“In ‘Paradise’ all my fears subsided the moment I set foot on the film set”

.The fate of Fran Perea (Malaga, 1978) once again turns towards northern Europe. After the success a few years ago in Finland with “The Serranos“, the Malaga-born actor is currently working side by side with Finnish actress Riitta Havukainen, on “Paradise”. This crime drama is the first THE MEDIAPRO STUDIO co-production with production company MRP Matila Röhr Productions Oy, in association with Finnish public broadcaster Yle. Fuengirola and its large Finnish community are firmly in the spotlight of the series, which is scheduled for release in Finland at the end of the year. Perea, who plays Detective Andrés Villanueva, is “delighted” with this new professional challenge that was cooked up and slowly brought to the boil in English, Finnish and Spanish.

Ran Tellem, head of International Content Development at THE MEDIAPRO STUDIO[had you in mind when he came up with “Paradise.” Is this something you feel especially proud about?

Yes, of course it is. It’s always great to be considered and even more so when it comes to a project as interesting as this one. Andrés, that’s what my character calls himself, is from Málaga, like me, that also makes it a little more special and makes me feel even more a part of this adventure.

How is this series different from the ones you’ve starred in in Spain?

Maybe the biggest difference is that I’ve always worked for general television here in Spain, in series designed for general audiences and with each episode lasting more than 70 minutes … And where the scripts were being written while the series was already in production, so you didn’t really know the full scope of your character throughout the season. “Paradise” is completely different in that sense; every episode is 50 minutes and with the eight episodes already written before we have started shooting. Truth is, I really enjoyed working like that. Add to that the fact that one hundred percent of the sets in the series are natural, which is a novelty for me in television, and I loved it.

How complex was it for you working on a project involving the mix of three different languages?

Well, the truth is all my fears subsided the moment I set foot on the film set. Of course, with three languages it requires a greater degree of concentration, you have to really be on your toes, study a little more than you would study if it were only in Spanish … But personally, I found the experience hugely enriching really.

Was it difficult working with crews where you also have a mixture of professionals from two different countries?

The fact that there are people of different nationalities makes us go that extra mile to ensure we understand each other when it comes to working. There was a genuine air of generosity all-round. In addition, director Marja [Pyykkö] went to great lengths to bring both crews together and cultivated a really pleasant working environment.

You speak English fluently. Is this down to long hours studying?

Yeah, I really had to get the led out, but I’m lucky that my first international project didn’t require me to do an accent different from mine, since I play a local detective from Malaga who uses English to communicate with people from other countries. In that sense, I’ve also been lucky. On top of that, the director has made it much easier for us to work with the dialogues in the simplest way for everyone, even removing certain words or expressions that might be more complicated to pronounce correctly.

“The co-production between different countries is a wise move”

“Paradise” has broken ground in that it’s the first co-production between THE MEDIAPRO STUDIO and the Finnish production company MRP. Does the future of broadcasting lie in strengthening the bonds between countries?

I love the idea. Today’s consumer of drama series is starting to identify with international series in a much more natural way. The platforms have facilitated access and the new generations of series should follow other paths. This co-production between countries I think is a wise move, since you can get the best out of the elements that each brings to the project and it’s a huge challenge for all of us involved in the production in one way or another.

Is there and similarity between Andrés Villanueva and Marcos Serrano?

No, not at all. To begin with, age… the birthdays just keep on coming [laughs].

But this isn’t your first time playing a cop. What makes Andrés Villanueva different from your previous characters?

Indeed, I already played the detective in “Luna. El misterio de Calenda“, but it was another type of character, yes. Andrés is very different. He’s a really interesting character. He carries heavy baggage and the way this is related in the series is extremely well-done, which is not very usual. It’s fair to say that “Paradise” is a police series, yes, but I think in addition to this and above all, it is a series about the characters. They are very well defined, and I think that audiences are going to immediately find themselves identifying with them and empathizing with their experiences.

The series emphasizes the ideas of memories and dark recesses. Does Andrés Villanueva also have traumas from the past?

Andrew carries the most terrible of all baggage: guilt. He has huge difficulty overcoming something terrible that happened to him in his past and feels that it was his responsibility. Throughout the eight episodes in the first series, we’ll see how he goes about facing his demons…

“I’m totally in favor of relating stories about feminine maturity”

The female protagonist is a mature actress, something that’s not the most typical thing to see in series and movies nowadays. What do you think of female empowerment?

Luckily. I’m absolutely in favor of relating stories of female maturity. I don’ feel comfortable that there’s always a biased view of reality. There are so many women who haven’t been able to tell their story and I’m glad to see the times they are a changing. There are so many stories waiting to be told and many people who can learn by watching these stories.

It’s not just another drama with the typical police couple …

No, not at all. It establishes a relationship that transcends the work between the character played by Riitta Havukainen and mine. Let’s just say just it’s as if life had to bring them together to resolve some pending issues and … that’s what happened…

In a sentence, what does “Paradise” mean to Fran Perea?

A wonderful and explosive mixture.

Any stories that stand out from the shooting?

It’s hilarious watching people’s faces as they pass by the location where we have the police station and they ask us how long it’s been there, and whether it’s recently opened … I could tell you many, many stories because, truthfully, the filming is great fun. 

As a native of Malaga, do you like the city depicted in the series and, above all, the image of Fuengirola we’ll get to see?

What I like is being able to work in my homeland and that this type of work reveals corners that I didn’t even know existed. Beyond all that, in the end the series isn’t based on real events and is fictional, so I think viewers will really enjoy the story and, I’m sure, they’ll delight with some of the landscapes …

After “Paradise” airs it’s going to be difficult for you to walk around Finland without being recognized. Do you still get feedback from there?

They must have recently began reshowing “The Serranos” on TV there, because I started hearing rumors that there was a new generation of fans watching the series … I’m very excited about them seeing my other work there. It’s not always easy to make your way outside your homeland and in Finland they have always treated me very well.

Something similar happened to you recently in Serbia.

Yes, in fact I’m heading to some concerts in Belgrade and Novi Sad in May. I was there last year and we’re doing some really interesting things in Serbia to promote the study of Spanish through music.

So, you haven’t given up on your musical career then?

No, in September last year I edited my fourth studio album “Viaja La Palabra“, and we’re taking the album on tour nationwide as well as some other countries. Fingers crossed, with a bit of luck, we’ll get to perform in Finland.