Pivot launched their first scripted drama Fortitude in January. In the arctic town of Fortitude, the first murder sends the whole community into turmoil. Veronica Echegui plays Elena, a woman from Spain we find out was having an affair with Frank Sutter (Nicholas Pinnock).
What’s in store next for Fortitude and Elena? I got to meet Echegui when Pivot brought Fortitude to the Television Critics Association. She told me how Elena became Spanish and some hints about what’s coming up for her. Fortitude airs Thursday at 10 on Pivot.
Nuke the Fridge: Was the character always Spanish or did they adapt that for you?
Veronica Echegui: Originally it was Irish, so I didn’t expect them to choose me, to be honest. But I did the audition and I did two auditions. After the second one, I wrote a letter to Sam Miller, the director. I said to him, “Look, I really have the feeling in my guts that I’m Elena. I don’t know why. I’ve never done this before. I’m crazy about this and I want to be part of it. You won’t regret it.” So I got the part and they changed it.
Nuke: Would it be unusual for a Spanish woman to live in a place like Fortitude?
Veronica Echegui: I think so, yeah. I think we generally try to choose warmer places, but it could be. It depends how you feel and which situation you are in your life. I think that’s why Elena wants to go that far. She wants to start in a place where no one knows her and she’s free. She doesn’t have to face anything, any questions. She can say whatever she wants to these people and she needs cold to get grounded.
Nuke: When you got the part or auditioned, did they already have a backstory about where Elena came from and how this affair started?
Veronica Echegui: Mm-hmm, yes, and that was one thing that I loved because in the audition, it was a small room and there was the producer, the director and Simon [Donald] the writer, and he told me the whole thing because I just had the sides. I could feel there was something really big underneath, but I didn’t know what. Before the audition, he told me the whole story about Elena and I got really shocked. It felt like freezing so I thought, “Now, I have to do the audition.” I needed an hour to digest all these things but we had to do the audition. It was weird, because the casting director was pregnant too. I had to do a scene with her, like Frank. I was freaking out. It went well. It was not the best audition ever, I can tell you, but there was something that I knew I could understand about her.
Nuke: What was it that you understood about Elena?
Veronica Echegui: I think I can’t really explain what. It was more a feeling, you know. A very strong feeling. For example, I told them, do you know about the penguins? They go in herds all together. Sometimes one of them just turns around and starts walking towards another place alone. He won’t stop. It happens a lot and he’s walking to his death because they can’t really survive alone. I told them I have the feeling that she’s in the same position. It’s tragic. But I got it from the sides, just the sides. I think it’s really well written. The scripts are so good, because what’s written there I could imagine everything that’s on screen now.
Nuke: How cold was it in Iceland where you were shooting?
Veronica Echegui: It was not the coldest winter. They said it was so warm. The lowest we got was minus three which is nothing. They’re used to minus 14, minus 15 so we were okay. Just one day I suffered because it was minus two. You know sometimes the feeling is worse than the real temperature. I was standing on my feet for an hour with high heel boots and I couldn’t move, and I started to cry because I couldn’t even talk or move.
Nuke: You cry in the scene also. Is that easy for you to do as an actor?
Veronica Echegui: If I understand the character, yeah. If I don’t, then I have to struggle. If I empathize with the story and with her, yeah.
Nuke: What role is Elena going to have in the mystery going forward?
Veronica Echegui: Everybody is going to get affected. I love her story. I just can say that her role will be important.
Nuke: We’ve really just met Elena. Is there a really strong Elena episode coming up?
Veronica Echegui: Mm-hmm.
Nuke: Which one should we look for?
Veronica Echegui: Towards the end.
Nuke: What is your background? Were you acting a lot in Spain before Fortitude?
Veronica Echegui: Mm-hmm. I’ve done mainly cinema. My first breakthrough was a famous film called Yo Soy La Juani. She’s a very funny character and it was a very famous director in Spain, [Bigas Luna]. He was the first one who discovered Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. That film worked very well and my character was very cool, so after that I kept working in cinema for 10 years. I worked in Belgium, Mexico, Canada. I did a film last year with Gael Garcia Bernal. I worked in London previously in a film and I’m working here and Spain. I’m trying to combine them.
Nuke: Is Fortitude a very international show?
Veronica Echegui: I think it is. It’s happening nowadays. I think everything is getting very global. The globalization includes us. It’s a human community. We have not just me. We have Romanian to Danish, Irish. We have a lot of nationalities.
Nuke: You speak English very well. Were you always bilingual or when did you learn it?
Veronica Echegui: I learned English because I used to live with Americans when I was 11 years old. My mother rented a couple of rooms to students from St. Louis University. So from when I was 11 until 21, 22, I used to live with them. There were four American every four months for 11 years, so I got a chance to talk with them. And I also was always very curious about America. I wanted to come. I don’t know why, but I wanted to come, so I was always talking to them.
Nuke: Where do you live now?
Veronica Echegui: I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t know. Madrid, Barcelona, Budapest.
Nuke: Do you ever consider moving to the States?
Veronica Echegui: Yeah. For a while. Now I’m staying three months. Then I go back and I come back. If I find my people here, I could, but I need to find my herd.