• Interviews

Natalia Oreiro Tells All Behind the Scenes of “Santa Evita”

The series Santa Evita, based on the bestselling novel by Tomás Eloy Martínez, directed by Rodrigo García, and produced by Salma Hayek, has become a true phenomenon around the world, thanks to a plot that, like the novel, cunningly combines real events with pure fiction.

Although the performances of Ernesto Alterio, Darío Grandinetti, Diego Velázquez and Francesc Orella are notable, the heaviest weight falls on the actress chosen to play Eva Duarte, the Uruguayan Natalia Oreiro.

In our Zoom interview, the actress, who was popular starring in soap operas, and in recent years has shown her depth in movies and series like Iosi, el espía arrepentido (Yosi, the Regretful Spy), where she plays a completely different character, shared with us all the details on how it was to become the iconic and controversial Argentinean figure.

Why do you think Eva Peron works so well as a character?

She is a universal story, a woman of humble origins who had a hard time getting ahead, and who fought with great character and determination. What would have happened if she hadn’t gotten sick and if she had finally become vice president? I think she had unimaginable potential.

She was a very brave woman because she was an actress, something that was not seen often in the 1940s, that she dated a man 20 years older. In addition, she was not recognized by her father.

She also felt a very strong sense of abandonment in her childhood and had resentment towards the upper class because she knew what it was like to be rejected by that sector and the needs of the poor. Eva deeply believed in Juan Domingo Perón and his cause. I think all of that makes for a great story, even a love story.


What did you discover in getting under her skin?

I still find it hard to believe that she was in her early 20s when it all started. Just listening to her speaking and you could feel the vehemence and confidence that she had in her speeches, and the political knowledge even though she was so young.

The production spent many months looking for an actress who would play her and who was her real age, and they found it very difficult. I ended up arriving at the casting a year after that search began and I am much older than Eva was when she passed away.


Did you have any doubts before going to the casting?

Yes, we actors always doubt, and at least for me, I take it as a tool for growth and attention, to say, “This is something difficult and important.” Ten years ago, they offered me a movie to play Eva without going through casting.

I told them that I was not qualified to embody her, that I did not have the tools either as an actress, or as a performer, or as a woman. At that time, the director insisted a lot on several issues for which he believed that I had to put myself in Evita’s shoes.

But basically, I felt that I couldn’t do it. I knew my limits. I didn’t even dare to dream of the possibility of playing her. In addition, she had been so well personified in the movies, on television, and in the theater that I did not know if I had something to contribute to her.

Rodrigo García had seen two of my films, Infancia clandestina (Clandestine Childhood) and Wakolda. When they called me for the casting, the person in charge asked me if I wanted to do it, and I answered yes. I accepted because I like to win over the characters and I also consider that not all actors, no matter how good they are, are qualified to play any role.

It also happens that they call you by the trajectory or by the name and suddenly the director needs something that you naturally cannot give him and there is a tug-of-war between what the project needs and what one can do.

So being chosen through casting was going to give us all a certain security, and I say certain because later, I embarked on a very frustrating journey of trial and mistakes until I was finally able to build that Eva that you see on screen.

It was all a tremendous experience that I threw myself into because I found myself with an immense challenge, not only for the physical aspect, something that did not worry me too much. After all, it was never my intention to imitate her.

But to find an energy that makes the viewer forget about me and enter this super dramatic story of a woman with overwhelming charisma and tremendous power. Whether you like Eva or not, her power as a woman is indisputable and I had never portrayed that before.

To achieve this, I worked with two coaches and with the eyes of the directors Rodrigo García and Alejandro Machi who told me what they wanted to tell, of course, focused on the novel by Tomás Eloy Martínez in which things that are narrated are real and others are not.

I had to have the tool to be able to improvise Eva if necessary and that is something very difficult to do with a character that existed in real life. It ended up happening because there are situations that are in the book and others in which they asked me to speak without any written text.

With the acting coach María Laura Berch, I worked on everything related to acting, and together with the vocal interpreter Mariana García Guerreiro, we made all that arc that Eva had in her way of speaking when begins as a young radio drama actress.

Then she goes through that transformation into a political woman who did not sleep and who gave five to six speeches a day and who finally becomes ill with uterine cancer for which her voice clearly begins to lose its shine – it becomes hoarse. They were like two or three different women.



I love that you say that there’s value in having to audition for a part. At this point in your career, do you need these challenges?

For me, that is like revaluing my vocation, not because of winning the part but because it is a challenge to know that you are going to do something new and not something already performed.

Although for some time now, I have been doing very different things, it is easier for producers or directors to call someone who they know can do such a thing. For me, it ends up being boring.

Sometimes, I read very good scripts but they are things that I already did ten years ago. It has to do with that. It is my vocation, even if I do it professionally because it motivates me, keeps me alive, makes me creative, imagine and work.

I am a person who does the latter. I do it in excess, something that on one side is like my most important virtue but it ends up, at times, also being my biggest flaw since I can’t let go. It’s not good for us actors to control so much.


