The newest original series from TNT, “Maricón perdido”, produced by El Terrat (THE MEDIAPRO STUDIO) for WarnerMedia, and starring Roberto Enríquez, real name of Bob Pop (Madrid, 1971), the creator of this six-part series. We talked to Bob Pop about this story: that of a young man leaving home, to detach with love from his quirky, insensitive mother (Candela Peña), as he discovers, excitedly, the charms and disappointments of the big city. He also finds and unleashes his own voice as a writer, looking back to the past without anger, but instead with humor, fantasy and song. Because “Maricón perdido”, which premieres on June 18, is not a settling of scores, but the exact opposite: it is a love letter to those who, like Roberto, have encountered, are currently dealing with or will undoubtedly come across great difficulty to be happy and be able to come out of the darkness, but who, like Bob Pop, will achieve it.

So, you’ve just returned from the Malaga Festival? How was your first contact with “Maricón perdido” and the public?

Alright, it was a super experience to see it on a big screen, after doing it about 500 times on smaller ones during post-production. And the affection from the public was spectacular, damn it. I felt a bit like Rosa from Spain.

And you’re not shy about exposing yourself either, as Almodóvar asks you in the series itself?

For me, modesty is more of a barrier to ward off proximity, contact, showing myself as I am. I spent so much time hiding!

“Maricón perdido” is passing a pending subject, is it making peace with the past, is it a party?

It is all that. More than making peace with the past, what I do is sort it out. And explain myself in detail to transmit at that moment, what was going through my head. It’s an act of poetic justice. And, in the end, just goes to show that you can actually make a pretty decent Lladró figure using large piles of shite.

The series is full of literary and cinematographic references. Let’s review them and also use others for this interview: are you looking back in anger?

No anger, no revenge, no reckoning. There is only the wonderful opportunity to explain myself to others, which is in fact, what I’ve been doing all my professional life through my collaborations in the media or in my books.

Musicals are majorly important.

As a young man, one way my head used to escape the most dangerous situations was by creating mental video clips. No matter how much literature you have in your life, no matter how many books you’ve read, in the end, the most important thing is pop music.

And queue the Pecos, who even appear in a scene. A real scene, made up or inspired by real events? By the way, what’s your favorite song by Pedro and Javier Herrero, Los Pecos?

I really like “Háblame de ti” because it’s a banging ballad to adolescent expression. Actually, Pedro and Javier were my neighbors in town, but my mother wouldn’t let me bother them, so I never actually got to meet up with them. That said, I did actually control their fans, stationed in front of her door, made them my fake friends and  even managed to exercise a certain power over them.

Is “Maricón perdido” a reflection on the mechanisms of fiction, of narration?

Yes, although it sounds a bit presumptuous. It speaks to how we narrate our own lives, how we rework the past. It’s recognition of the luck of having a voice of your own that can reach others, which, in this case, has been thanks to the support and trust of El Terrat and TNT.

Is it true that watching “What Have I Done To Deserve This!” by Pedro Almodóvar (1984), in a movie theater changed your life?

That’s as true as it gets, it changed my life. It was in the same cinema in town where he used to see “Rambo” type movies. I was the only person in the theatre when I watched it, and it was mind-blowing. I said to myself: “I want to do what Almodóvar does, which is to mix comedy and drama.” Over the years I have re-watched the movie and it never ceases to fascinate me. Also, when I was little there were parts of it that didn’t interest me or that I didn’t understand, like everything related to the characters of Gonzalo Suárez, Amparo Soler Leal, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba and Katia Loritz, and now I love them. I owe a great debt to “What Have I Done To Deserve This!” and to Almodóvar’s cinema in general.

Let’s talk about the central characters in “Maricón perdido”, those that surround Roberto. First, that extravagant, loud and ice-cold mother played by Candela Peña. A mother who … didn’t realize her son was homosexual?

She was not taken for granted. When, at a certain age, I told her that she was already living with my boyfriend, she replied: “But what bad taste you have, Roberto.” Having Candela Peña as a mother in fiction has been much better than reality. How she has built the character, inside and out! Candela took on this project with great love and enthusiasm.

Is your mother still alive?

Yes, but she lives oblivious to everything I do. In fact, she’s not really sure what I do. I haven’t seen her in a long time, and we only talk on the phone from time to time.

Carlos Bardem gives life to a father we hear, yet we never see his face. Why?

It has been my way of erasing my father and erasing patriarchy in general. I have to thank Carlos for agreeing to participate in the series under these circumstances. And he achieves this so well, without showing his face, transmitting everything.

And finally the most positive character: that grandfather incarnated, masterfully, by Miguel Rellán. A grandfather who not only loves Roberto, but also initiates him in reading the classics, the seed of his future career as a writer.

My relationship with my grandfather was wonderful, and he knew I was a queer, since I was small. I also had a very good relationship with my grandmother, who doesn’t  appear in the story. She was a great character! My grandfather gave me my first books, books in which I began to recognize myself. They were works by Federico García Lorca, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde… The only photo I have on my desk is that of my grandfather. And every time I post something I think of him. Miguel Rellán is a genius. You learn so much working with him! And he transmits such kindness.

“Maricón perdido” also has adventure story ingredients, with prominent literary references: Roberto has something of Pinocchio, Casanova or the young Törless.

