Love lessons

Love lessons

March 11, 2024

The Writers Room

Spanish author Noemí Casquet tells DQ about watching her novel Zorras (Tramps) become a television series, the themes behind the story and her own on-screen cameo.

A series about women, friendship, self-love – and a lot of sex – Spanish drama Zorras (Tramps) is based on the trilogy of novels by author Noemí Casquet.

Debuting last year on Atresmedia and recently playing to audiences at the Berlinale Series Market, the show introduces three women who appear to have nothing in common but soon discover they each have a desire to have fun, take risks and empower themselves.

Alicia (played by Andrea Ros) longs for more excitement than her boyfriend Diego and life in her hometown can offer; Diana (Tai Fati) wants to break free from her traditional parents and the stigmas society places on her; and Emily (Mirela Balic) holds a secret that betrays her outwardly confident, energetic and impulsive persona.

The trio decide to found a new social club, the Sex Friends Club, where they have only one goal in mind: to fulfil their sexual fantasies.

But Zorras isn’t just about sex. It is also a story of friendship and female solidarity that aims to shine a light on real women, flaws and all.

Produced by Atresmedia TV in collaboration with Morena Films, the eight-part dramedy is based on Casquet’s novel of the same name, which has sold more than 100,000 copies and was followed by sequels Malas (Bad) and Libres (Free). Atrestmedia TV International Sales is handling distribution.

Here, Casquet speaks to DQ about the themes behind her novel, how involved she was in adapting the series for television and her own on-screen role.

Noemí Casquet

What are the origins of your trilogy of novels? Why did you want to tell these stories?
The origins were the need to find erotic novels with a feminist base. I love reading novels in general, and in the search for erotic novels, I realised they always revolved around women and men. Men were portrayed as the great liberators of women. Women were always portrayed as deeply troubled, and men were the ones who introduced them to a whole new world. Rarely, if ever, was the focus on the friendship between women in a process of sexual liberation. That’s what inspired me to write these novels – attempting to centre sexual liberation through friendship.

What were the main themes or ideas that you wanted to discuss?
Sexual liberation, without a doubt, and friendship. The tenderness that can exist between friends. The indispensable companionship and role that friends play in our lives.

I believe that, for a long time, the focus has been on romanticising relationships and couples in general, like the romanticisation of a man and a woman as a couple. Many books have been written and many movies have been made. There is a lot of cultural content around this, but we lack cultural content about friendship between women, and it is something essential.

What were your first thoughts about the novels being adapted for television?
My main thoughts were, ‘Wow! Really?’ I felt joy and then, on the other hand, a lot of fear. In adaptations, things get lost. One of my biggest concerns was that my characters would change. I insisted that the characters maintain the same characteristics. That’s what makes the story make sense, because of who they are in the end. I felt a lot of joy and a little fear too, of course.

As for the adaptation, what happened is that Alice’s universe [the one in the books], the framework of her thoughts and her psychological arc, was expanded and the universe of Emily and Diana came into play. That was fantastic because it truly was a change made to structure it in the audiovisual format, and it was one of the major changes that I believe greatly enriched the plot and experiences of all the characters.

Friendship is a particularly important theme in the show. How did you want to portray the lives of the main characters together and separately?
Friendship is at the centre of both the trilogy and the Zorras series. I believe it is crucial to reflect the importance of friendship. Many times, there is a prioritisation of romanticisation, where the focus is on the girl or boy meeting someone in a romantic context rather than developing friendship first.

In the end, it’s true that this portrayal has been achieved, both collectively and individually. You realise that when [the central characters] are apart, they are fighting numerous battles and facing obstacles, dealing with issues with their parents, undergoing their own personal evolution that they might not allow themselves, perhaps having a bit more fear to do certain things or venture into certain worlds. However, when they are together, they are capable of anything. They dare to do many more things thanks to the companionship of the three. That is the essence of Zorras.

How involved were you in the project, from its development and the scripts to being on set for shooting?
I took part in the development phase and the sales phase, when I went to Atresmedia to talk to them about the project. I was there as an advisor to the scriptwriters and I accompanied them throughout the learning process. As for the script, I was also reviewing or changing certain things, but my role was never as a creator, because it was important to leave room for other people. There are professionals who know a lot more about screenwriting. I was happy to give space in that sense.

