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Javier Gómez Santander: “La casa de papel 'is a mix between' Equipo A 'and' Verano azul”

Javier Gómez Santander (Cantabria, 38 years old) is the scriptwriter and executive co-producer of La casa de papel (Netflix), the most internationally successful Spanish series to date, which has just premiered its fifth and final season. In addition, he embodies a phenomenon on the rise: that of the journalist who makes the leap from the media to the fiction industry. Before doing so, he directed and presented the current affairs program La Sexta Column and was a collaborator of Al Rojo Vivo (La Sexta). Now, after leaving Vancouver Media, the producer responsible for the phenomenon of La casa de papel , is preparing “for a plot twist” in the script of its own life.

Question. When did you realize that The paper house had blown it up?

Answer. When we were told that it had been the best-selling costume at the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in 2018.

P. The assembly is frantic. Can the rhythms of fiction be sped up even more?

A. The speed at which the kids are riding on TikTok is incredible. Narrative acceleration has to do with our attention span, which is decreasing. I myself have to make more effort to read. In fact, in my case, there is less distance between reading and meditating, than between reading and watching series.

Q. Until when can the service window be shortened?

R. On television, every minute three interesting things have to happen and one memorable one. We are in a war so that people keep looking at us and not look at others.

P. What was your favorite series as a teenager?

R. The Team A . And I think La Casa de Papel is a bit of a mix of The A Team and Blue Summer , because it has this part of brotherhood, but there is also a plan, a mind, an idea.

P. Do we do what we do for our 17-year-old selves?

R. Nostalgia is a bad engine. We must resist the reactionary in all of us, who is a 15-year-old boy clinging to when he understood the world for the first time. I have broken with the music of my adolescence, which are the songs of Los Suaves, and I spend the day listening to reggaeton, which is what my ex-partner's daughters hear, which is as if they were mine. And I am very happy.

Q. Why did you decide to leave journalism for fiction?

R. It was foolish because I was as good as you can be in journalism. I was in a very comfortable and stimulating situation at the same time, which is the difficult thing. But it was a blast. I had to get out. A colleague from La Sexta asked me why I was leaving and I answered that in journalism I couldn't hit it internationally and in fiction, yes.

P. The series is attached to politics and current affairs. How important is, in your opinion, journalistic vision to make good fiction?

R. Some journalists can function very well in the fiction industry because we have a literary vocation. Before being journalists, we are readers. And fiction needs writers who are readers, not just spectators like many screenwriters of the last generations. In addition, journalism puts our ear on the street a lot, and the viewer feels identified, because you are talking about things that are happening and that not only matter to you, but also matter to all of us. I can't think how you can write if you separate yourself from reality.

P. He began his novel, The crime of the knitting machine seller (2015), in full depression. Is writing therapeutic for you?

R. It happens to me as with meditation or reading: it is an exercise in concentration, it calms me down. The days turn sour when I don't write and I think I have to stop getting frustrated, stop feeling that guilt as a Catholic child from Santander.

P. He had to finish writing lying down the end of The house of paper for a hip operation. In front of the keyboard, is physical or emotional pain more decisive?

R. It's like wondering if you would write better if you had no skin. You can't not have it. You have to write about the territories we know. It does not matter that they are not great dramas, it is only necessary to universalize them, because we all love, ambition and betray very much the same. We are pretty much the same gender of motherfuckers.

P. He says that the best sequences are the ones that have the most to do with the writer who writes them. You also speak to your dead as The Professor.

R. The professor plans a robbery to have a conversation with his father for years. It happens to me too. I give my eyes at times, every day, at some point to my dead: my father and my two brothers. In the silliest or most beautiful things. I tell them 'look who I've fallen in love with' or 'look at which mobile application'.

P. Do you talk to them every day?

R. Yes. It is also true that I do not remember being in the world without the dead: when my older brother dies I am five years old. So my brain has learned to think like this.

P. Does it still hurt to remember after so many years?

R. It is very difficult for me to go to Santander. That house has my holes, there are the empty rooms, the rooms with names that no longer exist. I go very little and my mother, fortunately, understands and she comes to see me. We have a very beautiful relationship, which is getting better and better.

P. What luck. The mothers of the North are (we are) tough.

R. Yes, they have a loaded shotgun and they don't go with bursts. They are shot dry to the head. Mothers are the only people we never stop being teenagers with, and it's a shame, because that makes us behave like idiots sometimes. Everything changed for me when I started treating her like a character and asking her the same questions that I ask all my characters and that could be summed up as 'what's your pain?' From then on, I began to see the woman who was my mother and everything was repositioned a lot.

P. Although it is going like a shot, he has just left his production company, Vancouver Media. Just like he did with La Sexta. Is there going to be a time-out?

R. I have not stopped at any time. When I finished La casa de papel in August, I went to Italy for two weeks, by myself, from spa to spa, and I started writing on my mobile. When I got home I turned the work over and there were 70 pages. I thought: well, at least I haven't come back empty-handed, which is how one of the social networks comes back.

P. Don't you like them? They are a socialization tool that has turned out to be very useful in this covid era.

R. It is true that I met my previous partner on Twitter, but we were two journalists. I believe a lot in inbreeding. When people say, 'Doesn't it bother you that journalists are only with journalists?', I think: It will be for a reason. I don't need to open my circle much.

P. Now he will have had to do it to the world of actors and artists.

R. We try to decipher the world, and they see it from a much more emotional perspective. I have realized that I was given very rudimentary instructions for life. They told me that we were rational animals and that was good for me. Over the years, I jumped through the air and had to understand that I was an emotional animal that also reasoned. And, now, there is a part of me that I have reconciled with and that I can call spiritual. My life has been like adding layers. I hope I don't get to the moment of the Catholic revelation, really. I have a lot of faith in not having faith. But the other day a journalist friend told me: 'You are becoming very spiritual, do not continue there that you end up buying in herbalists'.

P. What was the last series you binged on?

R. I usually watch series that I have loved again, such as Los Sopranos, The Office or The Wire . There is everything. Of the new ones, I see at most two chapters in a row. I consume little audiovisual because it requires me to stand still. Spending three hours on a quiet couch makes me sad. So you plug me in three chapters in a row of something and you kill me.

P. Well now that series are the cultural artifact that ties together conversations, what do you talk about at meals?

R. The aspiration of the platforms is that you have to pay your fee to continue in society. Like when you had to see Big Brother at the beginning because if you weren't out of any conversation. That's the game and it will be interesting to see which ones survive.

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