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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: María Gabriela de Faría on ‘Deadly Class’ and representation for Latinx and mental illness

Plus, what's possibly in store if season two gets a green light!

A talented young actress well-known in Latin America, María Gabriela de Faría is making her debut on American TV in Deadly Class, the television adaptation of the critically acclaimed graphic novels by Rick Remender. In the transfer to television, Remender has remained in charge of his vision as executive producer, alongside Miles Orion Feldsott.

In Deadly Class, María Gabriela de Faría plays Maria Salazar, a student at King’s Dominion, a school for the deadly arts. A member of the Soto Vatos Mexican cartel, Maria’s capable and kickass, fighting with bladed fans as her choice weapon. The cartel’s led by her abusive and controlling boyfriend, Chico. When new kid Marcus comes to the school, Maria sees an opportunity to get rid of Chico, and hopefully get away from the people who have controlled her whole life.

This week, we got to talk to María about how she got involved with the show, what makes Maria such a compelling character, and what’s in store for the rest of the season.

This interview contains spoilers for this season of Deadly Class. Tread carefully.

PURE FANDOM: First, how did you get the role?

María Gabriela de Faría: I auditioned for it, of course, but in my case it was a self-tape. I didn’t want to attend the audition at first because I had another project in my home country, in Venezuela. But my agent, after weeks and weeks of just insisting and calling and calling, he said, you definitely need to put yourself on tape and at least do that and if you don’t want to go to the appointment, just put yourself on tape. So I did it the very same day that I was supposed to travel to Venezuela to shoot my movie.

I sent that and I didn’t think much of it. Then the very first day of shooting the movie, I got a call from my agent saying, Hey, guess what? You have to abandon your movie and come back to LA to pick up your things and go to Vancouver, because you got their role. So I did that, and the rest is history.

Image: Allen Fraser/SYFY

What did you really like about the character of Maria that drew you to her?

Well, at first I didn’t know about the graphic novel. But I read the side (pages of a script given to an actor to prepare for an audition), and I felt right there and then that I knew this woman. I remember, first of all, not having much time to learn the side. And second of all, it came really easy to me in a sense of, I don’t know.

She has those two scenes that I had to do for the audition. One of them was, since you read the graphic novel, the big Vegas episode, the scene where Maria kills [Spoiler]. That was one of my audition scenes, and then the first time Maria meets Marcus, and I felt like I knew her. I knew her pain. I’d been in abusive relationships before. I am not bipolar, but I deal with anxiety. I’m not medicated, but it’s been a huge struggle for me for years. So I felt like I have that Maria inside of me. It’s just a matter of finding her.

Could you elaborate more on what the show’s going to explore about Maria’s bipolar disorder? Because that’s not as big of a thing in the comics.

Right. It is a big part of the show, which is something that I really, really like. After episode five that airs next week, which is the biggest episode, it’s a turning point for the show and everything’s going to go sideways. Especially with Maria. Maria completely loses it. She doesn’t know who she is without Chico. So she goes off her meds, and because of that same reason, everything starts to fall apart. Her relationship with Saya, her relationship with Marcus, everything.

She’s not being careful with what they did in Vegas and she’s trying to cope with all of it. Thinking everything is okay and not taking her meds and that’s going to be really, really bad. And just in general, mental health is a huge part of the show because it’s not just a huge part of Maria, but also a huge part of Marcus. Marcus, you know, deals with depression in a more different way. Like he talks about it. Maria doesn’t like to. It’s going to be out there for sure and really, the fact that Maria is bipolar is going to change everything in the show. It’s gonna drive the show the show for sure.

Is there anything about Deadly Class that had to be changed because of the change in medium, from comics to tv?

 Actually, although we are staying really true to the comic in my opinion, it is a different medium. So we have more time, which I think is fantastic, so we can tell more stories. As you say, the mental health issue with Maria is not as big in the comic as it is in the show. Also we get to explore different relationships. I believe that in the comic, Saya and Maria’s relationship isn’t important, but it is here. It’s after episode five, you get to see how important that relationship is.

Image: Katie Yu/SYFY

We get to tell a lot more about, for example, F***face, which is a great character. And that’s mostly it. If anything, we get to do more. It’s not about maybe changing things, but adding, which I particularly love.

What was it like getting to play such a complex Latina character and bringing that representation to the screen?

It was nerve-wracking. Everyday on set was a really difficult day. I don’t remember going to work thinking, oh, this is going to be an easy day. I think Maria is such a complex character and she, you know, she’s bipolar. So in most of the scenes I had to be a lot of things at once. Mostly from episode five and till the end of the season. So that was really hard for me. I had to be able to be okay, like not go crazy and at the same time being able to portray all those emotions in a very honest way.

So since I’ve been dealing with anxiety for years, I decided that it was going to be a cathartic experience for me where I gifted every fear and anxiety and insecurity to Maria. To the other Maria, so she could deal or not with it. So it was great because I would write down in a little red notebook that I kept with me all the time, everything that I was feeling that day, right? 

I would write it down and it belonged to Maria. I would use it constantly. Things from my personal life, which, you know, could be messed up. And it could take a toll on you. It definitely did. How can it not? But it was the only way for me to be as honest as possible with Maria and her issues, because I kind of live with them, or I have.

For me, it was really important to be honest and to take things out of my personal life to give to her. Also, there aren’t that many great roles for Latinas out there. This is something really special. We are mostly put into the same type of roles. Like, you know, the girl who’s running away from her country and crossing the border, or the maid, or whatever, and a character like this is very rare.

