Eduardo Casanova in conversation with Martiño Rivas
That’s probably very Spanish too.
The Spanish actor Martiño Rivas grew up in Galicia, northern Spain, where he started his career as a young teenager with the 1998 series Mareas vivas (Live Tides), a production written and directed in Galician. A broader national audience soon became aware of him through teen series such as SMS and El Internado (The Boarding School) and his role in the 2008 film Los Girasoles Ciegos (The Blind Sunflowers) before reaching worldwide fame with the 2017 Netflix series Cable Girls (Las Chicas del Cable).
Rivas recently worked with Spanish director Eduardo Casanova on a series about porn actor Nacho Vidal, which is set to premiere in 2023. Martiño and Eduardo became close friends on the set after years of knowing each other in the Spanish television industry. Both of them gained fame as teenagers in TV shows—Eduardo notably played the first gay teen on Spanish television in 2005’s Aida—and now they’ve become two of the country’s most daring actors and filmmakers.
For DUST, the two met to discuss Spain, what it means to be Spanish today and how they became friends.
E.C.: Let’s start in a very classic way. Where are you from, Martiño?
M.R.: Well, as you may know, I’m from A Coruña. To the best of my knowledge, my family has lived there for generations. Because my mother was a teacher, teacher, we moved quite a bit, but we always stayed inside A Coruña.
E.C.: And now you live in Madrid, right?
M.R: Yes, for a long time. In 2006, I came to Madrid for a small part in a television series called SMS. From there, Luis Anarciso, the notorious casting director, offered me a role in that Spanish teen drama thriller called El Internado. I’m sure you remember that. It was when I moved to Madrid. I was 21.
E.C.: But you’re still very much a Galician…
M.R.: I may have a certain ‘Galician’ melancholy that comes from our inherent regional idiosyncrasies. When you wake up, look out the window, and see everything covered in fog, you’re more likely to feel melancholy, right? A Coruña is a windy and rainy city… but I think parents play a more significant role in determining your personality than your postcode. What about you?
E.C.: I’m from Madrid. I was born here, but my father’s side of the family is from Andalucía. Either way, I feel very much like a Madrid guy. This is my habitat. Regarding what you were saying about Galicia, I was reading a comment, maybe a controversial one, from my dear friend and great actor Paco León. He said the last character he played was a very ‘Galician’ character: a little slow and introspective.
M.R.: What does the slow thing mean, that we lack intelligence?
E.C.:You should ask him. I don’t know much about Galicians, but knowing you a bit, I know that you are pretty introspective and like to take your time. Do you think that’s because you’re Galician or because you are Martiño?
M.R.: Maybe it’s both. These stereotypes have a bit of truth; they are stereotypes for a reason, but as I said earlier, I think that the family environment defines you the most.
E.C.: That’s for sure. I come from Lucero, a very humble neighbourhood in Madrid. I am from a gipsy family. This made me have very strong family values. We are very close and impossible to break apart. This may apply to any family in the world, but I believe it is especially strong here in Spain.
M.R.: It’s totally Spanish. Our country’s cornerstone is the concept of family. Just look at the number of generations living under one roof in a typical Spanish home. It’s exceptional. Spanish culture is defined by its conception of family, and I can say that I’m defined by my family too. This is the main reason I would not be able to leave Spain. I wouldn’t want to be away from them. That’s probably very Spanish too. But tell me, how would you define Spain?
E.C.: I love everything about it. Spain is the best country in the world. But I would say that Spain is defined by its contradictions. Being a profoundly Latin nation is, at once, Spain’s greatest success and its biggest demise. There is a great deal of contrast between this country and others in Europe. Spanish people have a very passionate, irrational Latin side that clashes with our European side. That’s probably why we have this huge conflict with bullfighting. We may have that animal part of ourselves that makes us fight with nature, but ethically we don’t like it because it’s morally questionable. Spain lives in a constant contradiction, which is reflected in ourselves. Spanish people can’t stop being Spanish with all the meaning this has. We love it, but we criticize it. This defines us a lot.
M.R.: Spain has so many faces, but what you say may be common to all of the country. You go to the north of Spain, and then you go to the south, to the east or everywhere, and the idiosyncrasy in landscape, atmosphere, people, it’s very diverse. But despite being so different, we have so much in common. And it seems everybody has stereotypes for everyone else.
E.C.: But don’t you think these stereotypes are like fiction? Fiction reflects what’s happening in society
because it’s a mirror. At the same time, fiction influences society to behave a certain way. Many
people feel like they’re in a box because their group or community has been represented in a
certain way for decades. For example, people in Andalusia are portrayed as funny and so may also
feel forced to act this way. We assume they are funny, but my father, for example, is from Andalucia and is the least funny person I know.
M.R.: Some of these ideas reinforce old stereotypes, which no longer reflect society or reality. Nobody likes being described as a stereotype. What would you be if you had to choose a stereotype for yourself?
E.C.: Probably not a regional one. I guess a more accurate one for me would be the cliche of the tormented artist. I would dare to say that this is something that touches both of us. Somehow I saw it in you when we worked together, and I also recognize that degree of craziness in myself. I don’t know if this is a stereotype or if it’s a ‘conditio sine qua non’ to be able to work in the industry we work in.
