Teresa Mendoza, the title character of La Reina del Sur, doesn’t merely shatter glass ceilings, she obliterates them. Mendoza takes out her enemies, guns blazing, and chases kidnappers around the world to rescue her daughter. Just that she is a queenpin tells us so much; after all, most drug lords are men. Kate del Castillo plays Mendoza on Telemundo’s blockbuster hit, returning April 22 after an eight-year absence (and you thought the wait between season seven and eight of Game of Thrones was interminable). Though a woman is on the throne, the power behind that throne is another woman, executive producer Martha Godoy.
The Colombian native oversaw some 700 crewmembers as the series shot in eight countries. Godoy (pictured above) was at the helm of the first season’s 64 episodes and returned for the upcoming 60 that will strip weeknights. This marks the first time that Telemundo is airing a show with closed captions in English. Mendoza’s importance as a trailblazer among telenovela characters resonates, “especially now, as women say no to the abuse, and Teresa continues to be a leader,” Godoy noted. “One of Teresa Mendoza’s phrases is, ‘I don’t have sex with whoever asks me. I make love with who I want to!’ She controls her life. We always try to control our lives and be leaders, and we need to try to fight every day.”
Godoy, a Colombian, reflected on three decades in show business as she spoke in Spanish and English with MediaVillage. What follows is an edited version of that interview.
Jackie Cutler: What was it like for women when you started?
Martha Godoy: It was really complicated because I worked for men completely. I began as a production assistant, and I needed to move the camera equipment, and everybody looked at me like, ‘Oh, she is a woman!’ You need to be strong. You find the strength to move everybody, to put the camera here because the director is coming. It was very complicated because I had to have the strength.
Jackie: How do you define your job as an executive producer?
Martha: The executive producer must be the leader that puts the best people together to do the project and create the logistics day-by-day. Everyone is under contract. Obviously, we need to be sure of the quality and to be sure to be on time, without accidents. It is not only about creativity. We need security, and we need to stay on budget. The executive producer is the person that cares about the business and the creativity. I have a boss who created the series and did the grand negotiations. He supports me in many decisions, and then I have other producers in Europe and Colombia, and others support me in different countries. I cannot do this alone.
Jackie: What are some of the differences for women from when you started and today?
Martha: I am so proud that the world changed, and now there are more women in the industry. On La Reina, we have women on the camera. This did not happen when I started. Ten, 20 years ago women supported me, and now the men are supporting us, as well. The women I know, who do the same job as me, are really good workers. We work many hours. We give up our personal lives and our families more than the man. He has the wife, and she runs the house so the men can be executive producers. And we, the women, sacrificed many things in our lives.
Jackie: Did you have a mentor?
Martha: My first mentor was Claudia Gomez, a woman from Colombia. She worked in movies and worked with many guys. She taught me a lot of things. Claudia passed away many years ago, but she was really the first woman who moved outside the country to do movies. She did The Mission,and she wanted to teach me everything.
Jackie: What advice did she impart that helped make you successful?
Martha: She taught me about discipline, and we spent hours and hours reviewing every script, and the production plans, day-by-day, line-by-line, going over every detail.
Jackie: Do you continue to do that?
Martha: Yes, I work with the writers a lot. I like to work on a team, and I like to support my team. I have one person who does scheduling day-by-day, and I want to review that. I also like to look at production, and I like to support them. I try to support a way to do something cheaper or better and to try to find the best way to tell the story. If I do not agree with the director, I like to put him in touch with the writer.
Jackie: Do you still get nervous?
Martha: Yes, always. But I think being nervous is important because you are thinking more of, ‘How am I going to do this?’ When I began this, I thought eight countries -- oh my God! The first season, I asked the writer, ‘I don’t know how I am going to begin. Where are we shooting?’ Then, I took a break and tried to find the best way to do everything.
Jackie: What advice do you give to women starting out in the business?
Martha: Do it and don’t stop -- but do it good! Work hard to do good. It is really important that we are respectful of our teams -- every part of the business -- camera, audio, electrical. We need to continue, and this is only possible if we do our best job.
La Reina del Surwill be telecast on Telemundo Monday-Friday at 10 p.m.
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