Úrsula Corberó on Principles, Vulnerability, and exiting Money Heist
Úrsula Corberó exudes energy. She can open up any room, even if it is a virtual one on Zoom. There is an authenticity to this energy, and she attributes it to her Spanish heritage. She is full of passion and zeal, and over the last few years she has been able to explore her creative energy on Money Heist as the superheroine, Tokyo.
The role was made for her, but Úrsula Corberó will be the first to admit that she wasn’t ready. She was the posh girl in comedies and dramas, and felt clumsy and awkward during the first few test shoots. These feelings of vulnerability allowed her to transform because her sensitivity to these bouts of emotion was an opportunity to learn.
Fans of Money Heist saw the transformation and our benefactors of her incredible performance as an acrobatic bad-ass running toward gun fights, and leaping out of explosions. Our conversation with Úrsula ran deep, and her honesty allows everyone to understand how a leading enigmatic character is not born, but perfected and crafted over various trials and tribulations.
Money Heist is a thrilling action story from Spain entering its last, and final, fifth season. It has become a world-wide phenomenon with a storyline and action-sequences that have Hollywood’s jaw-drawing. Producers, directors, and cinematographers salivate over the amount of talent and action in each episode. It is easy to understand why when you can speak to Úrsula Corberó.
Hello. Hello. Hello. So nice to see everyone!
Wow, hi Úrsula. Thank you for the opportunity. If you don’t mind. Let’s get right into it. You got bit by the acting bug at a young age. You have been on multiple television series, and have been on many successful Bulgari and Maybelline campaigns. Which job made you feel that childhood dreams were becoming a reality?
Whoa, that is a big question. Hrmm, I am really thinking. It has to be Money Heist. After the first and second season I just had this feeling.
It must be a special feeling because you have been in horror movies, cartoons, and comedies. And now with Money Heist you have the chance to play with guns and explosives. Which of the genres do you enjoy the most?
Let me tell you…Action. It is hard work. I am very small. I am only 5’4” and the action is super demanding on my body. As a heroine there is a lot to focus on. You have to focus on the acting, but there is also a lot of things going on in the scene. So you have to be ready, and that involves a lot of training. But, why I like action so much are the results. When you watch it on screen, that is when I can tell myself, “it was worth it.”
But, when you are doing it, you feel exhausted.
I would tell myself, “you can’t do this anymore.”
Because action scenes are long. It can be intense, or it can be a lot of waiting and sitting around.
But, when you see it, then you know it was worth it.
The original Money Heist was a two-part series that was complete in many ways. It has some nice twists at the end, and wraps things up nicely. At the end of production did you feel proud of your work?
It is hard to be objective, but I am really happy with Money Heist. Especially because a production like this is always moving. There is so much momentum because all the scenes push the story. It is always so intense, so that is why it is so important to wait for the results. While you are filming it can feel like a super mess. We are Spanish, and that means we are passionate.
Sometimes it means a lot of shouting.
But, you focus and wait for the results.
So, thank you.
“We are Spanish, and that means we are passionate. Sometimes it means a lot of shouting.”
Great answer, you are leading me right into the next question. You were originally narrating the story, but Part 3 has a different tone. The dynamics of the characters change, and new ones are brought on. Did you like the new pace of what Netflix was able to bring?
This is when I realized that this was a BIG production.
I also feel that each season the new characters made everything more refreshing.
They can provide a new perspective, or gaze into the show.
But, it also didn’t feel different.
The roles were the same from before, and it was the same way of working. It can still get very messy, but it was the same energy.
Energy is definitely a big part of the show. Tokyo is incredibly fun, yet she can be a deep character. She has a rich backstory that slowly unfolds before the audiences’ eyes. She is a real bad-ass. Was it difficult to play a character with multiple complex traits?
Yes, it was super difficult. This was really new to me because before Money Heist I was in comedies.
I played a lot of posh girls.
When I was offered the role. I thought, “this is not me.”
But, they trusted me more than I trusted myself.
It was a lot of experimenting, and a lot of learning.
But, I love Tokyo.
She is a lot of fun, and she epitomizes the superheroine. She is this superhero, but she makes these mistakes and these mistakes bring you closer to the character. So fans don’t like that, but I think she is more relatable.
I love that! She is more human.
The characters on Money Heist have a lot of unique personality attributes. Your character, Tokyo, really works well with The Professor. Why did you think you had so much chemistry with the Professor?
Sergio Marquina is super meticulous, and he is detailed about every scene. We can do a scene multiple times, and he is so disciplined that he will do that scene the same every SINGLE time. I am the opposite, and I need to feel the acting. And things can change.
I have never seen someone so detailed and focused as The Professor. I guess I am more chaotic, but I need to test and fail to know how to play that particular part.
We are very different, but I believe our differences generate the chemistry that you see on screen.
