Crime Scene joins the cast and crew in the show’s women’s prison near Madrid to discuss the jail break and the inmates’ survival methods for Series 2 of the hit Spanish drama...
A first look at Season 2 of the Spanish prison drama following last year’s jail break.
CREATED BY: ALEX PINA, IVAN ESCOBAR, ESTHER MARTINEZ LOBATO, DANIEL ECIJA STARRING: MAGGIE CIVANTOS, NAJWA NIMRI, BERTA VA ZQUEZ, DANIEL ORTIZ (WALTER PRESENTS) 2016
Thirty minutes north of Madrid, in the small town of Colmenar Viejo, stands a large nondescript building. A former factory, it’s now home to Cruz del Sur, the fictional women’s prison at the heart of Locked Up, titled Vis A Vis (slang for “conjugal visits”) in Spain, where it’s been a runaway hit. British viewers are now about to get the chance to watch the 12-episode second season via Walter Presents, Channel 4’s foreign-language streaming service.
It’s early April 2016 and the production has reached the penultimate day of the Series 2 shoot, which began six months earlier. Extras are mingling outside, smoking cigarettes and basking in the sunshine between takes. They’re all dressed in banana-yellow jumpsuits, white tee-shirts and trainers, a huge contrast to the dull gun-metal colouring of the walls, corridors and gantries inside. Never mind Orange Is The New Black. This is more like Yellow Is The New Grey.
Natural light floods into the soundproof building, in which telescopic sights were once manufactured. “There were abandoned prisons [ we looked at],” explains the show’s co-creator and executive producer Alex Pina. “They’ve been used for films. But we couldn’t use them. It was complicated to work with the public institutions that look after the prisons in Spain.” Season 2 has seen some additions too: gym, kitchen and Irish pub sets all built in the space.
On set today is Maggie Civantos, who plays Macarena, the once-timid accountant who was sentenced to seven years in jail for tax fraud. Below her blonde locks, she has a stitched scar on her forehead, a testament to Pina’s claims that “there is more violence” coming in Season 2. In the mess hall, the raven-haired Najwa Nimri – who plays the prison hard-case Zulema, sworn enemy to Macarena – is having blood applied to her face by a make-up artist.
The finale of Season 1 saw Zulema and her cronies dramatically break from prison (through a hole hidden in the laundry room), dragging Macarena along with them. “The starting point of the second season is the end of the first season,” explains Pina. “Zulema escapes, so that’s the beginning. Of course, they are going back to the prison because this is a prison series.” No spoilers here: the trailer for Season 2 says as much, with Zulema muttering “home sweet home” as she returns to Cruz del Sur.
Nimri claims she built her character in “a comic book or fairy tale way” – and there is something of the wicked witch about her. But for all its heightened reality, Locked Up is no exaggeration. “We did a lot of interviews with [ real] inmates and what we found out is that everything in real life is worse than what the series portrays,” says Pina. “For example, the sexual relations between the guards and the inmates or the drugs issues in the prisons.”
Pina promises there will be “another thriller plot relating to new characters” part-way through Series 2. But really, it’s the central relationship between Macarena and Zulema that intrigues. “In the second season, it’s very interesting. We have to cooperate together,” reveals Civantos. “It’s good because it’s two different characters, antagonists, who have to cooperate. It’s love and hate.”
Certainly, this will be music to fans’ ears. When the show first debuted in Spain in March 2015, it was attracting four million
“OF COURSE, THEY ARE GOING BACK TO THE PRISON ”
viewers an episode, with critics comparing it to The Wire. Spanish-language drama rarely makes the transition to the international stage, but this was different. Nimri felt it as soon as she was approached to play Zulema. “It was serious, it was big, it’s ambitious – and they had money,” she says.
While the creators took inspiration from Australian perennial Prisoner: Cell Block H, the show has already proved itself far removed from Netflix’s women-in-prison show Orange Is The New Black. “That is a black comedy,” says Civantos, “and this is a thriller.” That becomes apparent in the afternoon, when a scene is being shot in the courtyard. A helicopter is landing in the distance, the rotor roaring, as Macarena is marched across the tarmac in the baking heat by two policemen.
Reputedly, our anti-heroine holds a vital clue to an investigation – a further hint that her power on the inside is growing. “I’ve enjoyed it more than the first season,” admits Civantos. “My character is changing every episode. In the first season, she is more innocent. All the characters beat me and insult me. I was playing scared. This is now more complex. My character is good but she has started to do bad things to survive.”
Macarena Ferreiro (Maggie Civantos) must learn how to survive in prison.