I felt like, yes, I got lucky enough to get the role. It’s mine. So now I have to do a really, really good job. Not only because I want to continue working in America, because for me it was really important that people out there see that Latinas are very talented as well, and that we are able to play lead badass roles in American television. And I hope people get to see that.

Is there anything specific that you asked to be added to make her more authentic or realistic in terms of your culture?

Well, yes. First of all, I’m a nerd so I made a bunch of vision boards with different pictures from Mexico, from even my country. Latin music, different animals that live in Latin America that reminded me of Maria, and I gave them to all the writers and the producers, for them to understand a little bit of my take on Maria. Something that was great about the show is that Rick Remender and Miles Orion, they really trusted in us with the creative process. They would call us or text us with questions, which I think is great because they knew that they didn’t know everything.

Photo by: Katie Yu/SYFY

I remember one time Miles calling me saying, hey, I’m writing a scene where Maria and Chico are dancing, what do you think they dance to? That didn’t make it to the final cut of the show. But we talked for hours and hours, about the different types of music and what they meant and what would be perfect for them. Same with Rick Remender. He would tell me, would Maria say this? I have a bunch of scenes just in Spanish and he would make me and Chico like write them, which was awesome. So definitely yes. Not only me but the actor that plays Chico, Michel Duval, we both collaborated a lot with the Latino side of the story.

What do you think are Maria’s strengths and weaknesses as a character?

I think one of Maria’s strengths is that’s she doesn’t belong in King’s Dominion, that she’s not a killer. That’s not what she wants out of life. Although that definitely also could be one of the weaknesses, because then she might not take it really seriously. That also sets her apart. She’s not going to get sucked into the turbine of King’s Dominion, so she’s always going to try and find a way out. I don’t think she’ll get it, but she’s going to be constantly looking for a way out. Also, she’s really manipulative. She knows what people want to hear and see, and she does that. So they would trust her.

Definitely her weaknesses are that she’s very impulsive and she goes off her meds. The fact that she’s bipolar and she’s not medicated because she doesn’t want to, it’s really hard and it’s definitely going to put her and everybody else at risk very soon. Definitely that. Yeah. That she doesn’t take her meds is definitely her biggest weakness. Well, no, and the fact that she’s been kidnapped for years by the cartel, and once Chico is out of the picture she doesn’t know who she is.

She has been living with this rope tied to her neck all her life. And when she finally gets the rope off of her, she’s going to try and find another rope because she doesn’t know how to live free.

I feel like she definitely has the saddest back story out of all of them, though they’re all pretty sad.

I think it is, definitely.

You talked a little bit about Maria and Saya’s relationship, but just in terms of Saya and Marcus and the other characters, how do their relationships change over the rest of the season?

It’s very complicated. As you said, we’re doing the TV show where we get to tell more stories. The fact that Saya and Maria’s relationship very soon is gonna kind of come to an end changes everything and puts everybody at risk too. The fact that Marcus is in the picture, that he’s right there and that we’re both attracted to him. Saya is not only attracted to Marcus, but Marcus is also her pledge. So no matter what happens, Saya and Marcus have to stay together. And that’s going to be really, really hard for Maria to understand and she’s not going to like that. And also, Saya and Marcus, well, you know what happens.

Image: Rick Remender and Wesley Craig

When that happens with Marcus and Saya, it’s going to be even worse than in the comics for Maria and Saya. It’s gonna get bloody and messy and heartbreaking because after all, they really love each other. Saya and Maria really deeply love each other. They don’t have anybody else in the world. And at the end, they don’t even give a fuck about Marcus. He just happened to be there and be the person who kind of messed everything up.

But it’s going to be heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking for me and for Lana to shoot those final scenes of the season, definitely. Because we developed a relationship, a personal relationship, Lana and I, so when Maria and Saya broke up, it was really hard for us too. Everybody in the show really, I think, every character is constantly afraid of Maria losing it because they know she is going to be dangerous and that’s going to be really exciting. That’s gonna start happening next week. 

The show has a very diverse cast as it is, which is great, but do you think there is a possibility for LGBT characters and storylines, maybe in future seasons?

Yes! Yes, I heard that. Actually, I don’t remember who told me or when or if this is something that I should be saying, but I remember somebody saying exactly that for season two. I mean, we don’t have the green light for season two yet, but we hope we get it. I heard that. That’s definitely coming for sure.

Just one more question. What was your favorite scene or episode to shoot?

My favorite episode, it’s hard because I think the best episode for the fans is going to be the next episode, episode five, which airs next week. But to me, the episode that I enjoyed the most is episode six, because I believe it’s the Big Maria episode where we get to tell her backstory, and we see the repercussions of what happened in Vegas and how everybody’s really in danger.

Image: SYFY

Because we all find out about F***face and that he’s kind of following us. Then Maria’s off her meds and having a relationship with Marcus and hating Saya, and it’s crazy. So definitely episode six is one of my favorites because of how hard it was for me. Episode five is going to be the best for the fans.

The scene that I enjoyed the most is in episode eight, which is a big, kind of fun fight between Saya and Maria. We rehearsed a lot for it, and it was really fun to do.

Season one of Deadly Class airs on SYFY, Wednesdays at 10PM.

(Featured Image: SYFY)

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Devon Forward

Devon is an artist, writer, and current student of film/television development. She loves anything science fiction or fantasy, and her favorite show is Charmed, which kick-started her obsession with powerful yet imperfect female characters. You can usually find her somewhere analyzing a tv show or reading a good book. On Twitter @dev4wrd

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