Miguel Ángel Silvestre on the Wild Twists of 30 Coins

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There are bad reasons to pause an interview and there are good reasons, and a great reason is when the person you’re talking to is getting a very important delivery. Last week, I was speaking with Miguel Ángel Silvestre about his fascinating new series 30 Coins (known in Spain as 30 Monedas) when he received a delivery of ice cream he planned to eat for dinner.

It was a moment of exuberant innocence that felt very on-brand for Silvestre, a talented actor whose roles have brought out that side of him in direct contrast to the dark goings-on his characters face. 30 Coins is a supernatural thriller created by Álex de la Iglesia in which Silvestre plays Paco, the mayor of a small town in Spain consumed by chaos thanks to the coins that might once have been given to Judas Iscariot following the death of Christ.

But Silvestre might be better known to international audiences as Lito, an actor used to extreme dramatics thanks to the events of Netflix’s Sense8. That series, created by the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski, took him all around the world and gave him an unforgettable impression of the Wachowskis as filmmakers ahead of their time.

Below, Silvestre explains why 30 Coins has had such an impact on Spanish audiences, what it’s like to work with a visual stylist like de la Iglesia, and what he thinks Sense8‘s legacy might be.

Collider: To start off, I’m curious, when you were first talking to people about the show, how did they describe it to you?

MIGUEL ANGEL SILVESTRE: I’m in Spain now, and most of the people that I’ve taught that I’ve talked to, they’re Spanish and they know the director is a very peculiar guy, very, very talented with a certain point of view about horror. And they say like, “Oh my God, he’s crazy,” in a very nice way, because of course he offers so much in pertaining to his stories and the way he see horror and his characters too, which are very peculiar, from this little village and it’s kind of horror, but at the same time you can laugh sometimes. So yeah, people are liking it so much here in Spain. That’s what I’m getting from people in the street. They are very connected to every episode.

How much of that do you think is because it combines religion with horror?

SILVESTRE: I think there are so many questions we ask ourselves in real life that have to do with the unknown… I think humans with all the questions that we have, that we don’t have answers and we fly with our imagination trying to get them. So I think it speaks about things that are very interesting — like Judas, the interpretation of the Bible, questions that we asked ourselves about what’s good, what’s bad, what it is to be good… And, and yeah, I think that’s also a main theme that pushes the audience to question all the time what’s going to happen now. So what’s the solution, what’s going to happen with the coins? And I think that hooks you.

Image via WarnerMedia

Oh, for sure. I know that from the very first scene, I didn’t know what was going on, but I wanted to know, which is always the best thing. What was the first scene that really hooked you?

SILVESTRE: When I was reading the scripts, I could see that every scene was very well-written and all of the scenes were opening new things in the way that there were no free scenes that don’t give something, and the writer is really famous here in Spain, too, very talented and they all work together. So I would say from the very beginning, when I was reading the scripts, I was really hooked. And then when I saw the episode in Venice, I would say always this thing with Father Vergara, where you don’t know if he’s good or bad. I was questioning that, so that was what hooked me, I would say.

No, that’s great. One thing about watching it was I read that the director used to do comic books and that made so much sense. Because it’s such a visual show.

SILVESTRE: Yeah, it is. Actually, this is the first time that I’m working with him, and we were going to do the first table read and he said like, “Fuck table reads. I’m going to show you my world.” Like what? He said, “Come with me guys,” and he made us go into a room full of drawings that he was doing, saying “This the way I envisioned the first monster, they say, it’s impossible to do it, but I’m ordering it to some people that I know that they can do something and then in post-production I’ll make it live.” And he was so passionate and you could see how everything came from his mind.

He showed the scripts to HBO and HBO said “Can you do this for triple the money that you’re asking for?” And he was like, “What?” That means free imagination. And they said, “Yeah, yeah. I mean, there are some conditions, but can you…?” And he was like, “This is a dream. Thank you. I’ll see you in a month.”

That’s incredible. I don’t think it’s too often that a network will say, “Can you do that? But we’re going to give you three times the amount of money.”

SILVESTRE: Yeah. They put a lot of conditions, that’s what I have heard, but he said, “Okay, this is my chance to do what I’ve been dreaming of,” because when you ask him, “What about that world?” And he’s saying, “This is my world.” He’s so into comics. He’s so into these types of movies, it’s the genre that he really enjoys. And what I think is very special in him is that he’s very good doing horror. And at the same time portraying characters that are so peculiar from Spain.

So what about these characters is very specific to Spain?