You also have a role on screen as Carmen. What can you tell us about your character, and your experience appearing in the show?
Carmen appears in the novels but in a very distorted way, when the characters go to a sex shop and buy an erotic toy for Diana. It goes quite unnoticed, but for the series there was an intention to develop this a bit more to explore Diana’s bisexual tendency.

I loved appearing in my own series, in a scene that I had envisioned in my own head. It was very interesting because it happened very similarly to how I imagined and wrote it. It was like stepping into my own universe.

My experience filming was very interesting. I was clear I wouldn’t like to be an actress; it’s a very tough job. I don’t have that vocation, so I valued even more the work of all the people involved. I also got to see the entire team involved in filming; it’s impressive, and we are never aware until we see it and experience it. But the experience was a lot of fun. I had a great time, but I wouldn’t dedicate myself to it.

Did you also work with the main cast – Andrea Ros, Tai Fati and Mirela Balic?
They were the characters. It was impressive because there was very little interpretation; they put very little effort into preparing the characters because it basically involved being themselves. In fact, throughout the series, there are many lines that go beyond the script because it naturally comes to them how to say it, and that is crucial. It’s very interesting because we really wanted to maintain that essence.

Zorras focuses on the friendships and sex lives of three women

What do you think about the way sex is discussed and portrayed on screen – and how did you want to change that with Zorras?
For years and years, we have witnessed a distorted and fictionalised reality, and even a considerably idealised portrayal of sex on screen. We’ve seen depictions of women as quite submissive or at the mercy of men. Penetration has been the central axis of representing sex. You’d put on a movie, and you could see a few kisses, and immediately they are in bed, looking at each other romantically. No one grabs a condom from anywhere, and within 30 seconds, if that long, she has a super orgasm having barely touched herself, just through penetration.

Another thing that amuses me about sex scenes is that after going at it from every angle, a character grabs the entire duvet to go pee, as if [concerned that the other] person might catch a glimpse of a nipple. It seems quite hypocritical and unnatural, and somewhat dangerous, how sexuality is presented on screen because, in the end, we are beings who act by imitation, and no one has taught us a foundation of sexual education.

Everything we learn is through mainstream cinema and later through porn, so mainstream cinema obviously has a significant influence on how we engage in sex. That’s one of the things we wanted to break with Zorras. We wanted to portray a diversity of sexual orientations, lesbian scenes where the two girls are not perfect. They are real, they are two women. In one of the most important scenes, Diana sleeps with Ruth, and they are two women who are plus-sized, engaging in sex on screen. It is crucial because it has rarely, if ever, been seen on screen.

Through Zorras, we wanted to represent the broadness of sexuality and to break stigmas and prejudices. Zorras gives permission to fully enjoy sex.

Did you work with intimacy coordinators on the series?
Yes, this was one of the significant initiatives. In the past two years, we have seen at a general level, especially in the production scene in the US and Europe, the addition of a role that should have always been there.

As someone who advocates for sexuality, it was very interesting to see how intimacy is handled on screen and to call for the continuation of having intimacy coordinators in all films where there is any kind of connection or intimacy, whether it’s a simple kiss or a sexual scene. It is crucial so that the team, especially the cast, can be in sync and feel comfortable to offer their best and, above all, not to cross boundaries that might otherwise be exceeded.

What have you made of the reaction to the series since it launched last year?
The reaction was wonderful. Seeing Zorras prominently featured in the news was very interesting, especially considering the societal significance of [the word ‘zorra’], how it has stained women for a long time, and how we have reclaimed such words, so they don’t hurt us anymore. Most importantly, the audience often mentions that it feels very natural and that this kind of series was needed, with scenes between people of all body types, skin colours and genders. Cultural representation is essential for us to feel represented on the big screen and for a sense of liberation.

Why might the series appeal to international audiences?
Because we need more series that show the feminist reality of women, a reality of their sexual liberation. On many occasions there is a romanticisation around this liberation and around sexuality in general. We see many [sex] scenes that are in the shower and they are absolutely perfect, but we have all fucked in the shower and we know that this is not so.

I also believe series where friendship is the main point are essential. In this way we will also stop making films where it seems that the liberation of women is only established through the help of a man. Here there are women who save women. This is one of the basic pillars of feminism. We need more of them. I am grateful and proud that it has been one of the signs that things can be done differently, and hopefully it has inspired many – including an international audience.

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