Assumpta Serna

 
























Now it is time for everyone to meet the woman who created

the spirited Teresa


Assumpta Serna talks with us in a beautifully candid, gracious and exclusive interview telling of her time on Sharpe, working with Pete Postlethwaite and speaking of her romantic and what turned out to be a very fortuitous marriage to another actor whom she met on the set of Sharpe, the talented Scott Cleverdon.

________

Assumpta Serna brought an intensity and a passion to the role of Teresa Moreno that no woman has ever really matched since for Richard Sharpe. Fighting to free her beloved Spain from the French she was a perfect soul mate for him.

Dying far too early in the series, we know her memory is always lingering back in the mind of the soldier who fights hard with his own brand of passion and intensity. It’s no wonder when the two of them met, they caught fire and burned quickly, leaving long standing memories not only for Richard Sharpe but for all of us who loved Teresa as well.


How did you always know that acting was what you wanted to do or did you come into it by other means?


As a young girl acting gave me the opportunity to explore different points of view, and different ways of communicating with an audience. I have always been fascinated by how we perceive others, and I have always loved the exchange between character and actor. Making someone in the audience smile and laugh, and inspire them to be better, to look deeper for answers in life has always been my goal in acting. Although very rarely do we get to choose the best character; more often than not, it’s about choosing the least bad!




Were there any female characters in books or film that inspired you as you were growing up?

Katherine Hepburn, without a doubt, was the actress who inspired me to start out in the business. I always found her take on the profession and life in general to be fascinating.  I always admire female characters that have real substance, who accept adventure positively.  I love roles which are passionate, that search for the answers to life’s questions and dilemmas… I am particularly interested in female heroines who are wrong again and again, fighters, common-people with strong points of view.   Also love to play characters that existed in real life. It’s an opportunity to make them alive and search for the true meaning of our existence in our world.


Were you familiar with the character of Teresa Moreno from Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series?


No, I grew to appreciate it whilst playing the part.  It was a great inspiration for me.

My experience in Sharpe was a turning point in my life, clearing away the past, the key for the future really, kind of like a personal Tsunami…





















surrounded by many male actor


“...kind of like a personal Tsunami...”

Originally Diana Peñalver was set to play Teresa —How was it the producers came to you for the part?


It all happened very quickly.  I was just returning from Thailand, working on a movie for American TV. Funnily enough, I was shooting at a wonderful place, which some years later would be the epicentre of the Tsunami… But anyway, on my way back home to Los Angeles I visited my agent in France, at which point I received an urgent call from my Spanish agent Alsira G. Maroto, who was also the agent for Diana.  Slightly nervously Alsira asked me to read the script at once.  The producer, Muir Sutherland, had called my agent because they needed to recast the romantic duo on the show.  The main actor had had an injury and could no longer play the part.


(By the way I’ve always thought that Diana would have been great for the character and would have shone as Teresa).  Anyway, I loved the part and the script and so the next day there I was, in Russia, still with all my beach clothes from Thailand.

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Did you know any of the other actors before you came to the set of Sharpe?


No, I didn’t know any of the British actors on set, but I have since got to know many very well and I love seeing them again.  Being on Sharpe, after shooting in many countries, I see that British actors are unpretentious and that their theatre schools produce hard working and wonderfully well-prepared actors.  Being on set with only male actors was very funny.  We women on the show, away from our respective countries, had plenty to choose from….  I had a friend there, Sano de Perpessac, who was our fantastic makeup artist on the first year’s series.  The greatest professional I have, or ever will, work with. We cooked for all of the team many times.  That first year in Ukraine together we enjoyed enormously.  My personal love life wasn’t so hot at the time, and I deeply felt for some of the actors there - my entire life was that two-year job.

Was it an issue at all, being one of the few female actors in a remote location with a predominantly male cast?


Sometimes: as a woman, you could easily see the attitudes of the other actresses and women on set.  Some of us girls would cook and go to the market for the rest of the crew, which was strange - as apples were, for example, very expensive but you could find uranium (so I was told) and military clothes, belts and medals in exchange for western clothes very easily…  Some of the women would show their attributes like peacocks, whilst others were occasionally shot down, and Sano and I would at once be in their rooms to rescue and to integrate them.  We had fun in those gatherings in our rooms.  I remember that I had two suitcases full of food: pasta, cans, a stove, my own sheets, my own toilet paper, hand warmers, a duvet cover, my first computer - a laptop (in 1992 remember) Macintosh 180.  I certainly wasn’t bored at all.


In Laura Jackson’s biography of Sean she states at one point you said you were wearing newspaper under your clothing to stay warm. How difficult was it to keep warm day after day on the set?



Yes.  I had the boys’ newspaper pages written about British football sticking to my body. It’s a trick I still do (although not so much with the football pages anymore!).  Javier Artiñano, a great Spanish period costume designer, with whom I did many movies before Sharpe, passed the trick on to me on a cold winter day in Madrid, and it was very useful in Ukraine.  After a while it isn’t noisy and the sound department doesn’t protest (they do if you wear silk to warm up sometimes).  All the paper stuffed against your skin becomes malleable and warm and better than noisy silk….  Particularly, it is very useful inside boots, because it takes the shape of any movement, and protects you against damp. You should try it! It’s good for recycling too.  If you’re on a motorcycle it can save your life.

©Celtic FIlms


Diana Peñalver, the person

originally cast to play Teresa

in Sharpe with Paul McGann.

Teresa led a group of partisans

and guerilla fighters to prevent the French

from invading her beloved Spain.

Screencap courtesy The Mighty Bean, © Celtic FIlms

©RIflemanHarris.co.uk      

©

Diana Peñalver

Surrounded by male actors, including Blas Vivar,

played by Simón Andreu, Assumpta was one of the few

women on the set of Sharpe.

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Traci Moore and Alison Stokes