Movies & TV

Money Heist's Berlin on the Paradoxical Popularity of the Long-Dead and Flawed Character

Pedro Alonso shares how playing Berlin breaks all taboos and limits.
IMAGE MONICA SUAREZ DE TANGIL/NETFLIX
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Pedro Alonso effuses unearthly charm. Even through a video call with a language barrier, the man who plays Berlin exudes a disarming affability that makes you want him to be your best friend. It’s the kind of charm he lends his role, leading him to remain one of La Casa de Papel’s most popular characters even after he’s been dead for three seasons. 

He wonders about this, Berlin’s enduring popularity, and muses, “I’m not so sure about that but for sure I am receiving an incredible mountain of affect[ion] and sympathy.”

On Berlin’s enduring popularity… despite being morally corrupt

“There is something deeply paradoxical in this,” he continues, perhaps recognizing the irony in playing a deeply flawed character while being, imaginably, the complete opposite. “This is the worst you can imagine a human being [to be].” 

Alonso likens taking the role to an untamed horse. “I don’t want to play with this horse, but if I play with it, I know it’s going to be an incredible and amazing experience.” Taking the role also gave him freedom, “the kind of freedom that breaks all the taboos, all the conventions, all the limits in a very radical way with a brutal sense of humor. [You get to suspend] the limitations of life.”

“At the same time, [Berlin] is kind of a monster in moral terms,” Alonso admits, “but he has a kind of integrity. He is what he is.” He finds Berlin’s popularity paradoxical and funny. Asked what he tells fans for whom Berlin is a favorite character, he laughs, “they have work to do with their souls!”

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“We have to do something. This is not a good thing. Please reconsider what you are doing with your life,” Alonso says.

On Berlin slowing down and stopping time

His favorite part of playing Berlin, who returns to Money Heist for its fifth and final season, is how the character slows down to appreciate the beautiful things in life. Alonso is animated, explaining how hectic his real life is. “In this conversation, we have 10 minutes, bam, bam, bam. Whereas Berlin, pfft… suspension,” he says. “He takes the time in a way that I am not able to do in my real life.”

“Remember the moment with Arturito (Enrique Arce) in the beginning of the first chapter?” Alonso asks, “and he has a conversation about life and taking the time to enjoy. I [told myself] ‘this is incredible,’ and with this gift [of a role] I had an incredible opportunity to stop time.”

Photo by Netflix/ Monica Suarez de Tangil.
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On Berlin’s appearances in Money Heist after his death

It’s an appropriate thought because Season 5 feels as though the showrunners continued to find ways to integrate Berlin into the story through numerous flashbacks. “You know,” he confesses, “the TV show was going to exist for only two seasons. And I died.”

The popularity of the show and his character gave the production a conundrum. They now needed to make more seasons of Money Heist but one of the fan favorites was dead. “What are we going to do now? We had a serious problem,” Alonso recalls, “We had to reinvent [new ways] to make us discover new aspects of the role.”

For the third and fourth seasons they managed to do this with flashbacks to the planning of the current heist. They even expanded on Berlin’s backstory with Palermo’s (Rodrigo De La Serna) unrequited love for him. “Now in the last season, the writers tried with my role—I think with all the roles—[to help viewers] understand [the whole] map or the different moments of the story,” he explains.

“In that sense, I kind of know [what will happen],” he teases. “But in the reverse way. [Not by] going to the future, but going to the past to make all the pieces connect now.”

 

On Berlin’s trajectories of the heart and soul. 

“My role at the beginning was dark, and now we are going to understand how it happened. All these trajectories in the heart and in the soul of this role,” Alonso says, before heaping praise on the writing team for their work on Season 5. “This is a work of engineers! Now in terms of writing, it was kind of a test. A kind of challenge.”

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It would’ve been easier had Berlin not been killed off in a dramatic fashion at the end of Season 2. If he’d been alive for Season 5, he laughs, “there’d be more love. a lot of love,” thinking of Palermo. 

 

Photo by Netflix/ Monica Suarez de Tangil.

Turtleneck by Uniqlo and suit by Boss.

On working with co-stars and friends

“I really admire the artists that I work with,” he effuses, “Rodrigo De La Serna, I love this man. He’s my friend and I really admire his quality. He said his role was [meant to] replace my role in the [following seasons]. I’m very honored because he’s incredible.”

He holds the rest of his co-stars in high regard, saying, “I really believe that the rest of the group makes amazing work,” and noting how each one brings something different to the table. Most certainly one of the factors that make Money Heist incredibly popular is how lovable (or love-to-hateable, in the case of Arturito) all the characters are. “This is part of the point. That the levels of representation are different. You kind of have a special sympathy for some, and with the others, the [feeling] wouldn’t be the same,” he says.

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“For sure, I have a special sympathy for Alba Flores (Nairobi, who died at the end of Season 4),” Alfonso states, “I admire the intelligence and sensibility and capacity of this woman. But I really love Úrsula (Corberó, who plays Tokyo), too. I fly with Rodrigo.”

This is Pedro Alonso. Talking about the people he works with makes him smile, and you can imagine he can talk at length about how wonderful they are. This is a man who is about as far from the monstrous, sociopathic Berlin as you can imagine. “How can I [not mention] Álvaro (Morte, who plays The Professor)? I had sequences with Álvaro that were a part of my life!”

“With Denver, Jaime Lorrente, with all of them! With Arturito, Enrique Arce, we have fun on an amazing level. All the actors offer different flavors and I really appreciate this. I have to recognize the different aspects of the [show].”

On Berlin’ and The Professor’s similarities

He leaves something for fans to chew on by saying that Berlin and The Professor can basically be the same person. “In some sequences, during the preparation [for the heists], I said we could be the same person having an inner conversation.”

“Remember Fight Club, where you reveal at the end that they are the same person?” he says. “With The Professor and Berlin in some moment, working on set on some sequences, I said that we could play the same person having [an internal] conversation. You (The Professor) are the rational person and I am the irrational. I am certain of this for sure.” 

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Photographs by Monica Suarez de Tangil

Styling by Sara Fernandez Castro

Find out more about Berlin and how his past shapes the future of the crew in Money Heist season 5, part 1, now streaming on Netflix.

 

 

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