The chemistry is quite obvious, and I really like your explanation. Explosions and wild gun fights are a staple in Money Heist. How did you train for such exciting and realistic action scenes? Cause everything looks like it would be difficult.
YOU ARE RIGHT!
Everything IS very difficult. We weren’t used to these shows in Spain. These big budget action scenes are only for Hollywood, right?
And I remember when we first shot Money Heist we felt very clumsy.
We were experimenting a lot, and there is so much learning.
The action was super challenging in the beginning, but there was always something new. I felt vulnerable, but I love feeling vulnerable when I am shooting because it means that I will learn something new.
I learned from season 1 and 2 that I had to be strong to do this.
When season 3 was announced that is when I said I really need to train harder, or I could get hurt.
There was more of everything, and it is so hard because I am so small. The days are long and the guns are very heavy.
I remember one of the first test shoots for the show. These days can easily go 12 hours and my back was really hurting. I was looking for another position to hold the gun. So I just threw the big heavy machine gun over my shoulder to rest.
“Oh, my God! THAT IS SUPER TOKYO,” screamed Jesús Marquina.
But, this look is just because I couldn’t handle the gun any more. So I believe the training is important, but a lot of things happen naturally too.
“I love feeling vulnerable when I am shooting because it means that I will learn something new.”
This is really fun to learn because the way you play Tokyo seems so effortless. So, while the show has a lot of action it also keeps it fun and entertaining. The characters inject a lot of their own quirkiness onto the show. Which characters did you like working with and why?
Just one? It is difficult to choose one, because I love all of them. The cast is just amazing because we are so different. SUPER different. But, we are family. It has been five years together and the nature of the show is super intense. We share a lot of things, and as time passes we have even more things in common.
If I were to choose one it would be Rio, Miguel Herran. He is super talented, and just so young. I don’t know if you know what this means, but he had to become an adult when he was super young. A lot of things happen to him, but when he smiles it seems as nothing bad has happened. He is pure because he is sweet and naive. I know the life that he had, and that makes him magical, and a brilliant actor. I love him, and we are super close friends.
He can never surprise him. His smiles are radiating.
I can tell Toyko and Rio have this special rapport. Your answers are always leading me to a next question.
We are very connected.
Your character meets her demise in Part 5. It was a very sad and unexpected ending, especially because you were the narrator and a big part of the show. Did you feel the way the show sends you off gave your character justice?
I wanted this ending, and if there was someone from the band to die it had to be Tokyo. This bank heist has already added years to her life, and this is a calling for her. I remember discussing with the writers about the possibility of jail for Tokyo. But, we all agreed that was not Tokyo.
It was a risky decision, but we all agreed that Tokyo had to die. So we worked on crafting her departure. I feel like Season 5 is like an homage to Tokyo.
Sometimes I regret being responsible for my character’s death, but this was the right thing for Tokyo.
Tokyo seemed to always be searching for more than just money. The way she was able to detonate the bomb, and smile before she dies was a beautiful scene. That must have been a difficult moment to shoot. What did you do to prepare for such an emotional moment?
It was super difficult. I remember having to stop shooting because I was crying. The last two weeks was just me crying. I was quite melancholy, it was a deep sadness.
I remember when they said we are ready for your last scene. I was super nervous. And I thought maybe I could not act, and this scene was going to be a mess. It was going to be the worse scene of the series because I was nervous, anxious, and sad.
I thought maybe I need to go to bed, and ask my mom to come from Barcelona and hug me.
I was exhausted, and I knew that this was the end for Tokyo. This is life.
“I remember discussing with the writers about the possibility of jail for Tokyo. But, we all agreed that was not Tokyo. […] I remember when they said ‘we are ready for your last scene’. I was super nervous. And I thought maybe I could not act, and this scene was going to be a mess. It was going to be the worst scene of the series because I was nervous, anxious, and sad. I thought maybe I need to go to bed, and ask my mom to come from Barcelona and hug me.”
Hair and makeup by
using Chanel Beauty
Carmen Merida Garcia, Gemma Ferri
Narrative PR, Amanda Dykema
Money Heist was already a successful show in Spain, but Netflix and the quarantine made it into a global phenomenon. How has your life changed after the success of the show?
In many ways!
The show has always been intense and that intensity grew for the last five years.
The worldwide popularity is hard to handle, and it is taboo in many cultures, but I believe in therapy.
I believe in the importance of mental health, and I have been more thankful of those around me. My boyfriend, friends, and family are incredibly supportive.
The fame can be a nightmare, and it is important to have the right mindset and be thankful.
I am just very lucky to have the education from my parents!
Now that people are getting vaccinated and Europe is slowly opening, what are some of the things you look forward to doing?
Go to MARS!
It is hard to believe that the moment has come.
I have been in fourteen countries shooting Money Heist, and it is time to sit in a nice restaurant with friends and family.
Part 5 of Money Heist now streaming on Netflix. Watch Úrsula’s last day on set below.