Sarah Jorge Leon has appeared in "Jane The Virgin". We interview her about her role in "Canela"
What do you think viewers will most like about Candela?
I think, in Candela, all the main characters are somehow going through a process of trying to connect to other people. There's a feeling of isolation that I feel the three of the main characters represent. And I feel that people will most likely understand that feeling on a very core level, because I feel like not maybe during our entire lifetime, but definitely during our lifetime, we, as people, have felt that sense of not being able to connect to other people. So, I think as a main theme within the characters; I feel is something that's part of the human condition. And I think that it's something that definitely will create some kind of weaving between one person and the other that sees it. And I also think that people will like the way that it is presented. I feel like, visually, it's beautiful. The photography is wonderful. Monga did the photography, and he's a very talented cinematographer. And I think that it also takes place in Dominican Republic, but also shows us a part of the Dominican Republic that is not necessarily what is advertised, or what people know about it. So, it's giving a voice to a part of that reality that maybe didn't have a channel to voice itself before. So, I think that's very interesting to watch for a viewer that hasn't been exposed to that.
Do you know what the inspirations behind this movie were?
I think it piggy backs a little bit on the last part of my answer to the previous question, which is that I think the reframing of what it means to be Caribbean is very prevalent as a theme in the story. I think it is a question that the director wanted to ask himself and wanted also the audience to end up asking themselves when they saw it, which was, what does it mean to be an island? What does it mean to come from an island? What does it mean to come particularly from an island in the Caribbean? What are the ideas that people have of what that means, from media and from tourism, and the way that those islands are generally, like advertised into the world versus this experience, which definitely lends itself for us to look at the Caribbean life and experience it in a different way. Not that any of those experiences are good or bad, but definitely, I think Candela shows us a part of the Caribbean experience that's less known to the general public.
What do you like about your character?
When I first read the script, I really liked the script. I thought the script was very strong, and it touched upon a lot of themes about the human condition that were particularly interesting to me, in my own personal journey, not only as an artist, but as a person. And Sera Peñablanca in particular, the character that I play, to me, she was a woman that was in a lot of pain and a woman that was very fragmented, divided, isolated, and really was striving to feel something, to feel alive, to feel connected, and was trying to do so in very toxic ways. But when I read it, I really felt for her, like I really felt, “Wow, to be in that body, experiencing the world in that way, so shut from everything, feeling that you don't have a voice,” and she literally doesn't have a voice in the script. She has like one sentence, and the whole script was something that I felt a deep empathy towards, and it also made me think of the times and moments in my life that I had felt alone and isolated. So, I think probably the first thing that grabbed my attention about the character was that deep sadness and isolation that I felt she had.
Do you have a favorite moment from the movie?
I really like visually the moment where we see the thief, which is a mythical quote unquote character, is not like a realistic character in the film. It’s more of a dream like character that shows up, and that symbolizes our African heritage and many other aspects of our culture. I really like how visually they captured that. I thought it was beautiful and very well done. And then I want to say that maybe one of my favorite moments is a very small moment where the cop is in the car, and he's trying to understand how he's going to negotiate with himself, not investigating what he needs to investigate, like making that decision and how that decision is going to reflect on how he sees himself. I think it's a very important moment in the film, because I feel like, as human beings, we do that all the time. We are confronted with situations where we have to ask ourselves, “If I act this way, am I going to like the person that I am? And do I have that choice?”Because sometimes, I guess, that is more of a luxury to have a choice than not, even if we think we do.
Did you enjoy filming this movie? And if you did, what did you enjoy about filming it?
I loved filming Candela. I had never played a character that was basically silent throughout the film, and that was a very different experience. I felt very in my body because of it. I had to work a lot with understanding like energetic centers in my body and how certain circumstances that the character went through triggered those energetic fields when she was afraid, when she was feeling empowered, etc. So, that was fun to do. But also I enjoyed it, because I felt that everyone involved in the process was really wanting to be there and really wanting to say something that to them mattered. So, the group of people creating this was a group of people that I felt were putting their heart and soul in it, and when you get to be a part of something like that, it's very invigorating, and it definitely stays with you as an experience for the rest of your life.
