The next generation of Spanish-language television is upon us thanks to Telemundo. Their novela-series “El Señor de Los Cielos,” returns tonight for its second season on the heels of the announcement that a third season is planned for next year.
Aurelio Casillas is back from the dead and there are debts that needs to be settled with all those who betrayed him. This season you will find the protagonist, played by Rafael Amaya, is more mature and more in control. This is bad news for anyone who crosses him, much like the real life Mexican drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes, which this series is based on.
I caught up with Amaya ahead of tonight’s premiere at 10pm, to discuss this exciting time in Spanish-language television, whether he is enjoying playing the bad guy role, and what adventures will Aurelio go on this season.
Congrats on having the first ever novela-series be renewed for a third season!
"Thank you. We are really proud of this accomplishment. The project is really still on the table to develop after we see how this season does as far as ratings. At the end of the day, it's in the hands of the people if we will be back."
Ever since "La Reina del Sur," I feel like the embodiment of what a traditional soap opera was has been changed forever. This is definitely not your abuelitas novela!
"Totalmente de acuerdo! This is a totally different genre and we are very proud to be part of this movement in a new era of Latin American television. Before, a novela would feature 120 or 180 episodes whereas now, we do 75 episodes. In production, they use high definition cameras with a staff that has roots in film but who understand the rhythm needed for television. Our show is a hybrid of the traditional novela and a series. This is all something very new and we're still trying to work it all out.
When we shot season one, we really didn't know what we were doing. When we did "La Reina del Sur," we were like 'ok that worked but now we need a male anti-hero." I gladly raised my hand saying, 'hey, it's me you're looking for!' So as you can imagine, I was extremely happy when audiences wanted to see more of Aurelio's story, which is why we were renewed for another season. The traditional novela format has been in use for so many years and it's the perfect time to start evolving into something fresh and new."
In your career, you've now done both. Are you finding that you prefer this new format more?
"Doing the melodramatic stuff is nice, but no matter which novela you watch, you know the two leads are going to end up getting married. [laughs] In the end, no matter what else has happened, the two will live happily ever after. You could be watching and the show has only five minutes to wrap, and you begin to doubt the wedding will happen then BOOM! The couple finds themselves in front of an altar as they get married. There are a lot of people who love that fairytale ending. But today, the younger generations have a good time making parodies about the traditional style soap opera. So now we are evolving the classic formula into other genres that people can enjoy however they want: on their telephones, on computers, or on other mobile devices like the iPad.
Audiences have so many options available today that you don’t have to watch novelas. We have listened to the younger generations and that is why we are changing our stories and the way we tell them. The impact of “El Señor de Los Cielos” was so big, NBC Universal bought the rights to make it in English. It is amazing to me that another culture wants to adapt this story into another language.”
What can we expect to see from Aurelio this season?
“His right hand man, El Turko (Arturo Barba), betrayed him by taking his wife, his children, and his fortune. He steals everything from Aurelio since he knew where he kept it all— no one else but him. So when Aurelio returns from what people thought was his death, he attempts to gain back the love of his family, his money, and the territories that belong to him taken by his enemies. This season is all about him taking back his empire and getting revenge. You’re going to see me in the jungles of Colombia and Venezuela. I swear, I felt like Rambo! [laughs] I was armed with knives, bazookas and machine guns. Everyone should prepare for an action-packed season.”
You've played the romantic lead but now you're a total bad boy. How are you liking the shift?
"It's really good! I am feeling really good playing this type of character. It feels weird, [laughs] because I don't know how to react to my feelings but I really like it!
The character's personality really is dependent on the way the writer tells his story. If you're only going to talk about all the good about a character, like in melodramas, it makes me think, 'well, I'm not really all that good in real life.' I do bad things: I talk bad about people, I complain, I say bad words, etc. With a character like Aurelio, we are able to learn about all the good and bad he does. This makes the character multidimensional and he's more real. This brings him much closer to people because we all have our good and bad sides.
I love playing Aurelio because he comes from the north of Mexico, just like me, so his accent is very similar to mine and that of my family. I went to Sinaloa for three months to research the local accents, the food, and how they dress to keep my character authentic to his roots. I also read a lot of books. I feel like everything has to be perfect so when people watch this character, they believe him through and through. People have a lot of options when it comes to programming, so I want to make sure they're only getting the best."
Ahead of tonight’s premiere, check out the top 20 moments of season one below: