As a result of a combination of factors -- primarily (1) that my telenovela is relatively old, having aired in 1998 and (2) Televisa's copyright chokehold in the TV world -- I wasn't confident that I would be able to find any online material relevant to production and to La Usurpadora. I had almost resigned myself to seeking out any old celebrity gossip in order to speculate on the behind-the-scenes dynamics among the cast when I stumbled across a small goldmine.
This obscure gem of an article, originally published in the Venezuelan periodical Así es la noticia, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at one of the all-time most successful Mexican telenovelas from the mouth of Gabriela Spanic, la usurpadora herself, and her husband, Miguel de León.
Why would they want to interview Spanic's then-husband about her show? I wondered that too. Well, as it turns out, it's his show too. De León's name rang vague bells in my head not because he had starred in another popular telenovela or five, as I initially assumed when I clicked on the article, but because he was Spanic's costar, playing the lonely millionaire Douglas Maldonado, who helps Paulina pull the Bracho family out of their pit of financial ruin.
The real kicker? Both actors, who met on the set of another telenovela are Venezuelan. So this isn't just a vague costar dating rumor aimed at garnering publicity. What we have here is a husband who completely uprooted his life to move to Mexico with his wife, both of them completely unknown at the time, so she could take this starring role and he could be there with her -- literally there, on the set.
Speaking on the magnitude of their on-set romance, De León calls it "a novela-like story within the novela," revealing that both of them made major life decisions as a result, leaving other partners (in his case, Google tells me, a wife) to be with one another. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. If this doesn't reveal how intense the behind-the-scenes whirlwind of telenovela production is, I don't know what would. The relationships between these actors who see one another so often in such a short period of time must be incredibly intense and intimate. It reminds me a little of the look we got at the filming of the last episode of a telenovela the other day in class, where one of the main couples filmed their last scene together and afterwards, every other actor on set stood up and applauded. It was clear not just how close they had become but also how invested everyone in the room, down to the last extra, was in the show -- and, in this case, the couple.
(At the same time, it makes me wonder how De León might have felt on the set of La Usurpadora, not just knowing that his wife was filming love scenes with someone else but most likely watching them. It'd be easy to say it's all business for the actors, but look what happened with these two!)
Another interesting point raised in the interview involves the idea of Spanic as a real-life "usurpadora," not just in the sense that audiences see her as an extension of her character, but also in that a lot of Mexican actresses were apparently upset with her casting. According to Spanic, leading men are hard to come by in the world of telenovelas, but leading ladies ... not so much. In looking over the main female cast, perhaps the show's biggest name, Libertad Lamarque, is an Argentine import. But two of the other main female actresses, Dominika Paleta and Chantal Andere, are both Mexican. It makes me wonder, thinking about how actors sometimes fight for top billing, whether there was any resentment behind the scenes at how much attention Spanic received for her role as Paulina/Paola -- especially considering the show was a remake, and an incredibly successful one. She downplays the criticism she received in this interview, but it's clear that she was aware of it and that it affected how she played her role.
This interview gave me a lot of answers I didn't even know to ask for, but it left me with maybe even more questions. I would love to have seen what went on inside Televisa's walls when La Usurpadora was being filmed.