In Iosi, el espía arrepentido, you play a woman who really existed and who had a lot of power during the time of the dictatorship. Did you also accept the role because you were looking for a challenge?

Yes, in the case of Iosi, I must confess that she was a character that also cost me a lot because I am not an anti-Semite and the truth is that it was a revolting role for me.

There were moments on set when Daniel Burman and Sebastián Borensztein told me, “You’re an actress” because it made me very anxious to say certain things. The truth is that she grabbed me at a very vulnerable moment.

I questioned this a lot because I have a deep respect for the Jewish community. I travel to Israel all the time. I moved to Argentina when I was 16 years old. The day the AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) was bombed, I was two blocks away from the place, buying things with my parents that I needed for a room I rented from an older lady, with whom I stayed until I turned 18.

I remember being inside a hardware store buying a spare part for a faucet with my mom and dad standing in front of the window when suddenly it exploded into a thousand pieces. We didn’t know what had happened.

Then we found out about the tragedy and of course, I’ll never forget it. When they called me to play the antagonist in the novel, it was very strong because I have a very close bond with Israel.

Of course, it was a great challenge and the series seems amazing to me, although the incident is terrible. It is appalling that 20 years after the events, the culprits are still being sought and that everything has been covered up.


Is it true that you came close to doing a project with Quentin Tarantino many years ago?

In the year 2000, I released an album called Tu veneno (Your Venom), which has this song with a video clip where there was like a comic who was kicked a lot. My manager at that time was Tomas Cookman, who also represented Manu Chao, among others.

Tarantino wanted to make a movie with a Manu theme but the latter didn’t want to. I was in Los Angeles finishing up, doing some musical things and I don’t know how Tomas shared that video clip of Tu veneno with Quentin who was in New Mexico at the time.

Quentin told Tomas that when he comes back, he wanted to talk to me. At that time, I was breaking up with a guy I was dating so I thought, I come back with him or I´m waiting for Tarantino.

I finally left Los Angeles and I never met Quentin. Later, I changed managers. I don’t know if something could have happened but that was my chance with Tarantino. I think because of what he did a few years later, he saw in me a girl of that style that he showed in Kill Bill.

Don’t you wonder what would have happened if you stayed in Los Angeles?

No, I never question those things. That was never a personal desire. I say it with total sincerity because I could have done it with music or with cinema. What’s more, the times I had the chance, I said, “I don’t know if I want so much to go there and act in another language.”

When the Evita project came up, they called me to do a casting audition in English for an Amazon series with a super-stellar cast.

Finally, I was chosen and I was even talking to the directors but when they gave me the date, it overlapped with that of Santa Evita so I had to decide if I was going to Chicago, where it was going to be filmed, or stay in Argentina to embody Eva Perón.

I do not know what would have happened. There were three seasons but only one was made and the next ones will not be made since it did not work, although it was very good.

One must choose certain things. Obviously, my place is not over there, or at least not in this way.

I don’t know if I would be a better actress in another language and, of course, the possibility would depend on what kind of characters they offer me because, for many years, Latin women in the United States were labeled in certain roles.

It is also true that in this aspect, the world of entertainment is now changing a lot.



I think Ernesto Alterio is the one who has the juiciest scenes with his character since there is a kind of duality in that relationship, both on Eva’s side and on his side.

Ernesto is the protagonist of the series. Yes, there is an ambiguous relationship but that is the look of the fiction that Tomás Eloy Martínez creates.

Moori Koenig, who existed and who was in charge of making Eva’s body disappear, did not know her in real life before she died. That link told in the novel is 100 percent fictitious.

Tomás Eloy Martínez said that he had written things that were real for the people who read his novel. When the director Juan Carlos Desanzo shot the movie Eva Perón with Esther Goris and Víctor Laplace, he does that famous scene, which we repeat because it is part of the book, in which Evita says to Juan Domingo Perón, “Why don’t you come with me? Why don’t you let me be vice president?”

He replies, “Because you have cancer and you’re going to die.”

Tomás Eloy explained to Juan Carlos that this had not been the case, that he had invented it, and Desanzo insisted that this was what had really happened. But the fact that Evita did not become vice president has nothing to do with her illness but with Perón’s entourage who did not want her to hold that position.

On the contrary, Tomás Eloy also assured that much of what was real and was embodied in the novel, people believed that it was something invented because of how strong it was. And that’s what happens with the figure of Eva – this situation with Moori Koenig was very complex for me to interpret because of course, I knew I was playing a real character, based on real events within a fictional novel.

I defended her all the time. I chatted with the directors and told them that this was something that he imagined and that, therefore, I did not have to give him any kind of clues but they always made it clear to me that everything was based on Moori Koenig’s point of view, which was his memory.

It’s a bit of the madness and obsession of this nefarious character, a soldier who falls in love and goes crazy with Eva when she was alive, and who, feeling disappointment at the rejection, later takes control and possession of her body.


If you had the opportunity to talk to Eva Perón, what would you ask her?

If she was happy, if it was all worth it; I even think she would say yes.


Translated by Mario Amaya