M.R. You have this kind of madness for sure. I think I also have a little of that.
E.C.: You have it for sure!
M.R.: Probably. But that’s me being normal, so maybe I don’t recognize it. I can see your wonderful madness and your extremely complex being. I couldn’t imagine it before working with you. You really are brilliant and such a hard worker.
E.C.: How did we meet, Martiño?
M.R.: I think the first time I met you was at an event; you were wearing one of your crazy outfits, as you do. I obviously knew you already from TV. You were, and you still are, so extravagant. It’s always fun to be with you. I like that you don’t have a filter, you say the most outrageous things right off the bat, and I like that bluntness. Whenever I interact with you, I know that you’re going to leave a mark. Even though what we had at first was just an elevator conversation, I always knew you were very special.
E.C.: What else?
M.R. You also have a great ass, haha!
E.C.: Oh! Asses! That’s what I wanted to talk about. Well, it’s something I’ve been quite known for. That was my superpower until I met you, Martiño. Your superb ass can beat anyone. A lot of people are dying to see your ass. You know this, right?
E.C.: Jokes aside, you have so many great qualities. Meeting and directing you for a few episodes of the Nacho Vidal series changed my life. That’s how we met. It has been an incredible experience we had together. I can say it changed the way I view working in this
industry, and it will have a lasting impact on me.
M.R.: Playing Nacho seemed daunting at first, even intimidating. Not only because of the heavy sexual content but also because I would have to be in the role for seven months on a daily basis. I couldn’t lower my guard; I’ve never been tested in acting in such a way. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it was going to be. I also learned a lot by doing this series. I like to have things under control, but Nacho’s mind is very chaotic, so I had to adapt to deal with unknown and unexpected circumstances. What really helped me along the way was his autobiography. He wrote it at 26, which is quite precocious of him, haha, but it was very helpful to develop the character. I played him when he wasn’t very famous, so the book helped me get to know his more personal part. When I’m filming, I usually try to please the director. It took days with you, but we ended up on the same page.
E.C.:Yes we did. You know, I was approached to direct this project at an awards dinner for a magazine. When the producer of this series, Teresa Fernadez Valdes, offered me the opportunity to direct some episodes of this Nacho Vidal series, the first thing I asked was who was going to play the part of Nacho. She didn’t want to tell me at first, so she showed me a picture, and I was completely fascinated. You were already part of the project, but I’m sure I would have chosen you if not. You’re perfect for this part. And I didn’t even know you that much. I don’t remember the first time I met you, but we’ve met in places, and we have friends, but I got to know you well in directing you for this series. I’m so happy I did, I think you are an icon, and you’re perfect for this part.
M.R. : That’s an honour. In light of this, which Spanish icons do you consider your favourites?
E.C.: Right now, I’m only interested in Eusebio Poncela. My favourite women are Angela Molina and Teresa Fernandez Valdes, the producer of this series. What about you?
M.R.: I think I can say, Pedro Almodovar, Federico García Lorca, Don Ramón María del Valle-Inclán, Paco Rabal, Alfredo Landa, Jose Luis Cuerda and even Arsenio Iglesias. These are people that inspire me a lot.
E.C.: You are missing women!
M.R.: Yeah, man, I’m missing women, and that’s an issue. I tend to choose male role models because I see myself reflected in them. But I’m completely in love with many Spanish actresses too. Marisa Paredes, Angela Molina, Carmen Machi…
E.C.: And besides people, we have the best things in Spain.
M.R.: What’s your favourite Spanish thing?
E.C.: Hmmmm….probably Winston cigarettes.
M.R.: What are you talking about?
E.C.: Winston cigarettes are very Spanish. Since Lola Flores advertised the brand smoking a Winston, they became Spanish for everybody. The same happened with Titanlux, the acrylic paint in the 90s; when Rocio Jurado did their T.V. commercial, everyone began recognizing it as a Spanish brand.
M.R.: That’s funny, but somehow in Spain, we do have a tendency to adopt things and make them our own!
E.C.: Absolutely! That’s Spain’s superpower; we take things and make them ours. Adapting them to our personality. In my opinion, that’s way better than making things, right? For sure, we don’t do everything right, but we make everything our own. And that’s a form of having an identity.
M.R.: It’s an interesting way to see things. What are you making now?
E.C.: I’m really excited about a lot of things. My last movie, La Piedad, with Angela Molina, which came out this summer, is a really important project for me because it marks a before and after in my work as a director and also as a human being. It talks about profound and personal things. I’m also finishing my third movie, a documentary movie, but I’m not going to talk about that just yet. How about you?
M.R.: I’m just trying to get my life back, haha. I felt like I was kidnapped by Nacho during the time I played him. I had to leave everything on standby during that time, so now I’m just trying to be present for my people, my daughter, trying to make them happy and make up for all the time I was away.
E.C.: There’s a lot to catch up on, but as a Galician, I’m sure you know how to take your time.
M.R.: I’ll do my best. It was nice speaking with you, Edu.
E.C.: The pleasure is all mine, Martiño.