Meet Alice Braga, the Latina Protagonist of ‘Queen of the South’

Alice Braga Queen of the South BeLatina Latinx

While USA Network’s “Queen of the South” gained the attention of millions of viewers, its leading character, Teresa Mendoza, put Brazilian actress Alice Braga again on the radar.

After five seasons, “Queen of the South” has become one of the top-rated shows in the country, especially for its focus on examining femininity within both narco culture and the Latino community, according to IndieWire.

The series has looked at human trafficking, sex work, and rape within the confines of the cocaine business but has also cast an eye on the culture of misogyny that often pigeonholes women into being nothing more than obedient, happy wives. As Braga describes her to IndieWire, Teresa is a survivor: a naive girl transformed into the boss she was always meant to be.

Alice Braga began her career in film by starring Angelica in the acclaimed “City of God” (2002). After making a name for herself on the Latin American independent film circuit, Braga rose to international fame after appearing with Will Smith in “I Am Legend” (2007) and has been a familiar face in Hollywood ever since.

Her filmography includes “Repo Men” (2010), “Predators” (2010), “The Rite” (2011), “Elysium” (2013), and “The Shack” (2017).

While her most recent work includes such gems as HBO’s “We Are Who We Are,” it has been “Queen of the South” that has allowed her to explore her performative skills on other levels.

“Lending my way to Teresa’s life and Teresa’s way of being, I’ve never experienced this in my life with any other character,” Braga told IndieWire.

Based on the original novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, iconic Spanish war journalist and historical novelist, “The Queen of the South” follows the arc of Teresa Mendoza, a poor woman from the barrio of Jalisco, Mexico, who falls in love with a member of a successful drug cartel.

The ups and downs of love, plus the murder of her boyfriend, force Teresa to flee to the United States, where she ends up setting up her own drug empire and becomes one of the richest women in the world.

Taking on the role in such a powerful story was a priceless opportunity for Braga.

She knew Teresa wasn’t a character that would immediately be likable, considering her job. Still, it was an opportunity for Braga to find a way to showcase the character’s humanity. “I always thought there was a very interesting way to portray this character from the human point of view,” she said. “I always try not to make her a likable character, but a human character. We’re entitled to make mistakes; we’re entitled to flaws as human beings.”

In addition to her mastery at getting into the skin of such a powerful character, Braga is aware of the importance of Latina representation on the small and big screen.

“It is a show about a cartel which is always the representation that we get for Latinos,” she said. “We’re so diverse. We have so much to talk about and to show to the world that I think we need to keep fighting and open more opportunities, in front of the camera and behind the camera.”

With information from IndieWire.