Would you say there's more or less competition in terms of actors going for roles when it comes to films in foreign languages?
I honestly think there's a lot of competition, regardless. I feel that the competition feels maybe bigger when it's projects that are very high budget and our studio projects and things like that, because maybe they already have in mind actors to play certain roles, and it's more of a franchise and things like that. But I feel like for indie films or films that are more intimate, I think the competition, at least for me, it's felt the same no matter if it's in English or Spanish.
How did you get into acting?
I did a lot of theater when I was young, when I was a child, and I really always - my mother is a writer literature. She was a literature teacher for many years, and I grew up very in contact with books and reading stories, and I always loved telling stories. So, as a vehicle for storytelling is one of the reasons why I like doing films. Another reason is I really love people, observing them, their behavior, how complex they can be. And, to me, the human condition and behavior were other topics that were of a lot of interest to me. So, doing theater as a young person, and then being exposed to wonderful stories through my mom, and also, my undergrad was in psychology, so I got to dive into human behavior a little more. I kind of narrowed down that definitely acting was what I wanted to do, or the story tell, whether it was writing or directing, because it encompassed a lot of the topics that, for me, were interesting and exciting, and that I felt that were vehicles to put up something into the world that hopefully creates a little bit of change or impacts people or touches people or makes people connect. And that's how I got into it.
What do you like about acting?
What I love about acting is that in order to do it, there can't be any judgment. So, you get to really see someone for who they are, their character. You see them for who they are, without the filter of judgment or what society has imposed on it. You discover humanity through acting, and you just get closer, to me, to what the definition of love is. Because in order to really see someone, you know, in order to love them, you can't have a predisposed idea of who they are, or a judgment on what they are. And I feel closer to humanity that way. I feel that I get a chance to understand that they are a part of something bigger and that we all belong to each other. And that's a beautiful and very fulfilling feeling when when you get to do that.
What has been your favorite role to play throughout your career?
I want to say that - okay, so I did a play once that I played a ragdoll that became human and had an existential crisis, and it was so fun to play. And I don't want to say that that's my favorite role that I did, but that role made me see how playful and how in the moment acting can be. And it was a lesson on that for me. And after that role, I think I found more freedom in acting and more pleasantness because of it, because it reminded me that it was about play and about being here and now and vulnerable. So, I don't want to say that that's my favorite role. I think every role I've played has gifted me something and left me with something, and I've learned something, but that role, in particular, kind of open this universe of playfulness that really changed the game for me.
What would you say were the most challenging scenes to film throughout your career?
Well, there's a scene or two scenes in Candela that I think were challenging, not because of the nature of the scenes, but because there were a lot of technicalities as to how to achieve filming them. And I can't really explain what that was, because if not, I'm going to give away what happens in the film. But, in particular, the scene that I have at the end involved a lot of technicalities as to how it was filmed and how physically I had to train for it, and that seemed challenging, because of the little pieces.
Honestly, I feel like every scene has its little thing, sometimes something as minimal as, like a key that has to be held a certain way. Because if not, it sounds when you move your bag, and then the sound person is upset; you're talking on top of the key, but you need to pull the bag, because the director told you. Like, sometimes it's something very minuscule that you would think, “heh, that that's not as demanding.” And sometimes it is definitely something emotional or heart wrenching that you have to live through, and then it becomes challenging, because of that. So, every scene kind of has its thing. Some of them are really easy and flowy. I mean, it depends on the particular scene, but, in general, I feel like there's always something that kind of, you're like, “Ah, I gotta pay attention to this,” or “I gotta remember that,” or “I gotta let go of this.”
What did you most like about appearing in the TV show Jane the Virgin?
I loved the cast. I thought the cast was wonderful. They had built a sense of family in that studio. When I went in there, I felt so welcomed; I felt so at ease. They made me part of their team, and instead of feeling nervous or feeling apprehensive, I just felt really free and fortunate to be there. So, I want to say that apart from the character, that was fun to play, just being around those actors that were wonderful and very, very easy to play with and open. It was definitely a gift.
Where can people follow you?
On Instagram I am @SarahJorgeLeon. That's my handle.
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