‘Christ and King’, from the fairy tale to the horror story

Anyone who lived in Spain between the eighties and the beginning of the 21st century and turned on the television from time to time or bought a magazine, will have an idea formed about the protagonists of this story. They were at the top, fell in love quickly, and soon after, all hell broke loose. The story of angel christ Y Barbara Rey goes from fairy tale to horror story in the barely eight years that their marriage lasted. Christ and King, the series that Atresplayer Premium premieres this Sunday, takes as material the versions of its protagonists and what was reported in the media at that time to, in eight episodes, trace a path that goes from the dazzling lights of the circus to the spotlights of the cinema and uncovered TV, to the darkness of drugs, addiction and violence.

The story begins with a angel christ at the top, collecting the title of best tamer in the world in Russia in 1969. Winner, married and happy. In the next scene, ten years later, he threatens with a gun whoever takes his tigers from the Russian circus. Newly widowed by his first wife, his show is out of date and he is drowning in debt. Bárbara Rey is the muse of uncovering, an icon of openness, freedom and the Transition. She is at the top and rubs shoulders with the highest spheres —from the first episode, the series makes her relationship with Juan Carlos I explicit. To talk about the series that tells the relationship between tamer and showgirlIn mid-December, this newspaper brought its creator together at the headquarters of the production company The Good Mood, Daniel Ecija, and the actors who play the two leads, Jaime Lorente Y Belen Cuesta.

Jaime Lorente and Belén Cuesta, as Ángel Cristo and Bárbara Rey in 'Cristo y Rey'.
Jaime Lorente and Belén Cuesta, as Ángel Cristo and Bárbara Rey in ‘Cristo y Rey’.

“It is the story of an era,” says Écija. “The series explains the journey of a country from a dictatorship to embrace freedom, but it is a country that drags characters who have been educated without knowing how to manage that freedom, with many defects. They are exponents of an education that many people suffered during the dictatorship and who had to deal with the explosion that was the Transition and freedom, with many deficiencies to deal with something as difficult as coexistence and love. For its creator, this story shows “endemic conflicts of individuals and society today.” “They were very modern, she especially. Ángel wanted to, but like so many individuals, they did not give him good cards. Christ, who died in 2010, He dragged years of drug addiction problems, which he began to consume during his marriage. In 1989, Rey denounced him for mistreatment.

The writers and producers were soon clear that Jaime Lorente should be the one to play the tamer. “I didn’t know where I was going to go,” admits the actor. “I found out about his life and it seemed to me that the character was less interesting than what the series paints him to be. The first part, more of lights, more circus, was a lot of fun to do, but then we get into dark places. Normally, one feels identified with his characters in some things, but there came a time when I didn’t feel identified at all in anything”, admits Lorente.

Jaime Lorente is the tamer Ángel Cristo in the series 'Christ and King'.
Jaime Lorente is the tamer Ángel Cristo in the series ‘Christ and King’.

Finding Bárbara Rey was more complicated. “We were searching and searching and nothing. One day Bethlehem appeared [Cuesta] In these offices, she put on a wig and did a sequence bestiality, we were speechless ”, recalls Écija of a decision that, a priori, did not seem the most natural due to the scant resemblance between the two. “When they asked me to do the castingI didn’t know if I wanted to do it, because of the cliché and the image one has of her. But I wanted to get rid of it. In addition, it is a way of doing justice and for people to understand what this woman was and what happened. She is a character that is very foreign to me, nothing to do with me, and at the same time, I feel a great responsibility for being able to tell her in the best possible way”, explains Belén Cuesta.

fact and fiction

A sign at the beginning of the series warns that the plot is inspired by real events and characters, but that it has also been heavily fictionalized “for dramatic purposes.” “We have worked a lot with Bárbara and with Ángel’s entourage. We were able to talk to Payasito before he died [Francisco Javier García-Ontiveros, conocido como Payasito, fue amigo de Ángel Cristo y murió en octubre de 2021]. I have had twenty-odd hours of conversation with Bárbara”, details Écija, who has also had the help of the journalist Chelo García Cortés, played in the series by Adriana Torrebejano. When this interview took place, Bárbara Rey had not yet seen the series because she wanted to wait to see it in its entirety. “He came to the filming of the wedding day. It was very exciting for her. She is very concerned with what will excite her, the journey that the series will be for her, ”continues the scriptwriter.

Belén Cuesta embodies the 'vedette' Bárbara Rey in the Atresplayer Premium series.
Belén Cuesta embodies the ‘vedette’ Bárbara Rey in the Atresplayer Premium series.

Once they gathered the necessary material, the series has not hesitated to imagine with reality as a starting point. “Fiction is fiction and this is an interpretation of the time. I think that the essence and the pillars are honest, but I do want to work on the packaging to make it an exciting and entertaining journey for the viewer, ”defends Écija about her approach to this story. “Of course, we did not avoid one of the conflicts that this relationship had, they are all there, from a responsible point of view, but that does not mean that we avoid them. When you talk about the king and the relationship with Barbara and you talk about responsibility, you may think that we have censored ourselves, but not at all. Actor Cristóbal Suárez plays King Juan Carlos. “Good night, Majesty”, says Bárbara Rey in the first episode of the series. “How many times have I told you not to call me that?” Juan Carlos answers when she goes to one of her clandestine meetings. “All of that is in the series as we have investigated and as we believe it was. If not, we would not have started to make this series, ”defends Écija.

For the actors, interpreting real characters that, moreover, are so etched in the recent memory of the country is a challenge that Belén Cuesta faces with concern. “I want her to feel moderately satisfied with the reflection that I give of her.” To prepare the character, Cuesta and Rey chatted one afternoon over coffee. “More than knowing what was real and what was not, I wanted to know what she was like in private, what María is like more than Barbara [el nombre real de Bárbara Rey es María García García], how he related to his father, how he spoke to his children, how he was in intimacy with Ángel…”. “It is clear that I am not Bárbara Rey nor do I have her voice,” continues the actress. “I could have gotten closer to her character trying to imitate her, but I think I would have gone more into a parody of her. I wanted to tell the story, how he suffered, how he felt. I am the first that, when she sees a biopic, he begins to look if they are similar or if they are well characterized. I assume that this is going to happen and that people will say that I don’t have such long legs. Obviously, I’m not Barbara Rey. But I want people to understand her story more than to see if I look alike or not.”

pop characters

Along with titles like Poison, bose, Nacho either Camilo SuperstarChrist and King It could be included in a national television trend that likes to look back at characters that have marked recent popular culture in Spain. “I think it is a way to look at ourselves”, says Belén Cuesta. “It also makes you see that the memories we have are often totally prostituted. You have something in your imagination and when you revisit it you realize that it was not like that”, adds Jaime Lorente.

Écija explains this trend in a more pragmatic way: “Save a lot marketing and communication. At the time when hundreds of series are released a year, it is a shorter and cheaper way to generate interest in the viewer. But you also have to respond to the expectations generated by memory, which is quite unreliable.

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‘Christ and King’, from the fairy tale to the horror story