When I started playing Dungeons and Dragons all those years ago – when I learned to let my nerd out and learned that it was okay to be different – Eretria was a huge inspiration to me. The character and Terry Brooks’ world overall changed my life for the better and I probably wouldn’t be here writing without strong characters such as Eretria.
Last week, I had the chance to talk with the actress portraying my inspiration made real, Ivana Baquero, and it was a dream come true. Here’s what our conversation was like:
It’s very exciting to get the chance to speak with you and to speak with Eretria here. To start off, you have done absolutely everything. You’ve been around for quite a while. Most people right now on MTV know you as Eretria, but some know you, of course, as Ofelia from “Pan’s Labyrinth”. You’ve been on several other international films as well and you’ve absolutely blown us away in everything we’ve seen you in.
Wow, thank you.
Absolutely. To start, how did you land the role of Eretria for “The Shannara Chronicles”?
It was actually quite funny because I do have my agents and my manager in the States, and when I go to the States I tape and audition over there, but I was in Spain when I got a call from my manager saying that they wanted me to tape for this show that was coming up called, obviously, Shannara. I had to film myself for Eretria. I thought it was a bit odd because obviously I knew that some people tape themselves for auditions, but I didn’t know if it can even get to the producers where I just filmed myself. We sent it over and nothing happened for a couple of months.
After a long while, I got another call saying that they actually loved me. They’d seen every girl already and they really liked me for the role, and they wanted me to fly to LA for a chemistry test with Austin. I flew for a single afternoon. I auditioned, and right before getting on the plane … I know it sounds idealic, but literally right before flying back to Spain they called me saying that they cast me for the role. It was like almost a dream come true. It was very strange and unlikely but it happened.
That is fantastic and it is a dream getting to watch all of you on-screen. We’re a few episodes in now and my question for you is this: How does it feel to be playing Eretria, a strong woman who’s just such a badass?
It’s very empowering, and it’s really special because in general … And now more so, in these last couple of years, but it’s really rare to get to play such a powerful, resourceful female. In my case, obviously I just sort of … I’m leaving my teenage years. I’m twenty-one at the moment, so most of what I’d done before were, obviously, kid roles. This was the most adult thing I’d done ever since. It was very empowering and very, very exciting to play this role that is so energetic, so dynamic, so cool. Because she’s not only a badass, which she kind of is, but she’s also this vulnerable girl trying to run away from this really dark atmosphere. That was very, very special.
Now, you talk about the atmosphere and Eretria’s character here, so let me ask then what it takes for you to get into a character who is involved in an atmosphere like that? What’s your creative process in this situation?
In this case, it had a lot to do with location. As you know, we were shooting in New Zealand, so everything that surrounded us was very, very special and amazing and big in the nature. It all helped you get into it. That, added to the wardrobe, all the makeup, the hair, you felt like you really were there. Also I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we were trained previously. We went there a month in advance to do dagger fighting, sword fighting, all of that stuff, and knowing how to use weapons and how to fight, and to train myself in horseback ride, helped me feel Eretria and know where she was coming from. I think all of those elements and being placed in that spot in New Zealand helped me know where she was coming from and get into character.
I understand you even performed some of your own stunts, so what was that training, and the rest of your training, like?
The training was certainly thorough. They had us … Obviously we had a personal trainer every single day, but we also had stunt training, weapon training, which included sword fighting, dagger fighting. We boxed. In my case, I learned how to use a whip. It was quite intense. We did a lot of our stunts. I did a lot of them and I actually ripped my groin doing one of them, but we obviously had stunt doubles. I do have to say that the team, the stunt team from the show were the same stunt team as Game of Thrones, so they were elite. They were awesome, but we did perform a lot of our stunts. We usually were the ones horseback riding. For me that was very special, too, because I’ve never had the chance to do anything like that, and coming from Spain, over here we don’t really do those kind of productions, so being able to participate in something like that and learn all those things was so, so unique and far from anything I knew.
The cast, crew, and stunt team – all of you … I have to show respect to each and every one of you because it really is an absolutely wonderful production.
Now me, I’ll admit. I read the books a long time ago. They changed my life in ways unimaginable. I’m not going to go into detail obviously, but I have to show that kind of respect to all of you for bringing these characters to life.
