interview by JUAN MARTI

We recently experienced a solar eclipse and people went crazy, everyone bought glasses, stopped their lives and looked up at the sky waiting for the momentary night to come over the world. It was a very special moment. And it is no exaggeration when I compare that event to the meeting of two actresses of the stature of Elena Anaya and Irene Escolar. These two women are two of the most glittering stars of Spanish cinema, two of the most awarded and acclaimed, being even recipients respectively of the Goya award for Best Leading Actress. What is the reason for this epic meeting? Irene and Elena star in the new Disney+ hit show, The Long Shadows. In this thriller, a cross between Big Little Lies and I Know What You Did Last Summer, directors Clara Roquet and Júlia de Paz dissect the ties that bind a group of friends marked by a tragic event in the past. With erudition and fortitude, Elena and Irene, suspect and cop in fiction, fight a battle against the weight of secrets, guilt and fear. An authentic thriller that has already hooked audiences who cannot escape the spell of these two queens of Spanish cinema and television. Long live Elena Anaya and Irene Escolar!

Today is Monday, how did you start the week?
E.A. Well, we haven’t stopped for the last few days with the press tour of The Long Shadows. We are very excited to have been able to deliver this series to the public. It’s a bit like giving birth (laughs).

What is a normal Monday like for you?
I.E. It depends a lot on whether you are working or not. The common thing in this profession is to spend long periods of time without work, even though people often think the opposite. Being an actor means spending long periods alone and you have to learn to fill the empty spaces, the moments when you don’t have a project. If I wasn’t working I would probably have exercised, gone to the supermarket or read for a while. I always try to read for two hours a day and sometimes I watch films or go for walks with friends.

E.A. Indeed, as Irene says, this profession is somewhat unstable and creates uncertainty throughout your life. There are people who can take part in a workshop or go to painting classes in the afternoons, but not us, because when we start filming, our day-to-day life stops and that makes it difficult for us to have a routine, a daily life. We fill the gaps in our daily life with what we can and we make up, until you become a mother. Then you are a mother when you are working and when you are not. So we get up at a quarter to seven and I make breakfast for my children. That’s our way of starting the day, which sometimes turns into a kind of tour de force where you don’t have time to rest for a minute. There are days when I realize that I haven’t even been able to drink water, that I haven’t stopped doing the washing machines and those things around the house like cooking delicious things.



Do you cook? 
E.A. I cook very tasty things but always in a hurry. My best dish is couscous. 

My father makes delicious couscous! 
E.A. I’m more or less good at cooking, because I have no choice. I was taught to cook at home and I’ve always liked it, ever since I was a child. Now I cook for my own family. It’s impossible, but I’ve tried! The pancakes come out very tasty, although I’m sure Irene that if we make pancakes together one day, they would be even tastier for you. 

I.E. No way! 

When did you two meet?
I.E. We met at the San Sebastian Festival years ago, I had her sitting next to me and I couldn’t stop thinking about how beautiful she was. 

E.A. How long ago was that?

I.E. Years ago! I think you were presenting the film you shot with Woody Allen. I’ve seen Elena’s films since I was a little girl and how she has taught us all about talent and composure. She is a woman I always like to see on screen, she always does well. I’ve admired her all my life.

trousers ORIBU


Are there any films that you like from each other’s filmography?
I.E. There are many of Elena’s! I know that she doesn’t like me because I haven’t made that many films.

You’ve done a lot of things!
I.E. Yes, but not as much as you. 

E.A. In The Girls Are Fine I loved your character with her madness and desperation. It’s a beautiful film in which all the actresses are fabulous. In Pascal Ramber’s play, Finlandia, I also loved you. Your work in that play is crazy and very topical. You always learn from Irene and when I work with her, I try to be very attentive because you gain a lot of knowledge. 

What have you been able to learn from her during the filming of The Long Shadows?
E.A. Irene has something that I still haven’t achieved and that I admire a lot. She has a lot of courage and freedom when it comes to seeing the scene we’ve just shot, so she can analyse her work and see if it needs to be repeated and do another take to improve it. She is very open to say what she thinks so she can improve it and at the same time, she does it with a lot of calmness to the team and with the intention that everyone is very happy. She has the poise of actresses like Charlotte Rampling, she knows everything and has a brutal intuition. Irene is very focused, very professional and that is necessary because it helps the rest of us to work better. It is very difficult to reach her level of demand and concentration. 



Of all the female characters in The Long Shadows, why do you think you were chosen to play Rita and Paula? 
I.E. I’m not very sure about the reasons because, objectively, I don’t see myself in that character. In my case it was necessary to see myself in that position, to see that I could do it, because at first glance I don’t look like Paula. The casting directors decided to trust me and give me the opportunity to do something that I wanted to do because it was a character very different from me.

How have you prepared to play Paula? 
I.E. It was a character that I had to prepare a lot because of the distance between us. Physically it has required a lot of preparation, training and making my body very strong. I needed that physical strength to feel that I could be the tough policewoman that Paula is. I am a short person, and I needed my body to be intimidating in some way to represent the external and internal violence of the character. The physical preparation helped me to become aware of my character’s body and even her sexuality. 

E.A. I would see her acting and she would make gestures that I knew were not Irene’s, they were Paula’s. I knew that Paula was a very funny character. 

