5 Questions with Karen Martinez, Guatemala’s Newest Red Carpet Star

Karen Martínez is a Guatemalan actress who at the tender age of 19 has accomplished what most actors would hope to in a lifetime. Her starring role in the multi-award-winning global phenomenon La jaula de oro (The Golden Cage), brought the then 17-year-old amateur actress to the red carpet at Cannes and earned her a nomination for Best Actress at the 2014 Premios Fenix, where La jaula de oro was the night’s big winner.

Deciding that acting was her true calling, Martínez enrolled in Guatemala’s national acting school while continuing to participate in local theater and film projects, including a recent starring role in the Guatemalan feature Resonancia, which will open this year’s edition of the Festival Ícaro. Taking a break from her busy schedule, Karen talked to us about living two simultaneous lives, staying patient, and looking for emotional and physical extremes.

When did you decide to follow the difficult path of professional acting?

I decided soon after acting in La jaula de oro, since I had previously only acted informally in the theater, and I was motivated to explore the depth and the demands of the career. It was at this point that I began my studies in Dramatic Arts here at the National School of Dramatic Arts “Carlos Figueroa Juárez,” in Guatemala. I felt the need to use the my body and everything it offers as a way to communicate something, tell stories, etc.

What are the possibilities for actors in your country?

Actors in Guatemala have to work at a rather slow pace. It’s like having two or more simultaneous lives, especially because while you’re looking for work as an actor, you have to look for other alternatives at the same time. Obviously, if you show interest and persistence there are always more opportunities to be found.

What has been the most difficult moment in your career so far?

The most difficult part of the job is staying patient, because sometimes there are things that you want to do, projects in which you’d like to participate, but you can’t be in everything at the same time, and there will always be something you can’t be part of. Also, since I’ve been in school all this time, I can’t miss out on my classes since everything in life takes dedication.

Which acting role has left the biggest impression on you?

The character that has most stayed with me is named Soledad. She is a determined and surprising woman, but she contradicts herself on account of her naiveté. This character was from a play called Cifras en silencio. Another character that is probably closest to me at the moment is from a film I starred in called Resonancia, where I played Margarita. The connection I found was through the character’s musicality, her observant qualities and her internal happiness.

If you could choose one role, who would it be?

There are several types of characters I would like to play. Perhaps an antagonist, or an indigent with an interesting backstory, someone who has to do with a fictitious or fantasy-oriented plot. What’s most important is that the character challenges me and demands both physical and emotional extremes.