Queen of the South: Women Rule the Cartel World

Queen of the South premieres tonight on USA Network, and we had the chance to chat with two of its stars during their opening night gala at the ATX Television Festival. Alice Braga (Teresa) and Justina Machado (Brenda) told us a bit about their characters and their role in this epic tale of women overcoming the odds and one of them becoming the queen of a drug cartel.

This story was first told in the bestselling book by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, and Alice Braga was a fan of that novel. “I first read the book about eight years ago,” mused Braga, “and the main reason that I fell in love with it was because of this character [Teresa Mendoza] and the type of character she is.”

Now she’s stepped into this role and couldn’t be more excited to bring the story to a new audience. “She’s a very strong woman who never victimizes herself. That’s a wonderful quality,” Braga shared. “Then she has this crazy journey when she becomes … the queen of this drug world.”

Justina Machado — someone I’ve adored since she played Vanessa on Six Feet Under — plays Brenda, Teresa’s best friend. Although she could say much about her character, she did say, “She’s a survivor. She is fierce, unapologetic, funny. But more than anything, she’s a survivor.”

Despite my initial impressions, this series is not another crime drama. “It’s more about the rise of this woman that’s been thrown into these circumstances and what she does to survive,” Machado told me.

Braga knows that it’s not often that we see leading female characters like this. “We’re not playing the ‘female’ character. [We’re not] looking for a man, or divorcing a man. We are [portraying] characters that could easily be played by a man or a woman,” said Braga. “Teresa could easily be a man, but it’s a woman and that’s one of the reasons I fell in love with the book. Having the chance to play with Veronica Falcón (Camila) and Justina Machado (Brenda) is great. These are three female characters that are strong personalities. They’re wonderful characters to play, and having that chance is very special, especially nowadays when we’re having this discussion [about roles for women].”

This is Braga’s first TV role and first visit to the ATX Television Festival. “I always come to SXSW but this is my first time at ATX. It’s good because I’ve never done TV before. It’s a new world for me because I come from the movie world.” She added, “I always thought about TV and it ended up that I was always involved in films. When they called me [for Queen of the South], what drove me and made me jump on board was this character. But if it wasn’t Queen of the South, I would definitely do TV. It’s a very special moment because there are so many good writers and filmmakers and amazing people doing TV. It’s [no longer] a matter of TV or film; it’s about stories and characters and human beings.”

Queen of the South premieres tonight at 10/9c on USA Network (Canadian viewers will have to wait until Tuesday, August 16 for its debut on Bravo).

Photo Courtesy of USA Network

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