A fairytale love story – from set to reality. A captivating couple in the movies and real life, Emmanuel Esparza and Essined Aponte, met during the filming of ‘La Reina De Indias y El Conquistador’ (English: ‘The Queen and The Conqueror’) in 2020 and are now a dynamic duo in the film, sports and gastronomy industry. 

Valenciano at heart, Emmanuel started his career as a model, then studied script writing in London, and is now one of Colombia’s most successful actors. Essined is an island girl from Puerto Rico, who initially studied architecture, but her destiny took a different turn with time. Her career kicked off exponentially this year with the French movie ‘Medellin’, which hit the charts for best movie on Prime Video in June 2023. Emmanuel and Essined are a team, they push and motivate each other and are extremely passionate about their work. 


Before we talk about your recent project, I would like to know a little about your beginnings. You were born and grew up in Puerto Rico and are the elder sister of a family of all women. You then moved to Miami to pursue a career in acting. How was your upbringing on the island and what are some of your fondest memories?

My upbringing on the island was very nice. I think that’s why I am so lively, so taken to the Caribbean. My whole being is Caribbean. It was very pretty and oriented on the countryside. My family is humble, not pretentious. It’s a working family, it’s a farm family, so it was very nice. It was ingrained in the earth, a childhood where I ran barefoot in the field and threw myself with them on the mountains. It was a time when we were all very close, where age still didn’t matter. 

And how did you know you wanted to be an actress?

When I arrived in Miami, it was for a beauty reality show. Part of my development in the process of the show was that I did very well in everything that was acting, without studying it or anything. At the time, a famous actor told me “You have to study acting because you are very good”. Initially I thought that I didn’t have to, but then he told me that in Mexico there was a school of Televisa, where they make soap operas at their school, and to ask one of the judges. Then I was given the casting and managed to get into the school. But it was a year before I got in when I decided to be an actress, I was already 22 years old, it almost came by mistake and I think fate guided me this way. I was studying interior design before because I wanted to be an architect, so I was the oldest in my group when I started studying.

I want to congratulate you on the launch of ‘Medellin’, a French action film directed by and starring Franck Gaztambide. It is about a young man named Brahim, a YouTuber who is kidnapped by narcos in Medellin, and his brother Reda convinces his friends Stan and Shafick to accompany him on a rescue mission. The movie is gaining a lot of attention worldwide. How do you feel about that?

I am happy. I mean, we hit number one in such a short time. I am so excited, it’s amazing. It is impressive as you sometimes expect a lot from a project that may not have so much impact, but you are so passionate about that you hope and dream that it goes well. This project was one of those that, at the time, excited me a lot because I had overcome barriers as an actress and as a person. What that project has achieved right now was beyond my expectations. 

And in fact, your character in the movie is Cynthia and Marisa, a stripper and a cop. Can you tell me a little about how was it when you first got the script? 

The first time I received the script, it was in English. When I went to do my callback in Paris, I thought I would be in an English scene. Then I learned that it was not in English, but in French.

I was very scared at first, but something funny happened. When they told me it was in French, I automatically said I could do it. And right there, I broke a barrier. I was already very scared in English, but in French, I never imagined that I would achieve it. I overcame the fear because I did something that was already amazing. It was speaking a language that I didn’t fully understand. I didn’t understand anything, zero. When I eventually started practicing, I had three scripts, one in Spanish, one in English and one in French. I practiced it in all three languages. I knew all the scenes by heart and I learned it phonetically. But then I had to understand what my character’s goal was, to never get out of it, so no matter what they did, I could stay in my character, which was a great achievement for me. A big surprise was to be able to act in all three languages.


How was it working with this team?

