Spanish actress, Ivana Baquero, recently returned home from an international press tour promoting the upcoming season of the MTV show The Shannara Chronicles, which has moved to SpikeTV and will be premiering on October 11. Baquero is well known for her work as Ofelia in Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar Winning film, Pan’s Labyrinth — which garnered Baquero a Saturn Award for her portrayal of Ofelia — as well as the Kevin Costner film, The New Daughter, which are only two films from an incredible body of work that started when Baquero was just 8 years old. We caught up with the young actress to talk about her journey into the business and the anticipated second season of The Shannara Chronicles.
You’ve been acting for a long time while studying at the American School of Barcelona, becoming fluent in several languages. That sounds like a lot of hard work for someone so young.
Yeah, yeah! My parents, their main focus has always been my education. They always told me that the greatest gift they could give me was a good education. Even before I started acting, they just wanted to make sure I knew languages. My dad is Swiss, he taught me French, and I spoke Spanish and English. They always supported my acting, but for them, it was super important that I was never home-schooled and was getting a good education and that’s what I did, to date. I’m currently studying law.
When did you know that acting was what you wanted to do?
Probably after Pan’s Labyrinth. I’m saying this because I started when I was 8 years old, and I had probably done about 6 movies before Pan’s Labyrinth, but I was so young that for me it was almost like an after-school activity rather than a job. But then Pan’s Labyrinth opened so many doors for me, I was able to go to the Oscar’s and all these amazing places and I was like “Wow!” Life put me on this path and I’m so lucky to be on it and I might as well take advantage of it.
Speaking of Pan’s Labyrinth, you were chosen by Guillermo del Toro to star as Ofelia at the age of 12 despite not being really the age they were looking for in the role, you must have really wowed him with your audition. What was that experience like and how did you react when you got the part?
It was really funny actually because you’re right the role was meant for like a 7 or 8-year-old, and I was 12 at the time, but he had been looking for different ages. I came in the room and I did the scene and his wife was there and she was bawling her eyes out, so that was a good sign. And then, he came up to me and said, “Oh there’s one scene missing, is there any chance you can just look at it and audition it on the spot right now?” I was like “Oh okay,” and quickly did it on the spot and he was so happy with it that he just came up to me at the end of the audition and was like “I’m pretty sure you’re the one. Here’s the script. I’m offering you the role and I want you to be my Ofelia.” I was blown away, and I felt so, so lucky!
Pan’s Labyrinth is a very dark film, especially for someone so young. How did you prepare yourself for that role and that material?
I actually prepared for it quite thoroughly, because people ask me “you know you were 12, were you aware, were you really thinking about what you were doing or was it just purely natural?”, and I actually put a lot of work on that movie. I was 100% aware of everything, and I studied a lot about the Civil War to be able to comprehend Ofelia better. Guillermo sent me a bunch of books and comics on the matter, and videos, and movies that I could watch. So I did all that and then I had a few weeks to prep with Guillermo where he really, really helped me and he gave me the tools so that I could really understand what she was going through because it was dark. I was fully there during the process, I was like a mini-adult. I really put in the work.
You had a part in another dark, supernatural film with Calista Flockhart, Fragile, before being cast on the MTV series The Shannara Chronicles. Is it coincidence, or do you find yourself being drawn to this genre of supernatural and fantasy?
Well, I think it’s kind of like a mix. I’m super drawn to it, and it’s my favorite genre — not so much horror, but fantasy and supernatural — but I think at the beginning of my career it was more just coincidence because there are more roles in scary movies for kids, because there’s always younger kids in lots of horror movies. The first four or five movies I did were, indeed, horror because, again, there’s always like, a kid in those movies. But as I got older it’s more because those are the parts that attract me the most.
The Shannara Chronicles is based on some young adult books by Terry Brooks. Since you do the research, did you actually read any of those novels or did you approach it blind?
No, I did. I actually hadn’t heard about them before getting cast for the role. But once I got the part, I read the book that the first season is based on, which is The Elf Stones of Shannara. So yeah, I did do my homework. But it’s interesting for Eretria because of her character, if anyone, is the character that drifts the most from the book. She gets a bigger role in the show than what is in the books, so for me, I had to mostly take from the scripts, rather than from the book.
Eretria, she’s a pretty tough, independent, and goes after what she wants. Do you see any of yourself in this character at all?
I do in a way, but it’s funny because no one ever recognizes me in person. Obviously, she’s like such a little badass, and she’s got this personality, she looks feisty, she looks strong and in person, I’m far from that. I’m just like, a normal girl. Everyone’s always like, “Oh my god, you don’t look like Eretria at all,” and I’m like “I know, that’s the magic of TV.” But we do have a lot of things in common, and that’s kind of what made me really grow fond of her and empathize with her. Like her sense of justice and way of really always sticking for her moral values, and I have really grown closer to her as I’ve played her more and more. Finding those similarities are what really have drawn me to her.
It seems like it’s a VERY physical show, how much training do you have to go through in order to learn how to kick ass like that?
It’s really intense actually. They call us in a month in advance to New Zealand, so we can go through a boot camp and train. We do all sorts of things, we have a personal trainer every day, but then we also do horseback riding, and dagger fighting and sword fighting and a bunch of stunt practice. It really is very physically challenging and I’ve never done anything like that before. It’s good to know that you’re getting paid to exercise, it’s the best motivation there is. But it is, indeed, very, very intense.
The show has a cult following, and I understand you’ve been to conventions. What was that experience like, meeting fans that can be quite rabid in the supernatural/fantasy community?
Really amazing! Because you’re kind of, always so isolated from your people who watch the show and your fans. You never really know what’s on their minds and so to have the opportunity to go to these conventions and actually have all of these people tell you how much they love your character, and what about the show that they like — what they dislike is super, super eye-opening. It’s very beautiful, and you feel closer to what you’re doing. You know there’s a point to it, there are all of these people that really enjoy your work, so it really motivates me a lot. It’s awesome! I hope we get a third season, and we get to do more of those!
Season 2 starts airing pretty soon, in October. What can fans look forward to for Eretria and friends?
I can’t give you spoilers, but I can give you some insight. Generally speaking, there is WAY more action, there are more special effects, there’s more on location things — which is awesome because we shoot in New Zealand, and we really take advantage of that with these beautiful landscapes and great photography. This season is just bigger in general. They’ve kind of grabbed everything that worked in season 1 and made it better this season. As for Eretria, she’s the one you would think has completed her arc. She pretty much went from being selfish to selfless and she learned all of these things about herself, and she opened up. But this season, little do we know she’s actually going to discover who she is, which has to do with her tattoo and all of that stuff. Season 2 also has more stories, and many new additions which enrich the story.
Besides your work on Chronicles, do you have any projects slated that fans can look for you in?
Not in the near future, although I just recently premiered a Spanish movie called Sister of Mine, which obviously I’m sure some people will be excited to watch. But we actually wrapped shooting Shannara like 3 months ago, and it was very intense you know, we shoot for 6 months so these last few months I’ve just been taking it easy pretty much. BUT, I recently moved to Los Angeles, so I’m looking forward to what’s to come over here!