I.E. Paula has been a very fun character to play. She is a woman with many layers, built in a very special way, she is three-dimensional and has nuances that make you empathise with her. 

I found your character to be very tragic, she fights some very devastating battles.
I.E. Paula has a very bleak life, she discovers unpleasant truths that make her realise that the people around her are not as she thought they were, there is a lot of selfishness in those people. 

Were you able to talk to any real policemen to prepare the character? 
I.E. A friend of mine introduced me to a girl who is a policeman and I asked her a lot of questions on Whatsapp. She helped me a lot to understand reality, even when I asked her absurd questions. I am very grateful to her. She was also a great help in creating the physical part of Paula with her clothes and tattoos. 

Do you have any tattoos?
I.E. Paula’s are not real (laughs). 

E.A. I’m not interested in getting one (laughs). 

Mati, Paula’s sister, is the great enigma of the series and a very controversial character. 
E.A. I think she is a victim of the system and society and how it is structured and the things she has lived through since she was a child.

Don’t you think that sometimes we look for goodness in the actions of characters who are not good? 
E.A. We should focus the blame on the oppressors because Mati is a consequence of what adults have provoked in her life. 

What can you tell me about the preparation of your character, Rita?
E.A. Since the age of 18, Rita has been on the run because of the tragedy in their lives and the suspicions that devour the friendship she has with the girls. She does not see herself able to live with the pact and the lies. Rita’s character revolves around her own identity and the duality she struggles with. She must either face up to what has happened or take a step back and so she decides to walk away from it all and run away. Rita creates a mask to protect herself. This facet of her as a film director is a way of protecting herself that she believes to be genuine. She is a very observant woman, she looks at the world until suddenly she can’t see anything and is blind to what is happening around her. Everything explodes because she has no choice. When she returns to Elda she goes back to the beginning of everything, the drama is activated and anguish and impotence takes over her. She then feels the need to put everything in order and to understand how her friends have been able to live with so many ghosts and lies. I found her to be an incredible and difficult character, very far from my reality, although I always end up identifying with my characters in one way or another. Rita has moved me, imagining what it must be like to live alone, without support or understanding, constantly feeling that you are a fraud, a mistake. Her glasses were key in designing the character, she hides behind them. She doesn’t want to be looked at, she doesn’t want to be analysed. When she expresses herself, she does so by being Rita Montero, the film director.

As the series progresses, she stops hiding. 
E.A. And one thing I’d like to say about Irene is that I found her performance intimidating. Paula is an intimidating woman who is reopening a case and she is the one who interrupts the lives of these friends to tell them that some human remains have turned up. There was a certain sense of being in a western when her character appears opposite mine, they always confront each other with their looks and gestures. Paula and Rita live a parallel journey, they seek the truth but from opposite sides of the chessboard. 

I.E. A scene comes to mind that was very important for me. In it I interrupt the group of friends after the screening of a film by Rita. I was very nervous because it was my turn to go on stage and face this group of wonderful actresses. I had to arrive and impose myself. It was my first day rehearsing the character of Paula and I hadn’t yet incorporated it into myself. When we filmed it, after a while I felt that I had crossed a bridge to her, that I already felt that she was part of me and that it was easy to impose myself and make the others feel her presence. I had succeeded!

Your character arrives to revolutionise this group of friends, but I would like to know, What do you think the series says about female friendship? 
E.A. Female friendship is a very broad topic. In this particular group of friends there is something of what they were in the past and what they are now. There are people who manage to maintain the authenticity of adolescence during their adult life and others who lose it, who become other people. Rita has become someone else and wants to run away from who she was in the past. But I think that even with everything, in this group of friends there is still that feeling that you can always go back to them, to that unconditional friendship no matter what. That’s something that I, Elena, feel about my friends in real life.

I.E. That group of friends also reflects the feeling that those with whom you have grown up and lived important moments, in some way know you a lot, sometimes even more than you know yourself. I have friends who have known me since I was a teenager and friends who have known me forever, and the friends who have known me for a long time I think they know me in a way better than I know myself, because they have known that freedom that we all feel when we are teenagers. Our personalities change a lot over time, but that essence doesn’t change and they know it.  


Do you usually make plans with your friends? 
I.E. I am someone who gives a lot of importance to friendship, a lot. And I also like to feel it, because I have very little family and they are my family, sometimes that scares me too, but if I consider them my family and I need them to be there, and I need to be there for them always. 

E.A Yes, I agree. 

Tell me about the last cool thing you did with your friends. 
I.E. We had a barbecue in Torrelodones. 

E.A. In the middle of the promo of The Long Shadows I met again a friend from high school who was really important for me and who led me to the path that would take me to be who I want to be and to do what I really wanted to do with my life. I saw her yesterday and today we had breakfast together.

What do you think if we dedicate this interview to our friends? 
I.E. I think it’s a great idea!

E.A. Yes, it is!

Here’s to our friends!

photography assistant JAVIER RAMIREZ
production and interview JUAN MARTI
Elena’s makeup NATALIA BELDA using Saigu Cosmetics
Irene’s makeup PAULA SOROA via Ten Agency using Armani Beauty
makeup assistant BY PATRICIA BROG