Urban Nigths

Meeting María Rodríguez Soto, The Actress Who Conquered SXSW 24

Meeting María Rodríguez Soto, The Actress Who Conquered SXSW 24

María Rodríguez Soto has reigned at this SXSW with a marked Castilian accent. The protagonist of the brilliant and necessary Mamífera has won the SXSW prestigious jury award for her performance in a film that delves into the different prisms of pregnancy and the right to exercise it or not. Liliana Torres’ movie is an ode to freedom and has made some noise precisely in a state like Texas where the right to abortion has been vetoed and has left thousands of women without access to it.

María’s success is an unprecedented milestone. She becomes the first Spanish actress to triumphed at the Texan festival and the second Spanish winner after the triumph in 2017 of Ana Asensio, who received the award for Best Fiction Film for The Most Beautiful Island. We spoke with the award winner about the film and her exciting career. We found her smiling and on cloud nine despite not being able to collect her award in person due to professional commitments.

Meet the actress who reigned at SXSW 24 and who has shone in great theater productions such as Vides Notables or La marca preferida de las hermanas Clausman in notable series such as El tiempo entre costuras, El Ministerio del Tiempo, Les molèsties and Los Herederos de la Tierra, and in films like Los días que vendrán, El Practicante, Libertad, and soon in her new movie Llobàs.

What was the first character you played?

The first one that I remember, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I went into theater, as an extracurricular activity in high school. I must have been about 13 years old then.

Is that when you start to like acting?

At that time, I loved it but I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to dedicate myself to this or not. There were other things that I liked, like Philosophy or Journalism. I was somewhat afraid to dedicate myself to this. After two or three years, I did a performance in a professional theater as part of an exhibition that was held in Barcelona with teenagers to incite culture and I felt such an incredible connection with the audience that I thought: Yes. I feel this and if I could feel it all my life, I want to. That’s when I started being a theater junkie and trying.


What character have you not played that you would have liked to play?

Juliet from Romeo and Juliet. I played Ofelia, which was my favorite and I have that. I have done a check on that. At the Spanish level, I would have liked to play Adela from La Casa de Bernarda Alba but I have grown older, I don’t think I could anymore.

 Theater, TV or movies, which one do you prefer?

I’ll stick with theater, because it’s where I feel most comfortable, where I dare the most and feel freer. But in the movies, the more opportunities you have to work in it, the more comfortable you are and lately it happens to me that I am getting very cool projects that make me feel freer. It’s also true that I’m very used to rehearsing for long periods of time. In theater, rehearsals last about eight weeks, in movies and TV everything is more direct. On the other hand, in Mamífera there was a very cool rehearsal process. If I combined rehearsals and the filming system in the cinema it would be my ideal working method but at the moment it is not happening very frequently.

Mamífera is the second film that faces motherhood in which you participate and you have also won awards in both of them. How did you face Mamífera in comparison to Los Días que Vendrán where you were accompanied by your partner?

In Los Días que Vendrán, we started without knowing where we were going to end up. It was more of an experiment that ended up becoming a film than a film that we had planned. We knew we wanted to make a film about the process of pregnancy but we didn’t know where we were going to end up. On the other hand, Mamífera is a project that comes to me externally. Everything was different. The director came to see me in a play and then we went out for dinner. I didn’t know if it was a half-casting or what it was, but when we started talking I saw that no, we were already starting to work.

I realized that Liliana was very clear about where she wanted to tell this story because she conveys it very well. She is not shy about conveying what she feels on paper. She is a very hardworking aunt who has helped me a lot. It is a very different process although I have felt very much about Mamífera, perhaps because it is the first time that I am in a film in which I appear in almost every shot. I was one of the team as well. I ended up doing a little bit of everything. In addition, an incredible team was created.

Did you expect the SXSW jury award?

No. I spoke with Liliana and Carla Sospedra, who is the producer, the day before and they told me: Tomorrow the awards will be given. They haven’t told us anything, so we’ll go to the gala to see who are the winners. Evidently, I went to sleep that night without thinking in Austin anymore. The next day I get up at 7:30 to take my daughter to school and I see a lot of missed calls. The first thing I thought was: Who died? And when I read all the messages the news gave me a tremendous high. The surprises are greater when you don’t have perspectives, when you don’t project. This was like that, like I couldn’t believe it.

Of course, with the time difference, the calls came very early in the morning because the gala was at 7 in the afternoon in Texas, right?

Exactly! The calls started coming in around 3 in the morning. I had my cell phone on silent. When I got up I didn’t even look at it. I was not aware of that because I tough it was impossible.

A very sweet awakening, I guess.

Absolutely sweet. How describe it? I was in cloud nine for a week.

Were you aware of the magnitude of SXSW before coming?

I was aware because I have friends who have gone to SXSW with movies and when we were selected I knew the importance of simply being in official competition of SXSW. Not only for us but for this film that talks about an issue such as abortion in a state like Texas. I’m also aware that Austin is not Texas. It has a different mindset. From what I have been told it is a very progressive city, is that correct?


You have undoubtedly defined it very well. Austin is a very progressive city as reflected at SXSW, but it is in Texas, which is quite conservative and where women have recently lost the right to abortion due to their ultra-conservative governor.

That’s right. That was very important for us, because there was a kind of poetic justice in going with this film to Texas. Or even provocation. I like both of them and the fact that I won for this character seems almost like a political milestone to me.

It is your third award, do you still experience the same excitement as the first one you received at the Malaga Festival?

It’s always a great emotion. In addition, I have been awarded three totally different awards in different places. I can’t quite believe this award, after not being at the festival and not seeing its magnitude. It seems great to me that a story that we have shot in Barcelona, a small production, that has transcended, that has been able to cross an ocean and that the people there have considered that I deserve this award. It means that there is some hope in the world, that we can communicate and that gives me a great high.

What does this prize mean for you?

At the moment I don’t know. I have more interviews than in my entire life and I also think it means putting myself in a place I wasn’t before at a level where perhaps better projects come. And it is also a recognition of a career that I have been doing like a little ant and that I like the way it is because I am still in the place where I want to be and I can pay my rent and my bills. That this helps to ensure that this situation continues is worth it to me.

How did you work on your character?

I spoke a lot with Lili because she is the director and deep down the film is part of her experiences. She has the desire not to be a mother, she is very clear about it and certain things that she has encountered in her life are what she shows in the movie. So I had a very clear and close reference. But I told her I wasn’t going to take anything from her and she agreed. I was clear that I wanted a very different Lola. And she is.

The script is beautiful, the score is very clear and having her close to her has been the easiest. I like to start from myself but start because if I base myself on myself I will make things unique because there is no one else like me. That gives me the security of being able to do it and move on to another side. I need it to be brave when it comes to being an actress. I think it’s a great value in acting. When I see brave people who take risks doing things, I love it. It’s what I value the most. In the cinema it is more difficult for me to see it because it is a different language than theater.

It’s easier for me if I can jump from myself to a place. Then, I have also worked a lot with my colleagues, with Enrique Auquer who was my partner and with all my friends through listening and going through things looking for where you feel comfortable in all scenarios.

Because everything is very intimate in the movie, right?

Exactly! I am a mother. That is very far from Lola’s entire story and her condition. She is an absolutely politicized woman regarding the animal world, very consistent with the ecosystem and the world. I am also very aware of the world we inhabit and I am very consistent on an ecological level, but I am not an animalist, I eat meat and Lola is an absolutely radical person with this. There are many things that are far apart between Lola and María and I liked that.

In Los Días que Vendrán, I showed my pregnant body and there was like a mix of documentary and film. You saw it and doubted whether the protagonist was really an actress or not. In Mamífera, it is different and I like this too. Because for me, Los Días que Vendrán was not a documentary, in fact, we made it as a starting point opposite to mine and my partner’s.

Is motherhood and abortion a taboo in movies?

More than a taboo, it is a topic that It has not been of interest because women have not been in a place of power. Not only about power but about experimentation, directing, scriptwriting, acting and being able to push forward production companies, projects that talk about us. It’s just now when people start talking about these things.

The film has triumphed in a state where women are prohibited from exercising the right to abort. Does that circuntance show how necessary this type of cinema is, committed to the right of women to do with their bodies as they please?

It’s super important. I think the people at the festival have been aware of this. Everything is political and it is great to be able to reach these places and open doors to women who may not feel represented in this state or who are not even in favor of the right to abortion but who can see the film and change their mentality. And it is important to tell it from a place where all possible realities are exposed: the right to be a mother, the desire to get pregnant and not be able to, getting pregnant and not wanting to be pregnant… they put as many proposals on the table as possible. That’s the beauty of the film that it is not about judging, the purpose is just to show.


Do you think that through your success at SXSW the possibility of having distribution in the United States will increase?

More than before SXSW for sure. It is probable. Also, a super cool report came out in Variety. The truth is that I have not been aware of all these issues. I have arranged to meet the director but I have not yet seen Carla, the producer. I guess things are moving, I don’t know but I hope.

How has the reception been in Spain?

We haven’t released it yet. The world premiere was in Austin. We premiered in Spain at D’A, the Barcelona author festival on April 6. In theaters, April 26. We do not yet know the reception we will have in Spain.

Well, the first feedback has been unbeatable.

Now I’m scared in case people tell me: well, it’s not that big of a deal (laughs).

What is the process like to enter the official section at SXSW and premiere there?

The production companies send their project to different festivals and from there the festivals are the ones who decide whether or not you enter the official section. The production company sent the movie to Austin and they said yes.

It’s a very SXSW movie, really. Does the fact of premiering in Austin deprive Mamífera of participating in other Spanish festivals?

I think we couldn’t in the official section after our premiere at SXSW. But in other sections maybe yes. Hopefully. I would love to go to Donosti, for example.

What projects do you have now?

I have the following: I am three weeks away from premiering a play at the National Theater of Catalonia called Los Criminales, by Ferdinand Bruckner. It’s about the Weimar Republic. I’ll do it for a month and a half and then I have a movie in September that I can’t say much about and then I’m waiting to release two more movies. One called La casa en llamas directed by Dani de la Orden and another called Llobàs, by Pau Calpe. Suddenly, in a month I release the three films I made last year. I’m really in a super sweet moment.

No comments yet. Be the first one to leave a thought.
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply