The Creator of Netflix’s ‘Club de Cuervos’ on Writing Latin America’s First Binge-Worthy Series

Courtesy of Netflix

While we still have no firm dates, we do know that 2016 will bring us a much-anticipated second season of Netflix’s original Spanish-language series Club de Cuervos. Since its premiere last August on that most venerable of digital platforms, the soccer-themed inheritance drama has been met with positive reception from critics and fans alike, with many praising its agile blend of comedy and drama. Following up on his record breaking, box office-busting feature debut Nosotros los Nobles, Gary “Gaz” Alazraki created Cuervos with the intention of bringing a new type of series to Latin America audiences. Indeed, Club de Cuervos has on the whole avoided the stereotypes and overacting so typical of Spanish-language television.

In short, Alazraki may very well be a pioneer for a new type of series in the region, inspired by changing generational tastes and a shift in the way young Latin Americans consume content. Luckily for those looking for a window into the mind and process of a televisual revolutionary, Alazraki recently sat down for an interview with Mexican journalist José Antonio Férnandez. Here are some highlights from the conversation, translated into English for your reading pleasure.

On Why Nosotros Los Nobles Didn’t Get a Sequel

We wondered a lot if we should do Los Nobles 2 or a version for TV. We got calls from Disney, Sony, and Netflix. There was a lot of good energy. I was also very enthusiastic about continuing with Los Nobles. We went to Los Angeles to have our daughter and that’s where I was really kicking around the idea of continuing with the story, but I started realizing that there was no way to bring a new, believable Los Nobles story to the screen. Let me explain: all of the comedy in the film comes from the stupidity of the children, all the memes are from that particular moment in time, which makes it impossible to stunt their personal development and pretend that they learned nothing after all they went through.

‘Nosotros los Nobles’
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So I imagined a second option to continue the story: let’s have the Nobles really go bankrupt this time. But after a brief reflection, that idea didn’t hold up. I felt the plot was really forced. I wasn’t convinced, and I didn’t think it would be believable for the audience either. The point is that fiction is a lie, the audience knows that when they walk into the theater. But what’s most important is that this fiction be a vehicle that takes us closer to the truth. If this happens, that’s precisely when the audience connects with a story because they find truth in the narrative. The problem on screen happens at the moment in which the lie is no longer believable. If the fiction is not believable, there’s no truth and no connection with the audience.

On Transforming Los Nobles Into a New Story

“I wanted to produce a series in which the audience couldn’t resist the need to see the next episode.”

I realized that [with Club de Cuervos] we had the possibility to make the sequel to Nosotros los Nobles that everyone was asking for, but with more possibilities, with more truth, and in an entirely new universe. I imagined that Luis Gerardo [Méndez] and Karla [Souza] could interpret a new story without breaking that pact with the audience that was established with Los Nobles.

When we weren’t able to have Karla Souza in the cast, we had even more freedom to construct a new character. In the writers’ room we imagined someone like Janeane Garofalo — her humor comes from her bad attitude and sarcasm. We mentioned the idea to our protagonist Luis Gerardo Méndez and without thinking twice he proposed Mariana Treviño. He wasn’t mistaken. I met her and did a formal audition, then I sent the video to Netflix and they gave me the green light to make the decision.

On Writing Latin America’s First Binge-Worthy Series

It’s important to point out that Los Nobles is an adaptation of a play by Adolfo Torrado, which was then adapted for the big screen by Luis Buñuel with his film El Gran Calavera. In the case of Club de Cuervos, the story is entirely original. And since I’m not a television writer, I turned to the specialists for help. I wanted to produce a series in which the audience couldn’t resist the need to see the next episode. I saw the Latin American series produced for HBO, and I realized that they had high production values, casting, cinematography, and directing, but not that need to see the following episode as soon as one was finished. So I went to the U.S. to look for available screenwriters.

On Interviewing Soccer WAGs to Get Juicy Details

The idea was for me to be full time in the writer’s room from December to January to define the big dramatic arcs of each season. Once we have the structure defined, we go out and interview managers, soccer players, fans, referees, owners, and all sorts of people who can contribute stories to make the situations that are already in the scripts more dynamic. We also want to hear from soccer players’ ex-wives, lovers, family members, friends, neighbors, masseuses, doctors, chauffeurs, and all types of people who could share football-related anecdotes — including the most hardcore fans.

On Writing For TV in Mexico vs. Hollywood

Consider that the resumé of a television writer in the United States is built off of his or her work in a writers’ room, and that’s how their prestige grows over time. On the other hand, in Mexico you can’t do something like that as a TV writer — in Mexico it’s impossible to submit a writer to that process of corrections and rewrites with no credit because they simply won’t accept it. Here [in Mexico] we don’t value work in a writers’ room. In fact, that concept doesn’t even exist as clearly as it does in Hollywood.

In our country a screenwriter wants to make a feature film, while a North American writer knows that making a feature is the exception, and you have to write a screenplay that really stands out. I’m saying all this because the climate of collaboration in the United States is entirely different from Mexico: they have to collaborate in order to advance professionally, and the more they collaborate the more doors open for them as screenwriters. If a writer doesn’t know how to collaborate in a writers’ room, they simply won’t hire him.