Accustomed to his more serious, dramatic, and even disturbing side, Álvaro Cervantes (Barcelona, 1989) takes a radical turn in his career with the comedy “Crazy About Her”, in which the actor pretends to have mental problems so he can be with the love of his life, played by Susana Abaitua. Dani de la Orden’s comedy, which premieres on Netflix on February 26, coincides with Cervantes’s Goya nomination for his role in “Adú” and with other premieres of a highly sought-after and ductile star, who just keeps on going.

You premiere “Crazy About Her” and, not long ago, you were also able to show your comic side in the series “Drug Squad: Costa del Sol” (Telecinco). Why did we have to wait so long to enjoy your comedy facet?

I’ve always been interested in comedy, and one of the reasons I wanted to become an actor is because, as a child, I was a real clown and I loved entertaining others. My references were Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. Perhaps, starting with “The Hanged Man” (2008), they saw a very tortured side of me and began to give me dramatic roles …, that was up until now. But my casting for the TVE series “Abuela de verano” (2005) consisted of doing impersonations. I imitated the Spanish King Juan Carlos, TV stars Torrente, Pocholo and Carmen de Mairena. Imitations from the repertoire of famous Spanish impersonator Carlos Latre’s, well, because it was my first job, so I didn’t have anything else to show Joaquín Oristrell and Pep Armengol, the director and casting boss of “Abuela de verano”, I did the imitations, and they liked them. Years later, one day I ran into Latre in the elevator and I told him: “You were my inspiration.” Yes, but cinema has been slow to discover the clown in me.

Exactly, as you said, maybe for many people in the film and television industry you projected a very pigeon-holed image.

But those who know me well know that I’m the exact opposite. And the casting directors of “Crazy About Her” really stepped up and risked casting me in a comedy role. Not only that, but the director, Dani de la Orden, was aware that I could stand on my own in comedy, because we’ve known each other for ages. In my career, I had touched on comedy in films such as “Three Steps Above Heaven” (2010) and “I Want You” (2012), where my character, Pollo, had a bit of a clown in him, like Mario Casas’s squire. In the TV3 series “Cites” (2016), I played a romantic comedy. And “The Sex of Angels” (2012) had a light, uninhibited tone. I was expecting a straightforward romantic comedy like “Crazy About Her.” On top of that, the cast are amazing. Clara Segura, for example, is very strong. Clara’s great. And thanks to the talent of Luis Zahera, other scenes will have you going from laughter to tears.

Dani de la Orden, Susana Abaitua and Alberto Cervantes in “Crazy About Her”.

After Dani de la Orden’s film, you’ve worked directed by Paco Caballero’s in “Donde caben dos”, which you just finished filming. Here you really got back for all those years of not being able to display your humorous and crazy-dog side.

It’s an even crazier comedy. The context, which is the world of sex, was more conducive. Paco’s film is one big party, with some pretty special characters, although there are also more intimate moments, especially those related to my character and Ricardo Gómez’s.

Your sister Angela is also in “Donde caben dos”, right?

Yeah, Angel’s a first-rate actor, especially as a comedy actress. We both always loved to act the buck since we were kids. In fact, during filming of “Donde caben dos”, the crew had to hold in the laughter every time she was in a scene.

You’ve been nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Goya Award for “Adú” by Salvador Calvo. So, fingers crossed for March 6th. But this isn’t your first nomination as previously you’d been nominated for “The Hanged Man.” Does it surprise you that so many years have gone by between one nomination and another?

This whole awards lark is very complicated. It’s really hard to pick one when you have so many great performances to choose from every year. In the case of “Adú”, I’m grateful that my work has been acknowledged and to be nominated alongside actors who for me are references, and whom I personally appreciate, such as Sergi López (“Rosa’s Wedding”), Juan Diego Botto (“The Europeans”) and Alberto San Juan (“The People Upstairs”). By the way, Alberto San Juan is also in the cast of “Crazy About Her”, and he’s mind-blowingly good. Alberto, in addition to being a great actor, is a great playwright and has a privileged mind.

Álvaro Cervantes, Jesús Carroza and Miquel Fernández in “Adú”.

I read in an interview something you said once that jumped out at me, it was that “Conscientiousness sparks enthusiasm, and enthusiasm sparks conscientiousness.”

It’s kind of a personal mantra, but, in reality, it’s something my teacher, Fernando Piernas, told me. When you put it into practice, that’s just the way it is, like a dog chasing its tail or an endless loop. You get down to work and you start getting enthusiastic, and vice versa.

You recently combined a couple of shootings: the films “The Legacy of The Bones” and “Offering to the Storm”, which are the last two installments of the “Baztán Trilogy”, and the aforementioned series “Brigada Costa del Sol”. That must have been tough going.

