Entertainment'El encargado', the black comedy hidden in the Disney+...

‘El encargado’, the black comedy hidden in the Disney+ catalog that is a phenomenon in Argentina

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For 29 years, eight months and 17 days, Eliseo has been in charge of a high-class building in Buenos Aires. He doesn’t just control who comes in and out of the block and picks up packages for his neighbors. He is also in charge of maintenance, he helps with small botches… he is the trusted man of the place.

But Eliseo has two faces, the smiling and friendly one that he shows in front, and the dark and cloudy one that reveals itself behind, the one that knows too many things about the tenants. Jekyll and Hyde in porter version. Now, the president of the neighborhood community has as a star project to build a swimming pool on the roof, which will mean demolishing Eliseo’s house and, what is worse, replacing it with a cleaning service to save costs.

The filmmakers Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat are responsible for El encargado (Disney+), a series whose first season of 11 half-hour episodes has become a phenomenon in Argentina and other Latin American countries and which has gained followers in Spain thanks to the mouth to mouth Cohn and Duprat, who premiered the film Official Competition at the beginning of the year, with Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, display a very particular tone, halfway between black comedy and suspense, in a plot in which Eliseo, accustomed to scams Several, such as charging commission for repairs in the building or sneaking into the apartments in the absence of their residents, will try to win the favor of the owners to get them to vote against the pool. For this, any trick will be justified.

Much of the responsibility for the success of the series lies with the brilliant performance of its protagonist, Guillermo Francella (67 years old, Buenos Aires). “I loved transitioning this character from the interpretive because he has that mixture of someone empathic and angelic and, suddenly, dark and diabolical at the same time,” says Francella in a telephone conversation during a break from filming in Buenos Aires for the second season of the Serie. With his gestures and way of speaking, he turns the viewer into an accomplice of his character’s maneuvers and true intentions, which remain hidden from his on-screen interlocutors. “As an actor, he fascinated me because above all he has a brilliant script, and when you are backed by a good story, everything is easier,” Francella detracts.

The mixture of genres and tones of The Manager makes it difficult to define it within the usual categories. “It is a dramatic, black comedy, but it has moments of tension, others with a lot of humor… Someone defined it as darkly addictive”, sums up its protagonist. Francella, who during the interview is interested in the reception of her series in Spain, points out that the data from the Star+ platform in Latin America have verified, in addition to the enormous success of this production, how viewers have become hooked on it: the vast majority of people who started it, finished it. Whoever enters Elisha’s world cannot stop looking.

Finding the tone of the series and the protagonist was the most complex. “There was nothing to underline, neither humor nor darkness. It was all austere, with the greatest economy, but in such a way that in Eliseo’s gaze and behavior the viewer saw everything. It was a very interesting exercise, a character that allows you to go from one end to another. This search for the tone took more than a month of essays and readings, a lot of time word by word to optimize each parliament”. Although she was not inspired by any goalkeeper in particular, Francella does claim to have seen attitudes like her character in the managers she has met. “When I was single, I lived alone and they helped me a lot, because I am very useless in everything related to electricity, plumbing… There are divine people, but I have also observed the behavior of someone else who, without being Eliseo, had a lot of power.

The reception of The Manager in the goalkeepers’ union has been uneven. While many have celebrated the proposal for the comedy that it is, some associations of building managers (much more common work in Argentina than it is now in Spain) have expressed their discomfort at the representation that is made of them. “His violent corruption does not represent us in the least,” said a statement from the president of the group of managers. Francella finds this polemic ridiculous. “I never understood it, like they can’t figure out what is fiction and what is reality. The character of the lawyer who plays the president of the consortium, Zambrano, is completely corrupt and no lawyer complained”, says the actor. “They told us that it is a union that is very stigmatized and they are afraid because I am very popular in Argentina and if they charge a commission from a provider they may feel that everyone is like that… But it is fiction! If I were a murderous doctor, are all doctors murderers? It’s crazy,” she says vehemently. “But all of this ended up being free publicity for us. I walk everywhere and the managers come out and give me a thumbs up every two meters, they loved the series”.

With a career in acting that exceeds four decades, Guillermo Francella’s popularity in Argentina is enormous. Although his natural habitat is comedy —he is the protagonist of the sitcom Casados ​​con hijos, already finished but whose episodes have been repeated on television in his country for 17 years—, he has also explored other genres in films that traveled outside of Argentina such as The secret in their eyes, The clan, the Spanish Atraco or the Mexican Rudo y cursi. In The Manager he has been able to explore both universes, the most humorous and the darkest. “I love comedy madly, but having this cocktail of both things… I became very, very, very well known in my country with comedy, but I always wanted to be able to play another chord, to be summoned by directors to do things in greater depth.

Now, Francella lives a very productive moment. While recording the second season of The Manager (“they won’t let me make spoilers, but Eliseo will be more and more powerful, there are new owners who surround him a bit and discover things about him…”, he advances), he prepares the adaptation in the form of a work of theater of Married with children and in April the movie La extorción will premiere on HBO Max. “I’m a little tired, it’s not the way I like to work the most, I like to work more relaxed. The first season of The Manager took me five and a half months, I had to be shooting every day, it was like shooting three movies in a row”, says the actor. He assures that he has no pending subjects in his career, he is only looking for new texts and challenges. “Maybe some adapted classic text, which they always tell me I should do and I haven’t carried it out.

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