Pedro Alonso, much like Berlin, the character he plays in Money Heist, is distinguished, charming and charismatic. The success of the Netflix crime series has made the Spanish actor a global star and his fame has only gone up since the launch, on Dec. 29, of Money Heist prequel Berlin, in which he reprises his role as the conniving, manipulative thief who is also a hopeless romantic.
Alonso admits to feeling “vertigo” at the level of media exposure that came with the international success of Money Heist but says he doesn’t worry about being typecast in the role. Instead, he sees the chance to return to Berlin in the spin-off series a “vital gift [both] narrative and professional.”
THR Roma spoke to Alonso about why Berlin is as much a romantic comedy as a crime thriller, the “paradox” of its central character, who is both a romantic and “an emotional terrorist” and how the success of Money Heist has allowed him “to have many other lives,” including, most recently, as a novelist.
During the promotion of the last season of Money Heist, you said that Berlin is a character of opposites. When everything goes wrong, he rises to the challenge and when things go well he messes them up. How did you approach the character in the new series, which takes place before the events of Money Heist?
The riskiest thing we did had to do with the tone [of the new series]. The first month and a half of shooting we talked about tone hundreds of times. We were moving more towards a romantic comedy. The character was starting to become more of a feel-good movie protagonist. At one point we found ourselves in Paris, talking about love. I was afraid the character would be distorted, that he would lose his DNA. [Having Berlin as a romantic lead] wouldn’t have made sense, would it? We are doing a new genre and we found we were speaking from another place. That made us work with a wider stylistic range. [Berlin] the character is at times, creepy, unpredictable, and definitely unpresentable, but he still strongly seeks romantic love, even if it is through very questionable strategies [laughs]. For me, the greatest difficulty was to feel comfortable in the character [despite this] very intricate weaving job. We had to reinvent the series. I think it is a very clear evolution of what we had before. It’s another galaxy. We’ve thrown ourselves into the romantic comedy genre. We’ve brought it back to life to kill it off for good [laughs]
What’s your take on Berlin and his obsession with love in this series?
I think Berlin is an emotional terrorist, a sociopath, a liar, an evil beast. But in a world where almost all of us live very disassociated lives, he tries to make every moment [intense] both for himself and for those around him. He conceals everything as a means of wreaking havoc. Of course, having a guy like this talking about love, is a great contradiction.
Were you afraid of being trapped in this role, of being typecast as Berlin?
When I was offered to play Berlin, I wasn’t afraid that the character wouldn’t have a life, a career, beyond the series. It’s like playing Sherlock Holmes. Berlin is a category, a narrative category. As soon as I saw the new characters [in Berlin] I said to myself: the previous Berlin is from a different universe. This is another time, another approach, another tone, another genre. I did experience vertigo at the level of media exposure of the [Money Heist] phenomenon. But, for me, [playing Berlin] has been a vital gift, a narrative and professional gift. And it allows me to do other things. This year I produced, directed and wrote a non-fiction series. I made a science fiction film [Awareness]. I published a novel [Libro di Filippo]. I take on the ‘burden’ that this role entails because it allows me to have many other lives. I don’t think it’s a bad deal.
In Money Heist, you showed off your singing voice, and many of the Italian songs featured on the show surged up the charts again. You’re back singing in Berlin. More Italian hits.
Yes, Felicità and Como yo te amo. You can only hear it very briefly, but we also recorded Como yo te amo.
You seem to love it, singing.
At home, when I sang as a child, they would tell me: ‘Pedro, don’t sing.’ And I don’t think I ever did, before singing Bella Ciao [in Money Heist]. I had never sung a whole song in my life. I had a little difficulty doing it. I had to do it because we were shooting a fictional character. I had to overcome a lot of my modesty. But now, we’re very clearly in concert mode [laughs]. We are recording melodic, romantic Italian songs as if we were [Italian pop duo] Albano and Romina. This is one of those gifts that my profession has given me. Singing for me was like jumping into the ocean. I never thought I could do it and enjoy it in this way. I want to sing more.