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Home Culture Karla Sofía Gascón, the Spanish actress who has revolutionized Cannes: “I have a thorn in my side with our country” | Culture

Karla Sofía Gascón, the Spanish actress who has revolutionized Cannes: “I have a thorn in my side with our country” | Culture

by News Room
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The story of Cinderella at the current Cannes festival stars a Spanish trans actress named Karla Sofía Gascón (Alcobendas, Madrid, 52 years old). She plays Manitas del Monte, brutal leader of a Mexican drug trafficking cartel who all she wants is to protect his family and be the woman she always felt like. The musical revolves around him/her Emilia Perez, another example of the talent and bravery of Jacques Audiard, to whom the actress does not stop giving flowers, until at one point she assures: “He also had the immense luck to find me, eh?” Because beyond her acting talent, Gascón also transitioned in 2018, and she also has a wife and child (in Gascón’s case, a teenage daughter). “There are quite a few common elements between Emilia Pérez and me, and like any actress I looked for and built from those connections. Although we talk about Manitas and Emilia separately, for me they are one, and I have given them my soul,” she comments.

What follows is an attempt to condense a long conversation with Gascón, a captivating whirlwind, a laughing machine with an incontinent glibness. She knows that it is her time, that Cannes has surrendered to her work, and she is already looking forward to the next step: the Spanish premiere of Emilia Perez. Gascón is moved and tears come to his eyes when he confesses: “I have a thorn in my side with Spain. I have fought my entire fucking life, like thousands of my friends, actors and actresses, to do what we like and do it with love. To get to projects like this you need to go through 400 assholes first.”

Zoe Saldaña and Karla Sofía Gascón, in an image by ‘Emilia Pérez’.

Before the transition, Karla Sofía was Carlos Gascón. He appeared in series like The super, The past is tomorrow o new street, before starting a new career in Mexico, where he participated in the blockbuster We the noble (2013), and already as Karla Sofía in the series Rebel and in an edition of the contest MasterChef Celebrity. The Audiard team contacted Gascón there, when Emilia Perez It was going to be filmed in Mexico (after the pandemic, it was filmed in a studio in Paris). “In the end, all countries are the same, they crush their compatriots who succeed. Look at Spain with Penelope (Cruz). As a child I was on the bus with her. Look at where she is and how they sometimes treat her. So yes, I want to come back, to say ‘here I am’. Of course she knew what was going to happen. You guess what’s going to be the bomb. Emilia Perez It’s a gift. What happens is that I filmed a film with more moments of comedy, and Jacques Audiard has edited and edited…. and has delivered another one.”

Gascón apologizes between laughs: “I’ll give you lots of information and then you’ll…”. He talks about the long process of casting, of the comings and goings between Mexico, Spain and Paris, of her work with the songs and the choreographer, “Madonna’s”, of the difficult filming with Selena Gomez due to the clash between their characters (Gomez plays Manitas’ wife) , and of the affection and friendship that they now profess, of how it took months for Audiard to trust her to play Handyman. “At first the proposal was a physique like that of Edgar Ramírez (secondary in the film), then they varied more towards a Jared Leto. They were going to use an actor for that part. And I, meanwhile, with the noisemaker to Jacques: ‘I can, I can do both.’ Until he gave in. I am proud to have created the voices: Handyman’s, close to John Rambo’s and Kurtz’s. Apocalypse Now; “For Emilia I went to the singer Samantha Fox.” The natural bell of Gascón is located halfway.

The actress talks about her strengths and weaknesses: “Let’s see, when it comes to dancing, I’m like Robocop! My strength right now is interpretation and the freedom I have to work. Fortunately I met Jacques, who gave me absolute freedom. It was and is his film, but we talked, we improvised, we built together.”

The female cast of 'Emilia Pérez': from left, Adriana Paz, Karla Sofía Gascón, Zoe Saldaña and Selena Gomez.
The female cast of ‘Emilia Pérez’: from left, Adriana Paz, Karla Sofía Gascón, Zoe Saldaña and Selena Gomez.SEBASTIEN NOGIER (EFE)

Like Manitas, Gascón was a father and now a mother. “I have a daughter and a wife, and we love each other dearly. Obviously, we have faced many problems. Not with my daughter, but with the rest of the world, because you feel like they want to kill you. And I transferred that to my interpretation and there was a moment when I no longer knew what the line was that separated me from Manitas and Emilia. We worked until a month ago on the dubbing and then I felt that my body was resisting returning to the characters, because after filming I had to do an exorcism to get away from them.”

The actress has led the talk to her own transition. “With Jacques I wanted to make it clear that Manitas does not become a woman to flee from justice, something that was confusing in the script, but because there is a woman in it. One of the first sequences we filmed was my awakening after the reconstruction operation, and it was hard, it took me back to those memories. Furthermore, Audiard filmed me naked, on the stretcher, with my legs spread, and I thought: ‘Oh, look, he’s going to film one of those legendary cinema images and it’s with me…’. In the end, he didn’t even put it together, because it didn’t make sense, it didn’t fit.

Jacques Audiard with Karla Sofía Gascón in the photo session before the press conference for 'Emilia Pérez'.
Jacques Audiard with Karla Sofía Gascón in the photo session before the press conference for ‘Emilia Pérez’.Yara Nardi (REUTERS)

Gascón has written three books and in two of them he fictionalizes his journey from man to woman: “Prune (2018) was a farewell to Carlos, and with them I have expressed all my suffering.” Because she was always a woman: “Since I was four years old I knew I wanted it, but it was absurd for me to consider doing anything. It’s like wanting to go to the Moon: you’re never going to get there, until someone one day builds a rocket, and you think: go ahead, it’s possible. That’s why I transitioned when I knew that we finally had a place to do it and dignity… although always with the uncertainty of what is going to happen to you.” She delves into the most painful part: “You put the word trans on the Internet and nothing but pornography and insults come out. They have told me everything and more. In Mexico, they even threatened to dismember me and put me in a garbage bag. I’ll tell you another time. However… things have to change, and perhaps my responsibility is there: to defend that people are people and we can do whatever we want.”

The actress clarifies that like Carlos she had a good life: “I had a hell of a time, but I had no other choice.” She also describes her problems in the civil registry of the Madrid town where she lives “for her daughter to have two mothers” or when changing the deeds of a house. “You’re my age: do you remember what it meant to wear a pink Niki to high school? What references could I approach? For some families, having a trans person is worse than being a criminal.”

The conversation ends with the legislative changes in Spain and the bitter debate between two factions of feminism over that legislation. “No one has to decide what I am, or what I want to do with my body. We are people. It is also true that being trans or belonging to the LGBTI community does not stop you from being an idiot nor does it make you smarter. You have to listen,” she explains. “We sometimes worry about absolutely subjective things, which should not matter to others. I have my doubts too, I wonder if this may seem like a fad and detract from the process. I thank our social security because there is a gender identity unit where I transitioned, and there I recently asked about this whole debate. And one reflection became clear to me: no one can tell you what you are or what you are not.”

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