Carlos Bardem, who plays Pedro García on The Son, talks about his character’s conflicted loyalties and how he feels about his daughter, Maria.
Q: Before production began, what did you know about this period in American and Mexican history?
A: I have a degree in history, but I didn’t know so much about this specific period in this specific part of the world. So, as I have this passion, I did enjoy a lot of this research I had to do to understand the character, and I was really fascinated by those times. I have to say that the people at the production of the show, they were so nice to us and so helpful because they brought a professor from the University of Texas, and he gave us an incredible master class about the period. And of course we had Philipp Meyer [author of The Son and Executive Producer of The Son] on set, and it’s not so often as an actor that you have the opportunity to talk directly with the main source of information about the history.
It was really fascinating to me because I come from Spain and the capitol building in Austin has a seal with the shield of Castilla, in Spain, so it was really nice to understand that before that part of the country was Mexico, before it became the Republic of Texas, and before, of course, it became the United States of America, it was part of the Spanish empire. That helped me to understand where the Garcías come from and how attached to that land and to that legacy is Pedro García.
Q: What is Pedro’s opinion of his daughter Maria?
A: I think Pedro’s greatest strength is his family, but at the same time, especially his daughter Maria, she’s his greatest weakness. She is the eldest child of Pedro, and she’s a kind of rebel. Obviously, she is strong, she is smart. I think he’s conflicted by this. She’s not the way this old-fashioned man that Pedro is would love her to be, but, at the same time, he admires her a lot — and this is going to take us to a difficult situation during the show.
Q: Do you think Pedro would have allowed Maria to marry Pete?
A: I think Pedro wouldn’t be happy letting Maria marry Pete. Pedro represents a very old-fashioned morality, according to those times. I think there’s a Romeo and Juliet component to this story.
Q: Pedro is a proud American, yet he chooses to support Mexican-American insurgents. Why?
A: If you want to understand Pedro, you have to understand those times. They were living close to the border. On the other side of the border, a revolution was going on. At the same time, you had those Bandit Wars in Texas. I think Pedro is conflicted between fighting back or losing everything. He considers himself as an American because actually he has been born in America [since] Texas was America when he was born.
But there is a cultural divide. He is a person whose culture has much more to do with the Spanish heritage or legacy than with the Mexicans, so he’s conflicted and maybe this is an interesting question for the audience — could you belong to two different cultures and be a real American? I would like to think that you can. The Son portrays this moment of the struggle between the white Anglo-Saxons, the Anglo-Americans, taking control over this part of the country that a few years before belonged to all the people. The show goes straight to the heart of questions like resistance, like borders, like racial problems, and I think that somehow it shows at the end that behind all these bigotries, it all comes to money.
Q: How would you describe the complicated relationship between Pedro and Eli?
A: Everybody in the audience has neighbors, so you just have to amplify the scale. Obviously, the Garcías and the McCulloughs, they represent these two different ways of being an American in Texas, of being Texan in that moment. And, obviously, they have very, very old scores to settle. I think Eli is much more aggressive in the way he tries to achieve his goals, and I think that Pedro is trying to keep his nose clean. He doesn’t want to be involved. He’s trying to keep a balance between the different forces that are struggling for Texas at that moment. An actor’s first duty when playing a character is to understand him, to put yourself in his boots, and I can understand that Pedro only wants to be left alone and maintain things as they have always been. But this is going to be impossible, and the McCulloughs represent this tide that is affecting everything.
Q: Why did Pedro decide to help the McCulloughs when they were under siege in Episode 5?
A: I think he’s forced by the circumstances. From this moment, Pedro García sees that he cannot stay apart any longer. The situation is getting tougher, and he has to take sides. At the end, he’s a Texan rancher, and the McCulloughs are his neighbors and they’re under siege from Texan bandits. He decides he has to do something about this. The final push is this request from Maria. Despite his very strong appearance, he is weak with Maria. His favorite daughter begs him to act and to do something, and he cannot refuse. I’m sure he’s knowing that at the same time he’s making this choice, he’s knowing that he puts everything at risk.
Read a Q&A with Jess Weixler, who plays Sally McCullough.
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