Ximena Romo channels the punk poet laureate Patti Smith in Hari Sama’s ‘seductive‘ coming-of-age drama This Is Not Berlin.
The acclaimed Mexican actress joins us on Close-up Culture to tell us more about the role, her time spent training in London, starring in a hugely popular soap opera, and much more.
Q: ‘This Is Not Berlin’ tells the story of a 17 year old who invited to a mythical nightclub where he discovers the underground nightlife scene of punk, sexual liberty and drugs. What attracted you to this story and the opportunity to work with director Hari Sama?
A: At first, it was mainly the opportunity to play a character that’s rare to find; a woman with strong ideals and convictions. When I auditioned for the role I came in with the expectation that I wasn’t going to get it (Hari tells me that was his first thought as well) but something happened there that made Hari think I was right for the role.
When we started to work on rehearsals and readings I realised I was going to be a part of something really special; a project that speaks from a very personal and genuine point of view. It was the opportunity to be the artists we are seeking to be.
Q: You play Rita, the older sister of Carlos who is in a band. How did you prepare for the role and get into the free-spirited mind of Rita?
A: The main reference was singer and writer Patti Smith. Hari gave me her book Just Kids where she talks about her beginnings, her love for reading and writing, her wild adventures and the struggles in her pursuit to became a poet and an artist. It really inspired me to construct a wild Rita, that even though she’s young and capable of making mistakes, she’s smart and strong enough to be an artist no matter what comes her way.
Hari even made me try out my poetic skills, that thankfully never got to be read but that gave me a feeling of what a poet is searching for and how they may think.
Rita is also a really good older sister. I myself have one younger brother so I could relate to the sense of responsibility combined with utter disapproval that any teenager has about siblings. Rita is a smart teenager that still has some stuff to learn.
Q: I’ve heard that this is an incredibly charismatic lead performance from Xabiani Ponce de Leon (who plays Carlos). Is Xabiani anything like the character he plays?
A: Haha! A little, yeah! He’s this really mellow guy with sort of an edge to him. I knew him from before and he is always been really fun to be around with, always looking to play and have a good time.
Q: There is lots of rebellion and partying in the film. Was there room for fun and mischief during the shoot too?
A: A lot of fun! The whole cast was made up of incredible young actors and actresses that somehow parallel the characters in the film in the sense of being creative and sensible spirits that pine for a lot of love and fun on set, minus the hard drugs and the rebellion, that part was saved for the movie.
I think Hari’s biggest achievement in the movie was assembling this wonderful cast, not only for the story but also for the great relationships and connections we lived on set.
Q: You are the daughter of Patricia Mercado and Horacio Romo Vazquez, two important political figures in Mexico. How did your upbringing shape you as a performer?
A: I find that question really hard to answer because I always try to keep my job separate from my family life and my parents job. I guess it’s fair to say that I was raised under liberal beliefs that did shape me as a performer. I understand life as diversity, there are things that unite us as a human race but we may also be different and that as actress always makes me confront my job with empathy.
Also, my parents taught me that doing things with passion, intelligence, humility and hard work is important to be happy and satisfied with what you do – it’s not about big rewards, it’s about personal achievements.
Q: I believe you also trained at the University of London. Do you have any memories of your time over here? And do you have any plans to return for an on-screen or theatre role?
A: I have lots of memories of my time there, it was my first time living abroad and far away from my family so it really taught me a lot about my self and about life. I made great friends, had amazing teachers and fell even more in love with theatre and acting. London enchanted me with its culture, its history and its way of life. Of course it wasn’t easy but I really treasure my time there.
Maybe in the future I would love to go back and work there. My friends and I would sometimes speak about the idea of doing a project that involved both countries so that we could join forces and make something special. Who knows, only time will tell.
Q: You had a big role as Nora in the soap opera ‘The Colour of Passion’. How do you reflect upon that experience and being tied to a character for so long?
A: Nora was a surprise and a gift. I had just finish acting school when I got the role and at first I didn’t know what would happen, Nora was very challenging and it was my first time doing a soap opera. I do believe that it was thanks to the fact that I was surrounded by amazing people and got great directors that I really got to learn a lot and really fell into Nora’s shoes. She was such a tragic character, hunted by her own demons, moved by pain and desire, that really made the audience empathise with her.
To me the fact that people still remember Nora is a big accomplishment for which I’m really grateful; it’s a reminder that my job can touch other people’s lives and that’s a great responsibility.
Q: What is next for you? What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
A: Well I been work a lot for the past three years, I’ve done some really amazing projects that, because of the nature of our industry, haven’t gotten to see the light yet, so I’m really looking forward for the moment they do and see how people are going to react to them, and how am I going to react to them!
Movies like This Is Not Berlin, 50 First Dates, La Diosa del Asflato (Goddess of the Asphalt), Menéndez are some of the movies I really hope that can find their place. I hope I can be strong through that process and that better things come out of them; they represent a lot of hard work and a lot of risk from my part as a performer.
As for my ambitions in the future, I just want to keep learning and stretching myself as an actress so that I can become the artist I hope to be, everything else is out my control.
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