aren’t quite what they seem
At first sight the three actors’ characters seem clear-cut – one a dollar-driven treasure hunter, another his ruthless legal counsel and, standing against them, a maritime lawyer out to return their bounty to its rightful owner.
But dig a little deeper and this is no good guy/bad guy stand-off.
“The character drew me to it,” says Clarke Peters of Jonas Pierce, a maritime lawyer inspired by the old pirate tales of his youth, but also by tragedy.
“Some of the things that Jonas stood for also registered with me. [But] other things motivate him. Stick with it because there’s a larger cause that he’s celebrating.”
“I liked the role a lot,” Tucci says of Frank Wild, the undersea treasure hunter dubbed a ‘pirate’ by Pierce, and seemingly driven by both greed and personal glory.
“In the end we discover the truth about Frank,” Tucci adds. “There’s definitely more to him than just a bad guy, or at least maybe there was at one time.”
There’s less contradiction in Miller’s character, Susan McLean. “She’s a viper, she’s vicious, and that’s always fun to play,” the British actress admits.
“She’s cutthroat and she’s at peace with it. She’s loyal to Frank as long as their paths and their loyalties align. As long as they sing from the same hymn sheet she’s backing him all the way, but the moment he changes tune - she’s out.”
The actors’ paths have crossed again
Tucci, Peters and Miller had never worked together before La Fortuna, but since the series wrapped in the summer of 2020 their paths have crossed on two different projects. First, Peters and Miller were reunited on the set of science fiction series Foundation, before Tucci and Peters both took starring roles in forthcoming Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
And it’s clear the trio would happily repeat the experience.
“Being in a scene with Clarke Peters, it’s like a masterclass,” says Miller of the actor who was her courtroom sparring partner in La Fortuna.
“Sometimes you forget you’re in a scene at all. He’s great onset and offset. We’re friends now, we went on to both do Foundation afterwards. He’s incredible, one of my favourite actors – I’m a fan!”
Peters responds in kind, remembering one particular moment from their courtroom scenes.
Being in a scene with Clarke Peters, it's like a masterclass. Sometimes you forget you're acting at all
- T'Nia Miller
“She’s wonderful to act with. She gives as good as she gets,” he recalls.
“She does something that I saw my mother do when she wanted to get underneath my father’s skin. It’s the way of dismissing somebody by either looking at your fingernails or pretending there’s something else that has her attention. When she did this in a conference we were having with the judge I thought ‘I’ve seen this before’ - I almost came out of character!”
Peters also relished the opportunity of working with Tucci.
“Working with a man who I now call a friend, Stanley Tucci, was a lot of fun. He’s got an interesting glint in his eye. You don’t see it to begin with but when you get on camera he’s all there and you think ‘aah, I got ya’. I really like acting with him.”
The two formed a firm friendship and Peters has even since turned to Tucci – whose travel and food show Searching for Italy has been a big hit in the US – for culinary advice.
“I might be doing Celebrity MasterChef; when I told him he said: ‘I would never do anything like that’ and I thought ‘you know what, I’m coming straight to you for lessons!’” jokes Peters.
Expect to see more bilingual dramas
The bilingual nature of La Fortuna, with scenes filmed in both Spanish and English, might have been seen as a bold move a few years ago. But the recent success of foreign-language productions, from gripping Nordic Noir dramas to Oscar-winning Korean movies, signals a readiness of viewers to embrace subtitled productions, something which Tucci welcomes.
“I’m glad it’s happening because I think people were always afraid of subtitles but now they’re not,” he says. “It’s so interesting because you get this wonderful melding of cultures and artists coming together.”
“The world has gotten smaller,” adds Peters.
“It’s easier for people to explore other cultures. It’s one of the positive things that has come out of the internet is that those barriers are no longer curtains that we have to fill up behind with our fears and cynicism.
“We’re at a stage now where it’s healthy to share not just people’s food, but their music and their lives. I think there will be a lot more of it.”
Miller believes that the success of foreign-language productions is a positive reflection of the modern world.
“We live increasingly in these multilingual communities,” says Miller. “I know on my street in London there are 10 different languages on my street that I know of – and some within the same household – so I think it’s great.
“Companies are investing in more foreign-language films and there’s more money being pumped in to tell these beautiful stories.”
Watch La Fortuna on AMC with BT TV from Monday, January 17, with new episodes premiering every Monday afterwards.