SILVESTRE: Yeah. I mean, you can see that some of them aren’t smart or not too clever or the way they are clever is more related to nature. And he wanted to put this kind of village of 140 people with this mayor, who is not too wise, but he’s put there because of his wife and he feels the pressure and it makes kind of like a comedic vision of a village from the interior of Spain. And it works because they are living something that it’s kind of surreal, but they doubt it.

Of course. Well, if Paco was going through this and it was just like, “Oh yeah, this is nothing strange to me,” I don’t think it’d be as scary.

SILVESTRE: Yeah. We were trying, all the time, to do comedy with Paco, but at the same time to hold the drama and to hold the horror, because if you put too much comedy, then the horror goes away, and the tension goes away. But I think he’s… Especially Alex that I… this writer, he is very good doing that. I would always think of his genre as kind of like Fargo the TV show, the Coen Brothers, but in a Spanish way. I really think that Alex has a precise color and point of view. But I would always say like, I really like Coen Brothers movies because you get very entertained by these characters that are very peculiar.

Image via WarnerMedia

That’s actually a really great comparison, because there’s also those same bursts of violence.

SILVESTRE: Sí, he loves blood. He loves blood. “Not enough! More blood!” Okay, good.

I’ve heard the secret to getting fake blood off your skin is shaving cream.

SILVESTRE: Oh yeah. It’s true with shaving cream. That’s the way you take it out because it’s very sticky, very sweet. Like it has some sugar in it and it’s very difficult to take it out of your fingers and they put shaving cream.

I imagine you went through a lot of it on set.

SILVESTRE: Yes. Alex would get bad sometimes, “It’s not enough blood!” He wants to take a shower in blood.

If there was a second season of 30 Coins, would you be excited for it?

SILVESTRE: Yeah, actually I’ve heard the director said that in a press conference. He said that [he has a plan for] three seasons. And I’m very happy because I mean, that’s everything. When you start filming, everything comes really fast. You go with your proposal. But right now we all know the characters. And what I’ve heard, some of the episodes from the next season are very special. Like it takes great turns. So I’m always excited to work with Alex and HBO. It’s such a great team. They did a great job and I would do it again.

So it’s only kind of in the last several years that we’d be having this conversation about a Spanish TV show — there’s this whole new boom of international TV happening. What’s important to you about that?

SILVESTRE: I’ve always dreamed to work with so many directors that are in the United States, for instance, or outside my country. There are so many directors that I would love to work with. And I’ve been like a nomad traveling since I was young, I wanted to learn English. And right now my country’s in such a great moment. We’re doing shows like 30 Coins, that are reaching audiences all over the world. And this is also thanks to the platforms. And I found out that to be peculiar and to be unique, which we all are, you just got to have fun with, in this case, with Alex de la Iglesia. It’s so Spanish, but at the same time so international, because it’s horror and that’s the great things all the countries can offer to entertaining and to platforms.

And that’s the way you become international, being very unique with who you are with the little things of your country, telling international stories, horror stories. And I’m very excited about this new movement right now you don’t need to get on a plane and go there and do a costume. Right now you just have to do a nice show. And then one day who knows, maybe one of the directors you’ve been dreaming to work with, he will see it. It is so nice that we’re doing something here in Spain, which is so small, that is seen all over.

So one thing I do want to talk about is when I was watching 30 Coins, there’s this part of my brain that was thinking this is the kind of show I could see Lito from Sense8 starring in.

SILVESTRE: Totally. Actually, Paco has something of Lito’s innocence.

Looking back, when you think back on Sense8, what are the memories that really stand out for you about it?

SILVESTRE: Well, of course, the fun that we had and the great experience that was to be close to Lana and Lily, and to be close to their minds and the way they think and what they want to leave to the world as a legacy… I think they’re doing so many great things for LGBT people. They started portraying those roles in a beautiful way — don’t get me wrong, not only beautiful, but also being successful characters, which is very important because that’s my nephew and my niece will see a transgender person, a successful person, not a person with a drama, with a lot of sadness, carrying the pain, carrying the injustice. They wanted to change the world through telling their utopia, and that was so nice, to see that perspective and how committed they were with that.

Do you still keep in touch with the cast?

SILVESTRE: So I saw a video on Instagram tonight of a techno DJ, and I sent it to Toby because Toby, Brian, and Max, we used to go out in Berlin to some clubs to listen to techno and dance. And when I always listened to some techno, they come to my mind.

30 Coins is streaming now on HBO Max. New episodes premiere on Mondays.

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