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Al Día REDUX: La-la-la-laaaaaa Llorona

Heh. It just occurred to me to think of the title “La Llorona” to the melody of the Knack song. 🙂

Anyway, here is the English version of my original Grimm piece over at Al Día. Enjoy!

Bitsie Tulloch as Juliette Silverton in "La Llorona"

Bitsie Tulloch as Juliette Silverton in “La Llorona”

Grimm Broadens Its Horizons to Latin America and Beyond

If you’re a fan of fairy tales, or police procedurals, you should be watching NBC’s Grimm, a police procedural that incorporates myths and fairy tales. David Giuntoli stars as Portland police detective Nick Burckhardt, a cop who is also a Grimm. In this world, a “Grimm” is someone with the power to see fairy tale creatures when they don’t want to be seen, and he uses this gift to solve some of the more strange cases that come to the precinct. The show seamlessly blends the fairy tale elements with the elements of cop drama, and in its second season is an even stronger show. The ensemble cast is uniformly talented, the stories – generally modern takes on fairy tales – are well-executed, and in its second season Grimm is finally embracing the global feel it hinted at in Season One, in part, because of the diversity of its cast and crew, and the producers wanting to bring those diverse experiences into the show more fully.

Grimm has always layered in elements and fairy tales that go beyond the Germanic stories we’re all used to, incorporating tales from Japanese, Native American, and Greek traditions, among others. In Season Two, not only are the stories being pulled from global sources, but the world of the show is expanding as we learn that the world of Grimms and Wesen (the fairy tale creatures) extends well beyond Portland, Oregon.

Halloween provided a treat for Latino audiences this year when Grimm presented their episode, “La Llorona,” based on the famous Latin American tale of the same name. Nick and Hank investigate the mysterious disappearance of a Mexican boy after his father insists to the police that the boy was led away by a mysterious woman in white. The woman is then responsible for the disappearance of a little girl, and the detectives race to track her down before she takes another child. Nick and Hank are joined by a detective from New Mexico named Valentina Espinosa, played by Mexican actress, Kate del Castillo, who helps them track down the woman, and helps reveal her true nature and the supernatural reason behind the children’s disappearances.

The episode is a welcome respite from the usual both in tone and content. It’s refreshing, for example, that the episode begins with a father and son speaking to each other entirely in Spanish, and there are no subtitles used, forcing the audience (whether Spanish-speaking or not) to immerse themselves, not only in the supernatural world, but in a world (and culture) in which they might not immerse themselves otherwise.

The writers got to immerse themselves as well. Akela Cooper, the writer of “La Llorona,” while she’d vaguely heard of the story, she didn’t really know the legend’s darker details. “I was assigned the Halloween episode which turned out to be the ‘La Llorona’ episode,” she says. “I was vaguely familiar with it. I knew it by the “Woman in White” ghost story, but I didn’t know the backstory of the weeping woman or the part about her drowning children.  It was actually fun to research because it gave me a lot to take from the various versions of the story, but still keep the emotional core intact.”

A scene from "La Llorona"

A scene from “La Llorona”

“La Llorona” was actually created in partnership with Telemundo, and Cooper praises NBC’s efforts toward diversity saying, “NBC is very big on bringing diversity into television both on-screen and behind the cameras, and they’ve worked with various coalitions on how to do that with respect to cultures.  Though I don’t know specifics, I know NBC wanted to do a Latino-themed Grimm episode in Season Two that would be simulcast with Telemundo, and “La Llorona” provided a great Halloween episode so it worked out perfectly.”

“La Llorona” also prominently features Bitsie Tulloch, who plays Nick’s girlfriend, Juliette, and is experiencing a very interesting storyline this season involving magical, selective amnesia and having inexplicable feelings of love for Nick’s boss while not being able to remember Nick at all. Tulloch was able to exercise her fluent Spanish as Juliette assists Nick in his investigation by translating for the family of the missing boy. Juliette’s childhood mirrors Tulloch’s own in that they both grew up in Spain and Latin America.

Tulloch is thrilled that Grimm’s producers bring the actors’ own cultures, languages, and experiences into the stories they tell. “David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf have been remarkably, amazingly generous with the cast,” she explains. “Sasha [Roiz, Grimm’s Captain Renard] for example, speaks Russian, because his parents are Russian, and a little bit of French having grown up in Montreal, and they wrote that into it. It’s one of the things I’m really proud of – that the cast is very ethnically diverse and multilingual. Reggie Lee [Grimm’s Sargent Wu] speaks fluent Tagalog. He’s Filipino. I speak Spanish because I grew up overseas in Spain, Uruguay and Argentina. And so when they decided to do “La Llorona” they thought What a wonderful way to sort of have this episode that’s incorporating the fact that Bitsie can actually speak Spanish and we’re doing what is basically a South American/Central American and Southwestern United States fairytale.”

And yes, Tulloch was familiar with “La Llorona” before tackling it on Grimm, having been told the story by her Spanish mother.

The plan for Grimm is for it to continue to tell stories from all over the world since that is one of the reasons it does so well internationally. In fact, Tulloch reports that Grimm’s producers “mentioned saying to Reggie [Lee], like, can you think of any Filipino or Chinese or other Asian fairytales that you were told as a child? So that might happen down the road.” Meanwhile, Cooper confirms that “we love expanding beyond just the German fairy tales so most definitely in the future we’ll do more fairy tales from other countries.”

And as for a return to Latino characters and stories, there’s the mysterious figure of Pilar, the missing boy’s grandmother, who seems to have insight into magic and Juliette’s condition. Will she return? Cooper says, “Though I cannot make promises, the return of Pilar has come up in discussions. If we can make it work story-wise we’d love to.”

Insightful Latinas solving problems? Stories with an international scope? Hot actors and frightening monsters? Grimm is a show I can get behind. The show is currently on mid-season hiatus, but will return in 2013, giving you some time to catch up. You’ll be glad you did.

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4 Comments

  1. Heya… trying to get my hands on a couple grimm scripts for a spec… where can I find them?

    • Do you live in L.A.? If so, I’d highly recommend going to the WGA Library. There, you have access to scripts from most TV shows, and they have all of Grimm S1 available. You can’t take them out, because of copyright issues, but you can read them there and take notes. Otherwise, I’m not sure where else to get Grimm scripts legally.

  2. Miles Presha

    Dig your blog. Inspiring to know someone other than myself is struggling through the spec process and trying to make a name in this town. I started out obsessing over Once upon A time, but I got thrown off when I started getting into Grimm. The horror/monster thing is more up my alley, so I figured to go that way. Like you, I’m banging my head up against the wall trying to work out my plot – mostly because I’ve read that it should have some emotional connection to Nick. I’m not sure how much to delve into the whole Renard-Juliette thing, but that seems to be what’s causing most of his drama right now. What sucks: a lot of ideas tossed around in my head they actually did on the show already…(mom coming back, fighting side by side with her, etc.). Anyway – cool to see what you’re doing. I’m in L.A. and if you ever wanna throw back ideas or get feedback,or tear apart my ideas, I’m down. Good luck…

    Miles: preshafam@me.com
    (2012 Cosby Fellow)
    (Austin FF 2nd rounder 2012)

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