It was the first time I had done something like this, combining two roles, and despite not being an ideal situation, it has its silver lining, and that’s the fact that I felt I was up to the challenge. And I didn’t stress. On the other hand, my collaboration in the “Baztán Trilogy” was minor and I was being directed by a friend like Fernando González Molina. And, basically, making a character as wicked and twisted as Berasategui in both films was fun, because it allowed me to disguise myself and add elements of characterization, like a goatee. As a kid, the Carnival season was my favorite time of the year. Much better than Christmas! The Carnival! My grandmother would sew my costumes and put them on. Over the years, I’ve managed to turn it into my profession. That’s what being an actor is: never cease to change character, your costume.

In September, we’ll also get a chance to see you rather loose and playful in “Malnazidos”, an insane tale set in the Civil War, directed by Javier Ruiz Caldera and Alberto de Toro.

“Malnazidos” was the icing on the cake I’d been waiting for. A zombie-Civil War movie, well hold my beer and let me at it! I’m seen everything by Ruiz Caldera, and he’s a comedy icon. In addition, this project allowed me to reunite with Miki Esparbé after “Brigada Costa del Sol”. Miki is a wonderful colleague, and he generates this amazing work environment. The cast were great: Luis Callejo, María Botto, Aura Garrido, Dafnis Balduz … My character, Mecha, is a bit of a whiner, a man with scars, really burned out.

Álvaro Cervantes and Luis Callejo in “Malnazidos”.

After such popular and commercial series as “Los Nuestro” (Telecinco), “Hermanos” (Telecinco) and “Carlos, Rey Emperor” (TVE), here we see you doing the exact opposite character: a total immersion in experimental film like, “The Tree of Blood” (2018), by Julio Medem. An unforgettable experience?

Totally. He blew me away. Julio is such a sensitive person, and he adores his characters so much… I did a three-hour test for him, the longest I’ve ever done. Later, on set, he generates this truly incredible atmosphere, and his stories allow you to experience a wealth of emotional states. He’s very subtle, very detailed. He works a lot with the subconscious. Later, in the montage, it’s impressive how Julio arranges the images.

Any pending issues? Any director you’d love to work with?

Well, I really want to work with Paco León. I admire his work as a director, and I’ve heard about what his relationship with the actors is like. The man’s a master of comedy, and it’d be a real delight to be in one of his movies.

Few people know that you are a producer and that, apart from plays, like the one you produced for Marc Martínez, you’ve also produced three short films: “Avalancha” (2013) and “Zarpazo” (2017), directed by Nerea Castro, and “Blue Paradise” (2018), by Daniel de Vicente. You just can’t stop, can you?

I started Audiovisual Communication studies, although I didn’t finish them, and I’ve always been interested in telling stories, both as an actor and as a producer.

Álvaro Cervantes and Susana Abaitua in “Crazy About Her”.

Following the premiere of Salvador Calvo’s film “1898: Our Last Men in the Philippines” (2016), for which many thought you should have won a nomination for the Goya, you said that there’s nothing comparable to the feeling of watching a movie in a movie theater. You must be having a hard time with this pandemic, which has forced a lot of cinemas to close, either temporarily or permanently.

The truth is that I’m really sorry this is happening. My worst fear is that people will forget what the collective experience of going to a cinema feels like. Habits are easy to break. I want theatres to reopen and for people to overcome their fear of going to the cinema. Fortunately, with the nominations, some of the films that compete for the Goya have been re-released.

And, among these features, do you have any favorites? And, you can’t say “Adú“: we take that as a given.

(Laughs), well, I might say that I love two directorial debuts “The Girls”, by Pilar Palomero, and “Ane is Missing”, by David Pérez Sañudo. What a way to innovate the language of cinema! On the other hand, in this same edition, there are works by filmmakers with whom I grew up as a spectator, like Icíar Bollaín (“Rosa’s Wedding”), Isabel Coixet (“It Snows in Benidorm”), Cesc Gay (“The People Upstairs”) and Juamma Bajo Ulloa (“Baby”). This year’s Goya’s are packed with talent.

Any new or inspiring phrase-mantra to wrap up the interview?

Well, I’ll have to save it for the next interview, because nothing comes to mind right at the minute, (laughs).

Pere Vall
Pere Vall. Journalist covering the world of cultural and entertainment in general, specialized in cinema. Pere is a regular contributor to Time Out, Ara, RNE and Catalunya Ràdio, and was editor-in-chief of the magazine Fotogramas in Barcelona for more than 20 years. A fan of Fellini, of good, regular and bad horror movies, and of humor and comedy in general. As a child, he wanted to look like Alain Delon, and has ended with a certain resemblance to Chicho Ibáñez Serrador. Not that he’s complaining though.