'Roma' Star Marina De Tavira Talks Challenges of Being the "Only Trained Actress" in the Cast

THR_ROMA_MARINA_001_Marina De Tavira - THR - H 2019
Claudia Lucia

"We had to really make an adjustment to the way I approach acting normally," the first-time Oscar nominee says of working alongside newcomer Yalitza Aparicio in Alfonso Cuaron's film.

Though Marina de Tavira, 44, has played dozens of characters across her decades-long career, the Mexican actress had to change her usual approach to her work in order to star in Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, which shot chronologically and without rehearsals — and mostly without a script.

How did Alfonso Cuaron's personal connection to your character — she was inspired by his mother — inform your performance?

I did meet [his mother] one day on set, but that was when the process already started, and I only got the chance to say hello. But [Alfonso and I] had a long conversation about who she was, and I could sense that I could really relate to her — that it had to do a lot with my mother's story and that I understood what she was going through because I saw it at the time also.

You're an actress with plenty of roles under your belt, while your co-star Yalitza Aparicio had never acted before. What was your dynamic like on set?

That was the most difficult part of the beginning because I was the only trained actress in the whole cast. We had to really make an adjustment to the way I approach acting normally. I had to unlearn what I was used to — which was going through an intellectual process, analyzing the character or maybe preparing a scene — that was just what he didn't want, preconception of any kind.

Will you bring any of those lessons to future roles?

Oh, definitely; in fact, I have already done that. We shot Roma two years ago, and since then I've done two theater plays and a TV series. I definitely feel more confident. Alfonso taught me to let go of this insecurity felt by actors.

What was your favorite moment at the Golden Globes?

It was definitely when Alfonso won best director; it swept me off my feet because I'm really grateful for what he did. He really respected acting. He gave all the elements so that acting could have its own moments with no distractions.

What are you most looking forward to at this year's Oscars ceremony?

To really enjoy it because it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one I never imagined I would ever go through. I want to say I'm grateful to the Academy because they really looked at this character. This is not a character that is on the surface of this film; you really have to look at her in a conscious way.

Is there anyone you hope to meet at the event this year?

The first actress I met during this whole process was Cate Blanchett, in Venice. She was there, holding my hand and saying that she had loved the film. Since that it's been nonstop. So I've met some incredible actresses that I admire. It's really out of this world. 

This story first appeared in a February stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.