Spanish broadcaster RTVE and production companies Tornasol and DeAPlaneta have teamed with German production-sales company ZDF Enterprises on “ANA. all in,” a legal thriller starring Maribel Verdú based on Spanish author Roberto Santiago’s best-seller “Ana.” Representing the series internationally, ZDFE will be presenting the series at MipT. Variety was able to speak with the series’ lead actor ahead of the Cannes-based market.
“ANA. all in” turns on Ana, a small-time lawyer thrust into the underground world of illegal gambling when her brother is accused of killing the manager of the Gran Castilla Casino. After assembling a small but energetic team, this Spanish Erin Brockovich goes head-to-head with the Goliath that is one of the world’s largest gambling industries.
Ana’s best friend Concha is played by fellow Spanish standout Natalia Verbeke (“The Other Side of the Bed”), and is one of the most significant people in Ana’s life as well as a driving force behind several of the series’ key plot lines. Always the rock to which Ana could anchor her own wellbeing, Concha finds herself in the middle of a marital crisis which requires Ana to fill the role of caretaker for both her brother and her closest companion.
With her brother and best friend in dire straights, Ana must straighten up her own affairs to support the people most important to her, while facing down one of the most powerful industries in Spain in the legal battle of her career.
In speaking with Roberto, it’s clear that he was motivated by the gambling crisis facing so many in Spain, and the privileged position the industry enjoys. Was that part of your inspiration in taking this role, and what did you learn about gambling while working on this series?
I’ve never been close to gambling, so I didn’t know the industry well. But Roberto’s book taught me so much and opened my eyes to a reality facing us here in Spain. When I was asked to participate in the series I was thrilled because the Ana character is fantastic and I was so excited for the opportunity to work with Roberto. He and I spoke so many times and he shared his stories with me, and so many more from people he knows and met writing the book. It’s amazing the impunity that gambling enjoys in Spain, especially considering the damage it is capable of inflicting.
Roberto’s book offers so much as a source material, but what other kind of research did you to prepare for this role?
Even if you know you’re just playing a part, when the text is so well written all you have to do as an actor is learn the dialogue and instill the character with all the truth and honesty you’re capable of. There was no investigation to be done because it was already there in the script. What was left for me to do was talk with Roberto… a LOT. After spending countless hours with him going to the theater, walking together, he told me something so interesting. He said, “Look Maribel, nobody is going to know as much about Ana Tramel as you and me. Me as the creator and you who will give her a soul.” And he was right, nobody knows Ana better than the two of us.
One interesting aspect of this series that hasn’t been discussed much is the importance of Ana’s best friend Concha. Could you talk about the relationship between the two characters?
For Concha I was thrilled to have not just an exceptional actress in Natalia, but a friend of mine in real life. You can tell when watching the series that the relationship between Concha and Ana is so similar to that of Natalia and I. We’ve known each other for years, experienced so many things together and share so many tears and laughs, and that is so important. Concha is vital to Ana’s life as a pillar of support, but Ana also must be there to support Concha. They feed one another in such a lovely way.
You worked in TV earlier in your career, but for more than 15 years you only shot films. What made you want to come back to TV and specifically what was it about this series that appealed to you as an actor?
I haven’t worked in TV for many years because the roles being offered to me were all the classical tropes, a mother with kids and family drama… and I knew when I wanted to go back to TV it would be with a truly powerful and moving character, so before Ana I said no to everything that came up. That’s why it’s taken so long for me to come back to TV and why I decided to come back, because Ana Tramel is a character that makes me proud of my career path.
This series is Spanish in origin and execution, but I wonder if you could talk about what international audiences will find appealing about “ANA. all in.”?
At its core, this series is about addiction, and not just addiction to gambling but to pills, alcohol, toxic relationships that you know are going to hurt you but you stay in them. This series is about all those things, and it also has an uplifting David vs. Goliath theme where a character who is feeling powerless comes face to face with a hugely powerful company from one of the largest industries in the world. It’s also a wonderful legal thriller with trials and courtroom drama which I find extremely exciting.