Wonderful. The team took care of me. Since I was the only woman in the cast, the director made sure to make me feel protected and guarded by the whole team. They never made me feel less, even though most of the team was French. Even the Colombians there spoke the language, so they always tried to make me feel part of the family. I realized that a lesson I learned as an actress is that, in my experience, that movie created my work methodology. Previously I studied and memorized and worked according to the line of the character, but in this case, I had to read the script so many times so I could remember and learn the lines of the other actors. I had to learn the other characters’ journey to know my line because I had no power of play. I changed the methodology because of what Emmanuel once told me. He told me Anthony Hopkins reads the script at least 150 times so he can learn everything.

Before filming ‘Medellin’, you worked on a historical drama ‘The Cry of the Butterflies’ (‘El Grito De La Mariposas’)’. What was it like to switch from a historical drama to an action movie?

Since the movie ‘Nicky Jam’ (‘El Ganador’), I hadn’t stopped working on historical stuff. I always liked or wanted to do projects that not only entertained, but also allowed me to show or teach a part of history to the public. After working on this sort of movies, I began telling myself that I want action, I need action, I need change. 

In general, how you prepare mentally and emotionally for a movie or a show.

I go for the adventure. I usually want to be surprised. I start by studying the time period. I’ve become very obsessed with knowing in what time the story is oriented, what the purpose of that story is and, depending on the character, what is the objective of this character in the story. Then I start reading the script repeatedly, so I no longer have to think about memorizing and am instead able to interpret my own text. And then comes the physical. I begin to give weight to my body, the face, the gestures. How can I work on looking ruder or more emotionally weighted, more loaded, responsible or not responsible? Do I have children or not? These are all details that somehow enrich the characters, how they walk, how they talk. 

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on a series, a Mexican comedy set in the fifties. It’s comedy, but it’s about female sexual liberation. It’s a series based on true facts. Mexico is historically a very sexist country. Women couldn’t vote until 1953. It’s also a patriarchal country, where the man was the one who went out to work and could leave you in the street if he wanted to. 


sweater, trousers, boots and bracelet VERSACE

You’ve been active in the film and television industry since 2005, correct?

A little before 2005. When I finished high school, I studied advertising, public relations, image and sound, and after a summer being an intern, I realized that’s not what I wanted to do. At that time, I was part of a modeling agency in Valencia, acting in short films and advertisements, but I also really loved writing. Then once I finished my degree, I realized it was not what I wanted to do, so I went to London to get a film script and acting course. While living in the city, I served breakfasts in a hotel to sustain my life there for a year. When I returned from London, I did my first casting and got picked for ‘Family Business’. After that, I went to Madrid to shoot ‘La Dársena de Poniente’. Then I went to a very important casting held in Spain for one of the characters entering at the end of the season of the famous series ‘Ugly Betty’. In Spain, it was ‘I Am Bea’. It was my first national casting. From there on, my career took off. We did like 500 episodes of that show in Madrid, they bought the rights to that series and then they rewrote the story itself. 

How was your upbringing in Spain?

My childhood in Valencia was wonderful. I think I was lucky enough to be born in such a beautiful city. Very complex for the profession I had chosen of course, but a city to which I will always return. All my memories of Valencia are incredible and every time I return, I find myself being thankful for being born there, for having the beaches of Valencia, for having such a beautiful city to walk, to enjoy,and to show it off to people who don’t know it. How could I not be proud about it. There are very few cities that offer you what Valencia offers. It’s a relatively small city, but has everything you need. 

Out of all the work and projects you’ve done so far, which was your favorite or at least one of your favorites?

My favorite projects for many reasons is ‘Sitiados 2’ that came out on Fox in 2015.

full look GIVENCHY

You starred in the Colombian film ‘Que Corre Por Tus Venas’, released on March 23 of this year. This criminal drama is about a group of thieves planning an attack in Colombia and you play Hollywood, a cop in charge of solving the mystery behind the threats. This is the first film by Felipe Vallejo, director of the film. Can you tell us what it was like working with him and a little bit about the story and your character?

