Coming from El Deseo, the company led by Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar, Mentiras Pasajeras (Fleeting Lies) shares unmistakeable similarities with the brothers’ celebrated films. Producer Esther García and director Félix Sabroso tell DQ about developing the comedy and share their views on showrunning.
El Deseo, the Madrid-based production company belonging to filmmaking brothers Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar, is best known for its extensive slate of feature films. Bafta winner The Skin I Live In, which stars Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya, stands alongside Oscar winner Hable con ella (Talk to her) and Oscar-nominated films Pain & Glory and Penelope Cruz-led Volver.
So when it came to moving into television, the company was unsurprisingly pitched a number of different projects. Yet one – Mentiras Pasajeras (Fleeting Lies) – stood out from the crowd.
“El Deseo tried to bend itself to a new format, TV series, and when we started thinking about that, we started receiving a lot of projects,” showrunner and long-time Almodóvar producer Esther García tells DQ.
“A lot of them we weren’t interested in, but there was this one that we found really interesting because it was speaking about how the world is changing before our eyes and transforming into a place where the only thing that matters is looks and appearances and what you show to other people. That’s why we decided to go with it.”
The comedy stars Anaya as Lucía, a hugely successful businesswoman who lives in a beautiful house with her fiancé and their children and has a taste for high fashion and fast cars. But on the day she is expecting to be promoted at the high-tech beauty treatments company where she works, she is instead accused of industrial espionage and fired after a rival company gets its hands on a top-secret prototype.
Convinced she has been set up by a colleague who also wanted the promotion, and in fear of losing everything she has worked for, Lucía conceals the truth from her family and falls into a spiral of lies and shady business dealings – and brings her plastic surgeon best friend along with her.
Creators Nerea Castro and Blanca Andrés wrote the eight-part series with Pol Cortecans, while directors Félix Sabroso and Marta Font worked with a cast that also includes Hugo Silva, Pilar Castro, Quim Gutiérrez, María Botto and Susi Sánchez.
Following its world premiere at French television festival Series Mania earlier this year, the Paramount+ series was acquired by streamer SkyShowtime for Spain and Portugal. Further sales are handled by Paramount Global Distribution Group.
García says making Fleeting Lies was a lengthy process – four years in total, stretching back to before the Covid-19 pandemic – but after working on the scripts with the writers and identifying Sabroso as the lead director, “we managed to finish it.”
The comedy is produced by El Deseo and Paramount, and while García says it was made “independently” from Pedro’s direct influence, it is unmistakably an Almodóvar project, from the production design and colour palette to the show’s blend of humour and melodrama.
However, she insists it stands apart from any of Pedro’s other work – and for one very good reason. “It’s completely different because Pedro is unique,” she says. “No one is better than Pedro. But you can’t avoid the fact he has a very big influence on the narration, about the way you tell stories and about the aesthetics, so it’s very difficult to give up this kind of influence.
“But what I can say is we’re very proud of what we’ve done. It’s something that’s been made in an independent way from Pedro but corresponds with what El Deseo is and wants to do.”
That means Fleeting Lies is a comedy that focuses more on the characters than on constantly looking for laughs. “We weren’t worried about making gags every three lines,” Sabroso says. “We didn’t work that way. We were really worried about creating strong characters and being real and authentic.”
The director previously worked with El Deseo on feature films Age of Monster (2015) and Chill Out! (2003), so he was already comfortable with the team and didn’t feel the weight of the Almodóvars’ work on his shoulders.
“When they told me to be the showrunner and director of this project, I was really happy to do it and I felt confident because we understand each other really well,” he says. “I told Esther that I miss her when I am on another project and with another company because I really feel very happy working there. So it was easy for me.”
Sabroso worked closed with Anaya in rehearsals, but also allowed the star to bring her own thoughts and ideas to the project and her character. But for an actor known mostly for her dramatic roles, “the only thing we had to find was a way to make a comedy with her,” the director notes. “We were so sure she could be in a comedy, and she did it.”
Through production, García and Sabroso shared showrunning duties – a role García says she is used to even if it hasn’t always come with that title.
“As a producer, it’s what I’ve been doing all these years, taking care of the scripts, making sure the actors respect the script and feed their own ideas into the script and the story, taking care of the budget and all the creative aspects of the project,” she explains. “This is what I’ve been doing for years now without calling it showrunning.”
Sabroso says that change has become a necessity because of the large number of people needed to produce a multi-episode series – but it’s a role he believes is also the most challenging on any project.
“You have so many people involved – the screenwriter, the producers, directors, platforms – so you have to assemble all these people and just have one person who is going to make this possible,” he says.
“Esther and I have been working together for a long time as producers, as directors, and we have this experience of assembling people. The most difficult part is understanding each other and feeding each other with ideas and building a relationship with the platform, which was something new.”