Inquirer Super

‘Money Heist’ is back and Manila is in it

By Pam Pastor
04/4/20 11:04 PM

Thank you everybody for being here,” said Alvaro Morte—the Professor to “Money Heist” (“La Casa De Papel”) fans—in his native Spanish, smiling at us from our computer screen.

Alvaro Morte as the Professor

We wish we could say we were being recruited for one of his grand heists but no, we were on Google Hangouts with three of his costars—Jaime Lorente, Alba Flores and Belen Cuesta, five other journalists and a translator, all of us quarantined in the safety of our homes, to talk about the fourth installment of their hugely successful show, which started streaming on April 3.

Most watched show

The Spanish crime drama series found a global audience on Netflix where it has become one of the platform’s most watched shows in any language. (You can watch it in Spanish and read the subtitles or enjoy the dubbed English version.) The streaming giant renewed “Money Heist,” producing Parts 3 and the much-awaited Part 4. A documentary “Money Heist: The Phenomenon” has also been available for streaming since April 3.

The world has embraced the show’s red jumpsuit-wearing, Dali mask-donning gang of rebels and has been riveted by their elaborate heists—first in the Royal Mint of Spain in Parts 1 and 2, and in the Bank of Spain in Parts 3 and 4.

Alba Flores as Nairobi

Flores, who plays Nairobi, an expert in falsifications and who has dreams of being reunited with her son, said, “I’ve had so many theories about the key to our success. You know, I believe they’re day-to-day heroes and I believe that the world was craving to find someone to relate to. I think in this script, anyone can find someone to relate to, because it has to do with the system we live in and how some people who have ordinary lives, some ordinary criminals become social heroes. This has been done before in Hollywood but seeing it from a different country, we have an artistic language, we have this Latin character, we are passionate, we are very expressive and this combination made the rest of the world relate to us more.”

In the middle of war

Part 4 picks up right where Part 3 left off—in the middle of what the Professor has declared a war, with enemies both inside and outside the Bank of Spain—and we see a bloody and injured Nairobi, struggling to survive. Flores said, “I just put myself in the hands of the scriptwriters and you trust them to do anything they want to your character. They have the license to do whatever they want.”

Lorente, who plays Denver, one of the robbers who make up The Resistance, said, “I’m in love with the script and with everything that happens in the drama.”

When asked if he thinks their characters are good people despite being criminals, Lorente said, “They have good hearts but all the pressure that they feel takes them to a place that enables the behavior of bad people. They make mistakes as any human being. The beauty of this new season is that we see the characters go down to hell and they are going to do things that are maybe questionable morally speaking.”

Jaime Lorente as Denver

They may have a propensity for breaking the law but Lorente believes that the group is bound by love. “This gang is characterized by love. They love one another,” he said.

Mastermind

It was the Professor (played by Morte) that brought the group together—he is the mastermind, the brains behind their incredibly planned operations. “I wanted to play someone who was very smart and intelligent, but not very emotionally intelligent,” he said. According to Morte, his character was also inspired by classic superheroes. “They have high skills and capabilities that they have to hide at the same time. He has different faces such as Superman, he has quite a complicated past that we have to unravel little by little like Wolverine, and he controls everything from the hangar much like Batman in his cave.”


The fourth installment of “Money Heist” delivers more of what its audiences love: chaos, action, drama, romance and characters trying to outsmart one another.

In Part 3, the Professor faced a new foe in the form of the heavily pregnant Inspector Alicia Sierra (played by Najwa Nimri) and their battle continues in Part 4.

Morte said, “I think including Najwa in the show is a big hit. She leads the Professor to the limit. She’s very clever. She’s unpredictable. He didn’t have time to study Sierra and you never know what she’s going to do next. She contributes so much more uncertainty.”

Lisbon faces Sierra

Sierra is just one of many badass women in the show.

“It’s clearly not a feminist show in itself, because those characters are inside a very sexist world. The Bechdel test that you have to go through for fiction to be feminist, I don’t think the show will make it. But it is true that it’s filled with strong female characters and as we move forward with the seasons they become even stronger,” said Flores.

Feminism wave

She added, “In my case with Nairobi, that was never the premise. It just happened naturally. I don’t even know if the scriptwriters had this conscious intention to make Nairobi a strong female character fighting for her ability to work and her rights as a mother. I think it just happened because both the scriptwriters and I are born at a certain time and this reflects something that is happening throughout the world that is really important. There’s a feminism wave in the world that it seems will finally find its place.”

If the Professor ever had to leave someone else in charge, Morte said, “I’d say undoubtedly a woman because I think in general terms they are more reasonable, wiser and more empathic. I would never leave Denver in charge, that’s for sure.”

Flores said, “If you don’t leave me in charge, I will stage a coup.”

But Morte had reservations. “Nairobi would be the best choice. But there’s a time when she proposed that Tokyo should be in charge. I don’t think that’s a good thing because Tokyo is too impulsive and that decision by Nairobi makes me doubt her ability to be the best in charge.”

Flores said, “It was hard for myself. I didn’t want to tell Tokyo that she should be in charge because I thought I should be.”

Introducing Manila

Belen Cuesta joins the show as Manila

Part 4 of “Money Heist” introduces yet another strong woman: Manila, played by Cuesta. “It was fun but you have the feeling of being the new student in class and everybody knows each other. But fortunately, I have wonderful coactors, which made things easy. I felt very much welcome. They made me at ease and feel comfortable. My colleagues have been kind to me.”

Cuesta has never been to the Philippines, she said. “I’ve never had any contact with the country but I would love to travel there. I think it’s a perfect occasion, taking into account that I’m named after the capital.”


Flores said, “Don’t worry, I’ve been playing Nairobi for four years and I’ve never set foot in Nairobi.”
Since the rest of his “family” in the show use the names of cities as code names, we asked Morte which place he’d name his character after.

He said, “We have to take away the religious component but it would be Vatican City because it’s a state city, a very small one, like the Professor, with his shield all the time but at the same time it has a great power throughout the world.”

Lorente joked, “I would call him Professor Venice Beach because that would be amazing, don’t you agree, Professor?”