By Arab News
By William Mullally
“Money Heist,” Netflix’s blockbuster Spanish crime series that is one of the service’s most popular shows in Saudi Arabia, is known for its surprising twists and turns. Now in its fourth season, the show is structured like a 30-hour-long Tarantino film, following a group of criminals staging an ambitious caper, wearing already iconic red jump suits and Salvador Dalí masks. No one knows what’s going to happen next — not even its cast.
Alba Flores stars as Nairobi, a staunchly feminist leader in the group who famously declared the beginning of the ‘matriarchy’ in season two. Flores was reading the script for the last episode of the third season when she discovered something shocking — her character was going to get shot in the season’s final scene, and it was unclear whether she would survive.
“Normally when something that big happens, they call you before. They say, ‘There is something that is going to happen to you, but don’t be afraid.’ They didn’t tell me anything. So I read it and I gasped. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, what is going on here?’ I was shocked, but the challenge appetized me, because it’s good for the series, because things have to happen,” Flores tells Arab News.
Esther Acebes, who plays Monica, the hostage who becomes a member of the gang after falling in love with one of the crew, read the scene in another room and was equally bowled over.
“I’m sorry Alba, but I have to say that it was very funny when we read the part where Nairobi gets shot. I was backstage in makeup, and we said, ‘Wait, has someone called Alba? Please, did anyone tell her that she’s going to get shot because this sounds really bad! It seems like a really ugly scene!’” Acebes says.
Flores begged creator Alex Pina to tell her what would happen next, and he revealed only the simple secret of whether her character would live or die — but as for how that plays out in season four, she had to find out piece-by-piece as they continued filming. This kind of secrecy is normal practice for Pina, who does not like to plan in advance, often improvising and writing subsequent episodes as filming continues — so it’s quite possible even he didn’t know what would happen to Nairobi when Flores asked.
“Sometimes he makes us crazy, because you don’t know where you character starts or where they’re going to end up. There is something that you cannot prepare for — the dramatic arc and how to develop that artistically. This makes us seem like jazz musicians, always improvising,” says Flores. “You have to be very attentive and listen closely to what is being produced at every moment. Alex is also very attentive, because it’s also true that he writes based on what’s being produced in the sequences between us.”
That style often causes Pina to rewrite and rethink what is planned based off what he thinks will work better. In one scene at the end of the second season, Acebes’ character Monica picks up a gun and begins shooting at the police — which wasn’t in the script, she reveals to Arab News.
“Up until two days before we shot that, they didn’t know what was going to happen because they suggested that Denver should teach Monica how to shoot a gun, almost like a romantic game between them, as in, ‘Maybe you’ll have to shoot a gun one day.’ But suddenly they said, ‘It could be more shocking if she was put in a situation to make the decision herself to pick up a gun and shoot it without knowing how to do it to save the life of her colleagues,’” says Acebes.
Acebes believes that it is this instinctual style that makes the show work, and it’s something that she looks forward to each time she comes to the set.
“The other side of the equation is that we can work without anticipation. I remember in a moment of chaos, telling the screenwriter, ‘This is what life is like.’ You don’t know that you’re falling in love when you’re falling in love. You don’t know if it’s going to be the love of your life or if it’s going to end the day after tomorrow. In life, we have to improvise,” she says. “That’s part of the magic of ‘Money Heist.’ It’s always alive.”