You really hit the nail on the head here. It is the initiatory journey of an uncommon hero in search of himself. And this rare hero is finding a series of people who are shaping him to make him as he is now.

Pinocchio had a Jiminy Cricket. Was Berto Romero your Jiminy Cricket to move forward “Maricón perdido”?

Completely. Berto was the first one to read the script, and the one who told me what worked and what didn’t. If things were going well or if on the other hand, improvements could be made… Both Berto and the screenwriter, Enric Pardo, allowed me to dare to tell all this in series format. Enric says that he did nothing, that he was only the pen in this story.

In one of the episodes, Roberto, who is already becoming popular as a writer, returns to town with the character played by Ramon Pujol. Have you returned to town?

No, I have not, nor will I. Some issues are better resolved in fiction. Without a doubt, I’d be disappointed with reality.

It would be a way to reunite when you are older with the kids who bullied you, who called you fag and fat. Although, as often happens, former bullies never admit that they were, or make an excuse that they were only children, that they were games.

Indeed, they have a way of seeing those times and everything they did to me, and I, have mine. Maybe for them it was “just” child’s play. What the series relates is that wounds never heal, and what you do is avoid them. And this is what I have done in “Maricón perdido”, in addition to my many years of therapy.

Is it another steppingstone to the recovery of happiness, or have you been happy for a long time?

I have been happy for a long time because I have people by my side who love me. In any case, the series is one more step towards my reconciliation with my life.

Will audiences laugh more or cry more?

It may depend on the case. I hope they cry and laugh in equal measure.

Every time the tender, inexperienced and excited Roberto is about to flirt in saunas or in cruising areas, you suffer as a spectator. And you think that this will not end well, that he’s going to get hurt, either physically or mentally.

But you see that, in the series, it doesn’t always happen like that. What I wanted was  to escape from certain clichés of gay-themed cinema, where the fag, inevitably, ended up suffering divine punishment. I wanted to give Roberto a happy ending. We faggots are entitled to our ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ ending. There is no price to pay for the redemption of our sins.

Six 30-minute episodes. The ideal duration?

It was what I got, to make a series apparently light, but dense. I’ve been really comfortable working with TNT, they have excellent criteria, and I never once felt  castrated as an author, quite the opposite. The men in charge know more about television than I do, and I also include Andreu Buenafuente and El Terrat, of course.

Are you ready to be bombarded with messages on social media from boys and girls who will have identified with Roberto, and whom you will have helped with “Maricón perdido”?

Well, I’m not ready, but I will approach the task lovingly. And I hope to measure up.

Maricon perdido translates into Hopeless Faggot, give or take, and I think the ‘Hopeless’ element is worse, far more contemptuous than the ‘faggot’ part. Those who added the adjective ‘hopeless’ to the word ‘faggot’ were condemning you to never find yourself. And to never be accepted by society.

And hence the importance of searching for oneself. Yes, the series is about being a fag and, above all, being hopeless. By adding the ‘hopeless’ element, they considered you unrecoverable. That’s why the series is titled “Maricón perdido”, it’s a commitment to radicalism, and a warning and confirmation: to myself, let me be hopeless. I’m fine that way.

A review of the rest of the characters? For example, Carlos, the heterosexual friend from school. Has the real Carlos ever seen his fictional character?

No, he hasn’t, not yet. He recently wrote to me and I’m looking forward to seeing him before it premieres on the 18th. I hope he understands how grateful I am to him, because I vindicate those straight fellow travelers. I was unfair to him, and I want to thank him. Another wonderful traveling companion, already in the second stage of Roberto’s life, is the one played by Alba Flores (Lola). I wish Alba had more scenes. Another basic character is La Chon (Berta Cascante): she is part of Roberto’s childhood and, later, they meet again in the city in a very embarrassing situation, although, on screen, she isn’t even half as strong as she really was. You might say that La Chon saved my life as soon as I arrived in Madrid and, thanks to her actions, she achieved a certain redemption. But, if you notice, when La Chon is with El Rata (Javier Bódalo) in town, they do something to protect Roberto. And I would not like to forget María Romanillos (Bea) or Ramon Pujol, who is an extraordinary actor for whom I predict a great future.

The same great future that is sensed in the two Robertos from “Maricón perdido”: Gabriel Sánchez, who is the adolescent Roberto, and Carlos González, the adult Roberto. Was it difficult for them to find the same tone when interpreting you?

Yeah, it was tough, but there was one thing that was already there: they immediately met my gaze. Whether or not they had a physical resemblance to me was the least of it. I didn’t want Gabriel and Carlos to imitate me. And I couldn’t show them pictures of me when I was young. I have no photos from my childhood. But I told them everything, and they’ve contributed wonderful aspects to Roberto’s character.

Is there someone who still calls you Roberto?

My mother and some friends. And actually, I like that they do.

Speaking of friends, has Isabel Coixet already seen the series?

She has seen the first episode and told me that he liked it. In “Maricón perdido”, which Alejandro Marín has directed marvelously, there is much of Isabel’s sensitivity. She is part of my emotional and cultural education, and she has always been one of the first to read my books.

And will there be a second part?

I don’t know, that depends. It’s not an issue I worry about at all. If there is, I’ll get another chance to work with Candela, with Ramon, with Alba…

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.