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The Enchanting Actress Torching the Patriarchy to Reggaetón

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Small-screen visibility made actress Mariana Di Girólamo a household name in her native Chile. But while on set taping the final leg of Perdona Nuestros Pecados (Forgive Our Sins), a telenovela where she played a woman infatuated with a priest, she received a WhatsApp message that would alter the course of her career.

The sender was Pablo Larraín, acclaimed director of the Oscar-nominated films Jackie and No. Di Girólamo didn’t recognize the number. He asked about her availability and, without revealing many details, hinted at his interest in casting her for a new project.

It was only when the resulting feature, Ema, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2019 that the actress learned Larraín had discovered her through a photo in a newspaper article. No audition was required. A single in-person meeting convinced the filmmaker that Di Girólamo was Ema.

“I had only done two very small parts in movies prior to this and I was afraid that I would be stigmatized for being a teleseries actress,” she told The Daily Beast from Santiago. “There are some film directors that are very fussy about that and they don’t want those kinds of faces in their movies.”

Larraín was very clear that he wanted her to cut her long hair very short and dye it blonde. She took the request in stride. “It was symbolic to cut my hair and cut ties with the character I had played for two years and move forward on my path and take on new projects,” Di Girólamo explained.

Aside from the physical transformation, the director didn’t share much insight into the title character of Ema but mentioned that the topics of failed adoptions in the South American country and dance—as a fearless mode of expression—would be integral to the story. No text of any sort was provided, leaving the actress initially to rely on her character’s external traits.

On screen, Ema is a professional dancer whose husband........

© The Daily Beast

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