Queen of the South executive producer David Friendly, a former journalist, has more than a passing fancy for authenticity.
"It's such a dense and dark complex world," said the executive producer on the Dallas set of the show in late May. "I have a big bulletin board in my office that has the word 'authenticity' going across it, so I'm constantly reminding myself to be on my team that we want this show to be dramatically exciting but always authentic. We try to extend that to every facet of the show. It's all very much in service of reality."
"Authenticity" is a word that comes up often during a day on the set of Queen of the South, from members of the crew to the cast to production staff. They are serious about this work because they believe in telling this story correctly and responsibly, and that includes the stars.
"I'm very proud to be Mexican, I'm very proud to be Hispanic and I'm very proud to be a woman," says Veronica Falcon, who plays drug queenpin Camila Vargas. "This is one of the best roles I've ever read on television for a female Hispanic actor. ... It is a huge responsibility because even though ... she is a criminal, let's just face it, she is, she has a lot of amazing qualities to her and I think for me it's inspiring. I mean, sometimes she can be attractive and sexy ... but underneath that there's brains and there's intelligence and there's fire and there's this need to validate herself and to show that it's not a matter of gender. That, I think, resonates with everybody, especially with women in this day and age."
And they're serious about their love for Dallas too. That's not just because the cast is weighted with two Texans this season: newcomer and Fort Worth resident Snow tha Product; and "originally from Houston" Sandy Valles, who plays Isabella, the daughter of a notorious drug lord and lady.
Queen of the South, already adapted from blockbuster novel La Reina del Sur as a ratings smash for Telemundo, was adapted for American TV and became a smash again. Its first season introduced to some and presented to others Teresa Mendoza, played by Alice Braga, who had to flee for her life from Mexico after she lost her drug-dealing boyfriend to the cartel. But she seems to land in the same hot water in Dallas.
It's the story of Teresa's ascension to the top of the very cartel which took everything from her. It's an intense thrill ride, filmed in and around Dallas. (And this year, Colombia.)
Season 2 of Queen of the South will premiere on Thursday, June 8, at 9 p.m. on USA Network.
Said Joaquim de Almeida (Don Epifanio Vargas): "Watch us on Netflix and then come watch us now."
CAST OF CHARACTERS
ALICE BRAGA (Teresa Mendoza)
Last season: Teresa went from the frying pan into the fire and then helping to light said fire as she infiltrated the drug cartel to which she had lost everything.
What's coming: It's just like the billboards say, "There can be only one queen." See: Highlander, Slayer.
What neighborhood would her character live in? "I love Oak Cliff," says Braga.
About her character: Let Friendly tell it: "Look at the first season being one of survival. Season 2, she's just beginning to ascend," he says. "Her clothes get a little nicer. She's living in a different place, that's much nicer. You may not see her in full bloom as the queen for several more seasons."
VERONICA FALCON (Camila Vargas)
Last season: Camila Vargas, while busy expanding her import-export business to compete, er, take away her husband's cocaine business, ends up mentoring Teresa in the ways of queendom.
What's coming: This season promises the rise of another queen. We all know how this story ends, as seen in Scene 1, Episode 1, but here is where it gets interesting. Camila isn't done yet. And everyone, including Teresa, knows it.
What neighborhood would her character live in? (Please see the video above.) "I don’t think Camila would have just one home, for starters, but not only because she’s as rich as God, but because it’s dangerous,” Falcon laughs her way through the answer. And if you think Camila would tell you where she lived, you've got another think coming. Because "that's dangerous." Just what Camila would say.
About her character: "She lives on the edge of the sword; she can die any moment. That provokes a certain latent stress that the character lives with all the time. She has to show them how smart and how strong she is. That doesn't mean she doesn't cry on the inside; she's a character with a lot of emotional baggage. She was not a poor girl who came into the drug world. That's not her story."
JOAQUIM DE ALMEIDA (Don Epifanio Vargas)
Last season: Don Epifanio had his hands full from the beginning of the first season to the season finale.
What's coming: Those hands are about to be overflowing. He's now the governor of Sinaloa. And, with drugs hitting home in more ways than ever, he's trying to get out of the cocaine game. He's a kinder, gentler Epifanio? That's a big maybe, because you can't fight the war on drugs and perpetrate some of its most heinous crimes without making some enemies along the way. And when one of those enemies is your wife? Man, look.
What neighborhood would his character live in? De Almeida says Epifanio is happy to be "in America."
About his character: "It's a game."
SNOW THA PRODUCT (Lil' Traviesa)
What's coming: Through a gang, she runs a prison drug ring from the outside. Enter Camila.
What neighborhood does her character live in? "South Oak Cliff. All. Day."
She's about that (acting) life: "It's so dope." She also gets to flex her day job muscles, writing an anthem for the show called "Run That."
SANDY VALLES (Isabella)
Last season: She spent the season in her school uniform, while angst-ing with her absentee mother.
What's coming: "Narco brats." She's fallen in with a bad crowd. "Isabella is actually a problem," said Valles. Don't say you didn't see that coming.
What neighborhood does her character live in? Klyde Warren Park is her favorite place, but honestly, she'd probably go somewhere her drug-dealing parents weren't. "Houston."
About her character: "She has a lot of temptations surrounding her, you know her parents being drug dealers, her boyfriend being a drug dealer, everyone around her. So I don't know if she'll be innocent like in the first season or if she goes through a dark path. ... This is so real. Hopefully, it can open up conversations for moms out there who don't know how to reach out to their teenagers that are maybe going through the same thing, whether they're drug dealers or not."
PETER GADIOT (James)
Last season: Well, he's in it but his heart wavers.That means he's ruthless, but in a my-God-he's-handsome endearing way. As long as he's there, though, he might as well be the best henchman he can be. James takes Teresa under his wing, first to keep an eye on her as a commodity and then to protect and instruct her in the ways of the drug world.
What's coming: James remains conflicted, ruthless and dangerous.
What neighborhood does his character live in? He laughed for almost a minute before answering the question. "I would want to be away from everybody," Gadiot says. He pictures his character on a ranch north of town. McKinney? He said no. So, we're dreaming of him. In Parker.