It’s a new series with Portuguese DNA that’s worth noting: “Crimes Submersos” starts this Friday 21st January at 21:30 on RTP1. It is a co-production with the Spanish public broadcaster TVE, the first in its history. The first episode has already been broadcast in Spain and achieved good viewership figures there. There are eight chapters in total.
This is a police officer, with exciting and dramatic contours, who has the drought on the Iberian Peninsula as a background – albeit indirectly, the topic of climate change hovers over “Underwater Crimes”.
The premise is as follows: In recent years, reservoir levels have fallen to historic lows. Several villages that were flooded decades ago because of levees have emerged from the water. In Campomediano, the skeletons of two men are found in the ruins of one of the houses.
Spanish police inspector Daniela Yanes (Elena Rivera) takes on the case – and there’s no doubt that it’s a crime. The deaths are suspected to be linked to environmental protests staged more than 20 years ago to prevent the dam from being built.
Across the border, a woman lost a child 20 years ago. “When a young Hélder Gomes went to the police, there was a mother who had a missing child. 20 years have passed and every body that turns up in the Algarve or in Trás-os-Montes, this mother is asking him to go and find out if perhaps – in a mother’s fear – it is her child. The story starts with these two bodies in Spain and she asks this police officer again to investigate to find out if it’s her son,” Portuguese protagonist Marco D’Almeida explains to NiT.
From there, Detective Hélder Gomes forms a partnership with Daniela Yanes and the two begin investigating the case. “It begs the question: who did it? And why did you do it? And the drought is always in the background. The various flashback scenes have rain. In everything that has electricity, it does not rain and everything is very dry. The photography is also aligned with this in mind.”
Marco D’Almeida illuminates the narrative arc of the relationship between his character and the Spanish detective. “We are two unknown professional colleagues, police officers who cannot show any emotions, and one of the most beautiful things is this deep friendship and relationship of trust.”
In Crimes Submerged, the police “don’t just fulfill the role of investigators.” They are denser characters whose personal lives are explored. “They’re about to get divorced, my wife is fed up with me being a cop, Daniela’s character has issues to deal with too. And we are very suspicious of everything around us.”
Hélder Gomes feels “morally obligated” to the woman whose son has disappeared. “During these 20 years, my eldest daughter has an accident and helps with the surgeries. She is a rich woman with power and help. As a father, he not only understands the side of the mother who lost a child, but also owes a personal debt to this person who helped him. He is a very honest man and keeps his word. If he gave his word that he’s going to go all the way and find out, it’s because he’s going to find out. As much as it costs him – even his family life.”
Marco D’Almeida also liked the fact that his character wasn’t what he describes as “good bread without salt”. He’s a good detective, on the right side of justice, but he’s not a perfect person. “I’d like to give you a few qualities so you might not look so good. [risos]. May you have some shadows in your personality. For example, he tries to come up with plans to walk among the raindrops to find out the truth. He’s not someone who’s very straight forward, who sticks to the book, who follows everything… And sometimes he even questions some of his attitudes. But I found it much more interesting that way. And in this story there’s a lot of lying, there’s a lot of games and he’s starting to get fed up and showing a side of “I’m a cop, don’t play with me”. I go in cool first, but if I need to slap some, I’ll slap some, I’ll go all the way. It is very interesting to work with this duality.”
Another national actress participating in the series is Soraia Chaves. The actress plays Tina, a Portuguese who has lived in Spain for many years. “She is the lover of one of the protagonists, Martín. Martín is married to the businesswoman who owns the site where the bodies were found,” he tells NiT.
“My character’s connection to the story has to do with this extramarital relationship. She emerges as an island in this man’s life amidst the family drama and all the troubles that unfold in the plot. It is this comfort zone of laughter and non-commitment. And there is a strong friendship between the two. Now for her characteristics… She is an independent, fun, easygoing, very mature and modern woman. It will also help Marco D’Almeida’s character, the detective, to solve the story,” he adds.
The Portuguese-Spanish cast includes Guilherme Filipe, Margarida Marinho, Miryam Gallego, Rodolfo Sancho, Miguel Ángel Muñoz, Paula Lobo Antunes, Rita Loureiro, Diogo Martins, Luís Ganito, João Craveiro, João Baptista and Fernando Rodrigues. It will be directed by Joaquín Llamas, who will also sign the screenplay, with Miguel Sáez.
The production was mainly owned by TVE – so all the Portuguese actors had to do a virtual casting and record a self-video to judge it. The series will be spoken in Portuguese and Spanish.
“What also attracted me was the fluidity of the two languages, being able to get married in a fiction,” says Marco D’Almeida, who believes that was the project’s greatest challenge. “I’m fluent in Spanish, but it’s one thing to speak and another to take a text and take all the nuances that it has. Maybe I had to work twice or three times what I normally work, which is enough. It was an obstacle, but I hope I overcame it.”
Soraia Chaves plays Tina.
Soraia Chaves, who lived in the Spanish capital Madrid for two years, also speaks the language fluently. But despite “that convenience, it was still a challenge,” he admits. Both praise and appreciate this co-production. “This idea of having a link between the Portuguese and Spanish public broadcasters struck me as very exciting. Both the Portuguese and the Spanish have invested heavily in fiction, particularly series. It is more than proven that the Spaniards have immense talent and can build quality products. And it’s also proven that the Portuguese can do it – it seemed to me a connection that could only be beneficial. It is interesting to see the two countries of the Iberian Peninsula not back to back but hand in hand in the fiction.”
Marco D’Almeida adds: “It’s just culturally enriching to create things like that. It’s not these co-productions of “We have to use a German or English actor here to justify the money”, but then that doesn’t play into the story either. Everything fits very well here, it’s organic and flowing. When you see the product, you realize that it makes sense, it makes sense. I hope it’s the first of many, there’s a lot of history to be told between Portugal and Spain. I am always for bridges and not for walls.”
The two players also comment that language is less and less of a barrier in the current audiovisual market, where the rise of streaming platforms has led to structural and global changes.
“The world has become more open. You can see that in fiction. I think we’re becoming more connected, boundaries are more and more dissolving and fiction has always been a means of communication and a form of knowledge and discovery. I think audiences around the world are already more open to new cultures. This is real globalization. The success of Spanish series on Netflix, the success of cinema and Korean series… A few years ago it was unthinkable for many people – not in my case, since I’m a cinephile and I watch films from all over the world, but I’m speaking of the broad one Public – to watch an entire series in Korean [risos]. Likewise, I think other countries can see and hear Portuguese. We are experiencing a time with good prospects,” says Soraia Chaves.
Marco D’Almeida also says that the trend will be to rely more and more on series, “not to downplay the soap opera”. “What I think will be the future of fiction isn’t 200 or 300 chapters. I’m not saying that soap operas will go away completely, but I think people will be looking for these types of short stories more.” Commenting on Crimes Submerged, the actor says there could well be a second season if the ratings are good. You can watch the preview episodes on RTP Play, every Friday from 12 p.m.
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