For me, this was crazy from the beginning. It was crazy to make a movie in just four weeks. It was a very big risk also because we had a low budget. The story of this film begins when the director visited me at the theater almost three years ago. I was doing a play in Bogota at the time. He came to the theater with his wife, we met at the cafeteria and he handed me the script. He told me “I want you to be my protagonist”. I read it on the plane from Madrid to Valencia, where I would spend my Christmas holidays. 

I loved it. I noticed that many things needed improvement. Nonetheless, when I returned, he wanted me to be the main character so badly because he knew I studied scriptwriting. But every time he tried to make the film, he didn’t have the money for it. Ten years go by, he tried to do the movie six times and never could. Suddenly everything changed, he finally found an investor. We traveled from Bogota to Ibagué inTolima, a tiny Colombian city, about four hours away by car. And this happened in the middle of the pandemic. 

Since you have been involved in many Colombian television series and films, how do you perceive the evolution of the country’s film industry and what changes have you noticed so far? Where would you like it to go in the future?

It’s a super important question. Since I arrived, I noticed a terrible lack of support for the Colombian film industry. In other words, the difference with Spain is abysmal for many reasons. It’s a shame because there are some very talented people. What surprised me was only one film in the late 1980s. Thirty-five years ago, a film called ‘La Estrategia del Caracol’ (‘The Strategy Of The Snail’)  came out from the director Sergio Cabrera, who is now a close friend of mine. That film won over 70 international awards and put Colombia on the map as a country that could make movies. 

It has taken more than two decades for a small evolution of Colombian directors who can present films internationally. For example, you see the abysmal difference with Mexico. During the last five years, three Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture were for Mexican directors. That has never happened in Colombia. There is a woman director and a man director who have two or three films that have made it to festivals. They made ‘The Snake’s Embrace’ and ‘Summer Birds’. These Colombian movies are cult movies. They’re not big budget movies. In almost all of these films there are no professional actors, so it’s very complex. I think that’s going to change, but there’s still a lot to go

You’ve also been busy with the theatrical play ‘ART’, alongside actors Diego Trujillo and John A. Toro. In your point of view as an actor, what are the main differences between cinema, television and theater?

The are many differences. In this case, a young actor’s mistake is thinking that studying our profession is going to an academy that teaches you acting or having an acting coach. In my perspective, an actor evolves by doing many different projects, whether in film, theater or cinema. It is important not to get stuck in doing the same role or focus too much on one of these sectors. People don’t understand that it’s like some kind of training. Yes, film and television are learned by doing film, theater and television. Cinema doesn’t have to be making a $150 million movie or getting caught by an actor like Almodóvar to make a movie. You can make movies at home.

What does ‘ART’ talk about?

 ‘ART’ is a mythical comedy play that was made in the early 1990s. It has been performed in theatres around the world for over 30 years, both in Hollywood, London, Argentina and France. The play was written by a French playwright of Iranian origin named Yasmina Reza, who won all the international theater awards. It talks about the friendship between three men. The play starts with one of the men purchasing a very expensive plain white painting, which generates conflict between them, putting in question their entire friendship. The first two minutes is one of the actors watching the picture and the other friend is really surprised. Then you realize who goes, who stays and who accepts the other, even after such an impulsive decision. 


Essined: full look MAX MARA
ear cuff SUOT STUDIO 
Emmanuel: full look LOUIS VUITTON

As in a fairy tale, you met during the filming of a telenovela shot almost three years ago. Now you are an active couple, hardworking in all aspects: sports, travel, gastronomy, cinema and more. How do you perceive your evolution as actors from the telenovela until now and what has changed mostly on a human and artistic level?

