Netflix is gearing up to debut the original crime thriller “Santo,” which bows out on September 16, marking a new milestone for the US streaming giant – its first feature project filmed between Spain and Brazil, two of its major overseas markets.
This series is a big undertaking, featuring experienced partners and talent behind the camera. Produced by Nostromo Pictures (“Through My Window”) with the support of Prodigo Films (“Invisible City”), the eight-episode series was created by Carlos López (“La Embajada”) and directed by Vicente Amorim (“Yakuza Princess”), an edited writer. Consolidating him in the past few years as one of the leading action series pioneers in Brazil, having been paired with the Netflix direct banner title “Senna”.
“Santo” follows two stubborn but disparate cops, Cardona (Bruno Gagliasso, “Marighella”) and Millán (Raúl Arévalo, “Marshland”), as they hunt down an elusive drug smuggler involved in mysterious crimes taking place between Salvador de Bahia, Brazil and Madrid .
The criminal is everywhere, prompting the couple to put aside their growing differences to stay on track and get caught.
“From the script, I felt like this was going to be one of the most intense characters of my career. I instantly recognized Cardona’s strength and determination. This was the most profound preparation of my life. I had to get to very deep places, get to hell and find my demons to build Cardona,” Galiaso said.
López crafts a narrative that includes elements of occultism, but it doesn’t take center stage and feels like a powerful wave receding offshore. On the surface, the show offers all the elements of a successful crime action but skews by raising this undercurrent, providing a deeper dive into the spirit and psyche of its leaders.
“I was intrigued by the thought of a cop thriller consisting of cops chasing evil and the idea that evil is something we don’t really see, something that I think happens in life,” Lopez said.
“What made it so original was this new, mysterious, element that Carlos had inserted into it. It’s actually complicated because it’s so personal. The truth is, magic is inside of us all the time, and by introducing this element into the series, it has made the characters more exciting than they would be in a regular crime drama,” Amorim added.
Tale of Two Cities
The two-country production authentically fuses cultures, language and scenery to capture the division between the worlds that shaped Cardona and Milan. The bustling, antique streets of Madrid contrast with the fresh and vibrant seaside city of Bahia. The characters align with this duality, which causes friction.
“I thought the best way to tell that was two characters who live in opposite places. They’re very different personalities in their relationship to their souls, I needed them to come from very different cultures,” Lopez said.
The production team relied heavily on each other as they moved between continents to ensure representative portrayal of each region, navigating plans slightly hampered by a global pandemic to secure the rich, multicultural vision that Lopez and Amorim had for each episode.
“Bahia is intrinsically Brazilian. Since we were well aware that we had to approach the cultural aspects carefully, respectfully, with a lot of research, we never risked taking a foreign look at Brazil, because I’m Brazilian. Not only me, but we had the rest of the Brazilian crew “This clash of cultures was something that was in the script, and it was actually written in a very special way. It’s something that really makes this series stand out,” Amorim said.
“I went to Spain to work in an international production, but I played a Brazilian. The coolest thing is that I tell, in Portuguese, a story that also takes place in Brazil, with international creativity and production,” added Gagliaso.
Work and more
Driven by the excitement, each scene quickly propels the audience to the next, allowing the character’s arcs to evolve organically with the feeling that the audience is being delivered in real time with the heroes toward an uncertain future.
“I think all the work from the text, from the direction and from the whole section to try to make it look simple or fluid to the viewer, it might look like a mess, it might seem like a puzzle, but it has to be something that invites you to follow, like someone is actively leading you,” Lopez said. “.
He continued, “Sometimes it has an almost circus-like tone, the tone of the scenery that gives effect to the story. At the same time, it is very intimate and very personal.”
“There’s something totally clever about the Hulk, which is that we never really get ahead of the characters, so we find things with them,” Amorim added.
The action sequences are “part of the character’s journey.” Amorim added that each action scene changes the characters’ identity, changes their trajectory and shows us a different side of them.