Thank you very much. It means a lot, really. We were always thinking about who the people are that read the books and the people who would watch it. We tried to keep very, very faithful to the heart of the books, so it really means a lot to hear we did that.
On set, I understand you grew very close. What was it like on set? I know Terry was on set a lot, so was it all serious or did everybody get some time to unwind?
It was a very calm and very positive atmosphere. Most of us weren’t from New Zealand. We were from Spain, England, Australia, the States, so we all lived in the same hotel, which made us bond inevitably. We became really close – all of us, the crew, the actors. It was almost like a family. We were there for six months, so we ended up just becoming friends really. On set it was amazing. I do have to say it was really challenging and intense. We shot from Monday through Saturday almost thirteen, fourteen hours every day. It was physically demanding, but we were always in our best spirits, and Terry, as you say, was there to add a lot of process, so that helped. I would say it was a very positive atmosphere. People from New Zealand, they’re all very, very lovely, and most of the crew was from there. They just made everything so easy.
So what would you say your favorite moment was on set whether during filming or not?
There were a lot of things. As I said, we were there for six months. In general, I would say I was always looking forward to the horseback riding scenes. Whenever I was on a horse, I’d be super excited and super stoked the day before to do that. I would also say, because we were on a diet and we had to do our exercise and eat proper foods and everything, but we had this one cheat day every week. That day we could eat whatever we wanted to, so I would be very, very happy that day. I was always looking forward to that. Yeah, I would say the horseback riding and probably cheat day.
I think we all love our cheat days on occasion.
So talking about the dynamics and that energy … I want to say that – not just yours but everybody’s on scene at any given time, the energy really comes out. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat and my wife is too. Yes, I read the books. Yes, I know certain things that happen, but watching it unfold on-screen is absolutely … Like we said before, it’s magical and it’s surreal.
Exactly. Shooting the scenes myself, you never know how they’re going to turn out. Seeing it all, all the post-production finished, the music, the special effects, seeing it, as you say, everything unfold is even special for me. I’m really happy to hear that energy came out on-screen. Thank you.
No, thank you. Thank all of you. What do you feel for you, stepping back to your character for a moment, what do you feel is the biggest similarity between Eretria and yourself?
I think it’s that we’re both very constant and persuasive because … In different ways. Obviously she wants to get away from the Rover clan. She wants to get away from her father. She wants a better life for herself and she’s not going to let that go. That’s what she’s pursuing. That’s what she wants, and she finds that in Wil and Amberle. She finds a way out. That’s why she initially joins them. In my case … As we spoke, I’ve been working since I was very young, since I was eight, but I’ve always done my studies. I finished high school. I’m studying a law degree at the moment, so I think I’m also quite constant on and try to reach my goals.
Also, I think we’re both quite vulnerable, and that’s something I loved adding onto her, because I really wanted to make sure people understood where she was coming from. Sometimes it’s hard because she does certain things which people judge her for and maybe don’t understand. I wanted to show her vulnerable side so people would empathize with Eretria. In my case, too, I’m very vulnerable, too, and I think I helped … If there’s anything in my personality that I gave her it would be that probably.
You’ve brought such emotion to it, such realism to the character that it’s unfortunate I only have one question left for you. What is something that you hope the fans learn from your portrayal of Eretria?
I think for one, you can always run away from something you don’t want. It’s okay to get away from that. In Eretria’s case she’s trying to run away from a world of basically men. So is Amberle if you think about it. She’s trying to run away from that, too, and be a strong female, which is what Eretria does, so I think it’s important to appreciate the female values in this show. I hope they see that, especially younger girls, the younger audience. Yeah. The thing with the character, I don’t want to spoil … And I won’t, but she does change a lot throughout the season. In these first four episodes, you’re just almost catching a glimpse of her, so it’s hard to go in-depth with her personality and the things she’s going through and the things she’s going to learn, but she does evolve a lot throughout the season. Hopefully people can see that and learn from that, and hopefully somehow be touched by that. She goes from being selfish to selfless, but I won’t say how.
The Shannara Chronicles airs Tuesdays at 10pm/9c on MTV.