Emmanuel: I firmly believe, and I say it from the heart, that it has happened to us both. We were both in different moments in our careers. Filming of ‘The Queen and the Conqueror’’ I consecrate my career in Colombia, while it was her first time being the protagonist of a long-running show for Netflix. I think the process in these three years that you’re referring to is more of a human and personal process that we’ve already come to the conclusion that we had to go through. Ending the series at the time of personal situation of everyone we had, her ending a relationship, me separating from my ex-wife, and at the same time facing a global pandemic that condemned us to be a year almost without working, made you start to value that life can not be only work. We realize that we have to accept some work that is not exactly what we would have wanted, you realize you can’t depend on making a lead in a TV series to live on. Life can’t just be about being a protagonist. It is about the small things,  sharing a meal, playing sports with your partner, having a walk, seeing your parents, watching a movie, reading a book, everyday things that until then for us were not as important as starring in a series or a project. 

You both live in Bogotá and as we have said before, you both flourished and gained exponential fame in this country that now became your home. What is it like to live in this city, what makes it so unique and what makes Colombia such a special country to live and work in?

Emmanuel: I’s absolute chaos. It’s a very chaotic city. The thing is the people in Colombia are spectacular. People have a big heart and don’t need to step on top of people to get where they want to get. They don’t pull you back. When they notice someone is worth it, they accept you in an incredible way. It’s also because I have been very lucky and starred in series that have gone very well. I love that everyone on the team is enjoying it. 

Essined: I am so grateful for this city. It is a city that invites foreigners in many ways. A place that culturally feeds you and is addicting at the same time. It’s like going to war because you are fighting with many things, like traffic, the weather, etc. But you end up falling in love and defending it whenever someone talks bad about it. It helps you move from your comfort zone. It is a city full of movement and energy that goes beyond what you can experience physically. It also helps you to be in constant growth. 

earring GIVENCHY
Emmanuel: jacket with shirt collar PRADA

Who are your favorite actors? 

Emmanuel: It’s a question they ask us a lot, but after much thought, if I have to tell you that my favorite actress is Meryl Streep. After Meryl Streep come Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis. I think no one has achieved as she did in her career. 

Essined: I also say Meryl Streep.

Joiah: What impact do you expect your work to have on the immediate public in the long term, personally or collectively?

Emmanuel: I’ve realized how nice it is to be aware of how important it is to control the ego as an artist. But while I tell you it’s good to control it, it’s also very important to have it under control. When I say get it under control, I mean you have to get it because the one that doesn’t, their aspirations are never going to be big enough as what you dreamed or wanted to do when you became an artist. My dream was always to make a character, tell a story or write a story that lasts over time. I want the person who sees it in the next hundred years to remember it even when I will no longer be in this world. 

Essined: I think the same thing. As actors we are emotional junkies somehow. When you’re creating a character, on a greater or lesser scale, there’s a part of the ego that wants to be recognized in that character. For me, the best example is Marlon Brando, a figure that never dies because they always live to the memory, passed on from one person to another.

What are your upcoming film and personal projects?

Essined: I have two projects. One is a movie called ‘Erase Una Vez En El Caribe’ (‘Once Upon A Time In The Caribbean’), which will hopefully be out by September. ‘Medellín’ has just premiered and it has been like a dream for me. I am also acting in a project that deals with two seasons of a comedy story that is about female sexual liberation.

Emmanuel: We are now at the time of the broadcast of ‘Romina Poderosa’ in Caracol. It is a production of Caracol for Netflix, with which it will be broadcast for three months on Caracol and then released by Netflix Internationallly. My next project at the end of the year will be in Colombia and for now, we’ll be in Bogota.

Casting & Interview Joiah Luminosa @__joiah____

Talents Emmanuel Esparza & Essined Aponte @esparzaemmanuel @essinedaponte

Photography JuanKR @juankr_

Styling Rubén Cortés @ruwithoutpaul

Make-up Antonio Romero @antonioromeromakeup

Hair Matthew Tuozzoli @tuozzoli

Styling assistant Verónica Faya @veronicafaya

Production Room Service 039 @roomservice039

Editor Timi Letonja @timiletonja

Cover design Arthur Roeloffzen @arthurroeloffzen