The Chilean writer José Ignacio “Chascas” Valenzuela is the creator of ¿Quién Mató a Sara?, the successful Mexican Netflix series

Writer Chascas Valenzuela: The melodrama is at its best moment and the telenovela is like a cat with seven lives
Marcela Tedesco, Buenos Aires|06 de agosto de 2021

¿Quién Mató a Sara? (Who Killed Sara?), the successful Mexican Netflix series produced by Perro Azul was created by the Chilean writer, José Ignacio “Chascas” Valenzuela, who came to the project invited by Roberto Stopello, Director of Netflix's Latin American Originals, both had worked together at Telemundo years ago. Stopello was looking to make an original Latin American thriller for Netflix and knew the pen of Valenzuela, who had written two highly suspenseful telenovelas for Telemundo: La Casa de al Lado and Santa Diabla.

¿Quién Mató a Sara? marked Valenzuela's debut as an executive producer. “My agent is an American and in the US it is customary for the creator to also be the executive producer. I was dedicated to learning and I will be eternally grateful to Roberto Stopello because he very cleverly began giving me executive producer responsibilities almost without me realizing it. I entered this as if accidentally wanting to, but it is something that suits me a lot because it allows me to have very active participation in all areas and to support the resolution of the final product,” said Valenzuela.

¿Quién Mató a Sara? will begin filming its third season in October that is expected to premiere in early 2022. It has become one of Netflix's most successful series.

“I never imagined this success. But I can say that at every stage of writing and production we have tried to minimize risks. These were two years of intense work for the first two seasons,” said Valenzuela.

¿Quién Mató a Sara? It is a complex story (it is told at two different times) and, therefore, it was essential to present it as clearly as possible. Taking care of the transitions, connecting the scenes of the different times of the story, remembering details to the audience without falling into the obvious, and clarifying why the characters were in the situations they were in, was part of the work of minimizing risks. A lot of work was also done on editing to insert the scenes correctly and avoid confusion.

The choice of secondary themes was also part of the strategy to minimize risks. Femicides, homophobia, abuse of power, the impossibility of a homosexual couple to adopt children, are the topics that were carefully selected to spice up the thriller. These are themes that the author - who is a prominent voice in the LGBTQ community - posits and that today connect with global audiences.

“Our bet was to cover with these global themes the hybrid thriller, a mixture of a classic Anglo-Saxon thriller with melodrama. There is no better pairing for a thriller than melodrama. I wanted to do a story in which The Killing crossed paths with Cuna de Lobos. The classic thriller is cold, precise, surgical, while the melodrama is the opposite, it is theatrical, exacerbated, it is a lot with too much. And that was also a way of minimizing risks because in ¿Quién Mató a Sara? European and Anglo-Saxon audiences can recognize stories like The Killing, and the Latin American and Middle Eastern audiences -who like telenovelas- melodrama. It is having the best of both worlds, and that was my thought before starting to write.”

The writer pointed out that currently, hybrid content is the one that is working the best. And he exemplified: Grey's Anatomy mixes the medical documentary with a Mexican telenovela; Bridgerton, the period telenovela with the visual delicacy and the boldness to present a black nobility; Lupin, combines a rereading of Maurice Leblanc's Arsene Lupin with Misión Imposible and the melodramatic ingredient of a father searching for his son.

“The melodrama is at its best moment and the telenovela —whose main ingredient is melodrama— is like a cat with seven lives. This great moment of melodrama —which is the fight between good and evil with raised feelings— proves that the telenovela is intelligent and skillful enough to know how to adapt and modify itself according to the times and that it is more alive than ever,” said Valenzuela.

Chascas Valenzuela, who has written about 30 telenovelas and a similar number of literary works, is also the author of Netflix's first original telenovela, Donde Hay Fuego, which has already started recordings in Mexico. Likewise, his book Al Filo de Tu Piel will be brought to the screen by Sony Pictures Television.