Paola Nuñez, who plays Maria Garcia in The Son, talks about why Maria feels guilty, how difficult it was to stand up to Eli and her favorite Season 2 memory.
A: A really important factor in the life of Maria is she always thought that Pete was a weak man because she knows that Pete loves her, but he was not able to confront his family and say, “This is the woman that I love, and I want to be with her.” And, after her family was murdered, she realizes that she chose this person. So, for the first time, she feels guilty because she knows that he’s responsible, but she herself is responsible too because she trusted this man and now her whole family is dead. I feel that at this point Maria has this huge amount of guilt because she was not able to do things right — she was not able to get rid of Pete. She loved him and then she trusted him, and she always had hope that he was going to be strong and protect her. I think she’s disappointed in him, but also she’s mostly disappointed in herself, so I think that’s what provokes that shift that we see in Maria.
Q: In a flashback we see Maria tell Pete that he’s weak and that he won’t kill his father for what he’s done. What causes this shift in Maria toward Pete?
A: I think this is the first time that Maria tells him to his face, “You are weak.” I can imagine that during their whole life together and their whole experiences together, he was always saying, “I’m going to talk to my family. I’m going to talk to my dad. I’m going to leave Sally. We’re going to be together.” And she fell for it, again and again and again, even though she knew in her heart that it probably wouldn’t happen. But she wanted to be with him and wanted to believe him. And this is the first time that I feel Maria knows that’s not going to happen. Whatever Pete says is not going to happen because he’s weak and he’s always been weak, and that’s why she blames herself.
Q: Sally is the first of the McCulloughs that Maria runs into since returning home. Does Maria blame Sally for what happened?
A: I never saw Maria feeling anger towards Sally. I think Maria just knew that the circumstances for both of them were bad. Of course she felt jealousy. Of course. But I feel that she would always blame him [Pete] because he was not capable of leaving Sally. When Maria comes back, of course she just hates everyone. She wants to destroy everyone in that family, but I don’t think it’s something that personal with Sally. I don’t think she thinks about Sally that much.
Q: Maria visits Pete and asks him to back her story and go against Eli. He tells her no and not to come back. Was this the response she was expecting?
A: I think she does, but she doesn’t have any other option. She doesn’t want to go to him. She doesn’t want to see him again because she knows him so well and she knows exactly how he’s going to react. And he reacts just like she expected, but she has to do it. She doesn’t have many other choices, and so she makes a decision to go and see him.
And I also feel that she knows the power that she has over him, and she’s betting that she’s going to provoke something in him. And maybe he doesn’t have the strength that she would want to him to have, but she knows that he loves her and she’s just playing this card to see what happens.
Q: Once Eli finds out Maria is after him, he makes her an offer that she refuses. Instead, she tells him she is out to destroy him. How does Maria feel in this moment, taking Eli head on?
A: I think she waited for this moment so much, but, when it comes, it’s overwhelming. I think Maria thought that she was more resolved in her ideas, that everything was super-clear and she was super-focused, and that she knew what she wanted to say to Eli. But I feel that, when she finally sees him, everything just dissolves for her. She becomes super-emotional, and she doesn’t want him to see her that way. She wants to be strong, but she can’t and she feels weak and everything that comes out of her mouth is just trying to prove that she’s strong. When I shot that scene, I just felt so helpless and so vulnerable. She wanted to show him that she was invincible, that she was going to kill him. And, yes, the words come out of her mouth and she manages to say, “I’m going to kill you,” but she’s struggling to say the words because in front of her is this man that murdered the only thing that she loved in this world.
It’s a really powerful moment for her, and afterwards when she walks away, she feels so powerful but also she feels that she just wants to get down on her knees and cry.
Q: What are you excited most for people to see this season?
A: I think this season is more powerful in general. Everything happens much more quickly. There’s a lot of action, and there’s a lot of unexpected twists and turns. I just think it’s much more intriguing. If you didn’t end up falling in love with the characters during the first season, I think you end up falling in love with the characters during this season because they become more endearing and for the first time you see why they do what they do. And you get to see their flaws, which is always beautiful. And you get to see their pain. There’s a lot of pain. And I think that the pain in this season is so palpable, and I think people are going to connect with that.
Q: What’s your favorite memory from filming this show?
A: I remember shooting one scene that I’ll never forget. It was the flashback with Peter, when I’m telling him that he’s weak. We were in a beautiful place. It was a night shoot. The moon was wonderful. I’m just never going to forget that night. That scene, it was so emotional for me. It was so hard for me just to collect myself. I feel that was the first time I felt Maria’s pain, like in a way that I’ve never felt anything else. It was so intense. I understood the character so deeply that night for the first time in that way. For me it was magical. It was so magical.
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