Alice Braga kicks-ass as the antihero drug lord in USA's "Queen of the South"

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09 June 2016

USA NETWORK, premieres Thursday, 10:00 PM ET

By Jeff Pfeiffer

“You won’t like me,” Teresa Mendoza cautions viewers right at the beginning of Queen of the South (premiering Thursday), USA Network’s adaptation of the hugely popular Spanish language telenovela La Reina del Sur (itself based on the best-selling novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, which is also what the USA series primarily draws from). But as Teresa starts to take us back and tell the story of how she rose from poor circumstances in Mexico to become a powerful drug lord in America, we actually do like her to some degree, in the same way that many viewers grew to root for Walter White in Breaking Bad.

It’s the appeal of that antihero archetype that has become in vogue on TV in recent years, but is typically seen through the lens of a male character. In Teresa, we get one of television’s rare female antiheroes, and the complexity of such a character was appealing to Brazilian actress Alice Braga, who plays her.

“It’s a very interesting character,” Braga told us. “She’s someone very controversial in the sense that she becomes a drug lord, especially since we don’t see many women in that position. … I love that she doesn’t victimize herself. There’s something that I always thought when I was playing her, which is that heroes are not victims. She doesn’t victimize herself or feel sorry for herself, and I think that’s why she becomes who she became.”

In addition to seeing who Teresa becomes in the beginning of the series, we — and Teresa — also see glimpses of her future “queen” self via an interesting technique that the series uses. Young Teresa, still on the run and struggling, sees in her mind, particularly during very stressful moments, her more mature self, who is urging her on to the success that awaits. This required Braga to play a few different stages of the character in a timespanning story.

“I tried to understand how I would [go] from one to the other,” Braga explained, “and [I was] playing with different body language because it’s a completely different outfit, completely different posture and a completely different person. Because one is still a little bit naive, still more fragile and still a young woman just trying to survive, and the other one is a strong, powerful woman. I’m still learning how to fi gure out both of them, but it’s a nice challenge.”
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