‘Now And Then’ Actor Manolo Cardona, Creator Ramón Campos Talk About Thrillers And Rise Of Latino Streaming Series

A split-second decision forever changes the lives of a tight-knit group of college friends when one of them dies during a private beach graduation party and the rest of them cover it up. But the tragedy of that evening will remain with them forever, reopening old wounds 20 years later, when a mystery blackmailer threatens to expose their secret.

That’s the premise of Apple TV’s new bilingual thriller Now and Then, which navigates two timelines, flashing back to what happened on that fateful night and jumping forward to the present time, when the once close friends, now estranged, reunite as their lives begin to unravel by the demands of the blackmailer.

Now and Then is created and produced by Bambú Producciones, one of Spain’s most renowned production companies, known for hits such as Velvet, Cable Girls and High Seas (available on Netflix) and features a stellar international cast from Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Spain and the U.S.

The present-day friends are Manolo Cardona (Who Killed Sara?, Narcos) as Marcos, Oscar-nominated Marina de Tavira (Roma, Ingobernable) as Ana, José María Yazpik (Narcos Mexico, Everybody Loves Somebody) as Pedro, Maribel Verdú (Y Tu Mamá También, Pan’s Labyrinth) and Soledad Villamil (The Secret in Their Eyes, A Twelve-Year Night) as Daniela. The younger versions are played by Jack Duarte, Miranda de la Serna, Dario Yazbek Berna and Alicia Sanz.

Emmy-award winning and Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez (The Flight Attendant, Do the Right Thing) portrays Flora Neruda, a cop who was convinced the friends were responsible for the death of Alejandro (played by Jorge López) and who, 20 years later, is called in to investigate a murder that leads her back to her suspects of the earlier crime. Perez is the only one in the series that portrays her younger and older self.

“The series has incomparable talent from all over the world,” says Cardona, whose third and final season of Who Killed Sara? dropped on Netflix the same week of the Now and Then debut on Apple TV. “Apart from what you see in the show, we all became very good friends and I think that helped the on-screen chemistry.”

Cardona portrays an opioid-addicted plastic surgeon tormented by his friend’s death and his role in the cover-up. “He’s haunted by what happened. His dreams of helping and belonging to an NGO in Colombia were shattered. What the friends did when they were 20 years old follows them and 20 years later, they may have to pay for that crime.”

He says thrillers are a great platform to create very complex, multi-faceted characters. “We can humanize them in a way that mimics life itself. No one is so good or bad, nothing is black or white. There are some grays… where we live together, where we have anger, where we are jealous, where we are happy, where we fight. That’s what makes characters in a thriller interesting.”

And it is the creation and portrayals of these characters that makes this story different from other thrillers, says series co-creator and showrunner Ramón Campos.

“It’s always the characters that change the story. The mystery may be the same. Someone stole something, killed someone, planted a bomb. But what changes are the characters’ stories,” states Campos. “And here, we have characters that are even richer because you see them when they are young and when they are adults. You are made aware of who they were and who they are. I think that’s what makes Now and Then special.”

To that, he adds, are feelings of nostalgia and regret that also touched them as creators. “We realized that there is a theme that even we started thinking about due to our age: have we fulfilled our youthful dreams? We wanted to explore and contrast how moments in our lives change outcomes and veer us off course from the paths we dream of in our youth.”

Campos says that developing a story around unfulfilled dreams, tragedy, life-altering decisions and remorse, wrapped around a thriller, set in Miami with an international cast, sealed the deal with Apple TV, which has been working on expanding its global footprint.

“As soon as we decided that Miami was the setting for our story, we knew we had to look for Latin American characters of different nationalities and we started casting. It was a very long and difficult process because we wanted the best from each country, the dream team, so to speak. It took us about eight months because we had casting directors in the U.S. and in each country looking for people,” recalls Campos. “From Spain, we had already chosen Maribel Verdú and we wanted them all to be just as experienced. We found Manolo, Chema [José María Yazpik], Marina and Soledad. After selecting who would play the adult characters, we started searching for the younger actors who were physically similar and had to be from the same country so they would have their same accents.”

For Campos, it was important to be as authentic as possible to make the characters believable and relatable to the different audiences in Latin America and around the globe. When Apple TV suggested they work with Gideon Raff, known for writing and directing Prisoners of War, the series on which Homeland was based, he didn’t hesitate. Raff came on board as Now and Then executive producer and director.

“He was super generous with us from the start. He contributed to the project, but he was aware that the series was ours and he respected that. He greatly enriched the series creatively, with the script and then as a director. He gave the series a great look and rhythm. We would definitely work with him again.”

Series from Latin America and Spain are in great demand as their popularity grow, attracting millions of viewers around the world, as was the case of the record-setting phenomenon of Spain’s La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) as the first most-watched non-English series on Netflix, and most recently, top-viewed Colombian series Pálpito (The Marked Heart) and Mexico’s Quien Mató a Sara.

“Fortunately, we are working with almost all the streaming services that are in Spain. This is a historic moment for our content,” says Campos. A sentiment shared by Cardona, who in addition to acting, has been producing content through his own production company.

“I think there are some wonderful projects being done,” says Cardona. “With my production company 11:11 Films and TV, we are also developing many productions for different platforms… thrillers, comedies, action – different genres to meet our audience demands. All the streaming platforms now in the market are trying to put out the best content, with the best talent and best production values and I think that benefits everyone.”

This Apple TV thriller follows its first bilingual series, dramedy Acapulco, starring Eugenio Derbez, which was renewed for a second season in March.

Now and Thenconsists of eight episodes. The first three dropped on May 20 and will be followed by one new episode weekly through June 24.

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