‘Gomorrah’ interview with Cristiana Dell’Anna

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We discover more from the making of the latest season

The ominous and smouldering title sequence says it all. There are so many tense, lingering scenes without dialogue and the production values are striking; from the dilapidated slums situated on the outskirts to the ostentatious apartments in the city. Not only does Gomorrah continue to focus on an eclectic range of human stories at the heart of the narrative, we may forget that most of the events that take place are actually true. We spoke with Cristiana Dell’Anna, who plays Patrizia in the second season of Gomorrah, which has been exhilarating international audiences on Sky Atlantic. We found out more about Dell’Anna’s intriguing new character, what it has been like working on the series, and just how true-to-life Gomorrah really is.

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With the ever popular rise of Italian crime dramas like 1992 or Romanzo Criminale, what has the reception been like in Italy, with the controversial subject matter of the ‘Camorra’ crime syndicate? “Gomorrah is the most appreciated and the most seen series in Italian crime drama history! It’s been very well received and criticised as well. I’m also a big fan of Romanzo Criminale and I was a huge fan of Gomorrah before I was even in it. I so wanted to have been in the first season!”

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We wanted to know what it has been like to join the cast of the successful show and what is has been like to play the surreptitious role of Patrizia. “Joining the cast was an amazing experience to work with them all. The first day was pure panic because the team all knew each other, whereas I was a newcomer like an adopted child arriving into a new family with really strong relationships! But the cast was really welcoming and they’re such professionals. It was a great professional and human experience. What attracted me to my character was the conflict that she lived; Patrizia is constantly living on two levels between good and bad. You can never tell what’s going on with her or what she is thinking; her actions are based on emotion. Then something happens on her journey – she meets the devil, Don Pietro, and all the good in her turns to evil. Patrizia transforms completely.”

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A lot of Patrizia’s scenes take place alongside Don Pietro (played by Fortunato Cerlino) after she becomes his messenger. We wondered what it was like for Dell’Anna to collaborate with Cerlino. “It was amazing, he’s such a nice man! He was very welcoming but at the beginning – because of the relationship between Don Pietro and Patrizia in that they don’t trust each other – the first time on set he told me “I really like you Cristiana but we’re not going to talk for a while because I [Don Pietro] don’t like you.” [LAUGHS] So, for a while, we didn’t speak! He’s such a great, supportive actor and extremely funny. I was very lucky to meet such nice people on the set. It was very enriching and the most beautiful thing that can happen on set is when two actors not only get along but have the same vision. That’s what happened between myself and Fortunato. We could create and develop the relationship between Patrizia and Don Pietro together – with the director and crew! It was such a fantastic opportunity and I hope we work together again. There was a lot of giggling with Fortunato. Also with my uncle, Malammore – Fabio De Caro has a great sense of humour! So much so that I was reprimanded by the producers because it was distracting me! [LAUGHS] It was fun. There were plenty of laughs and the atmosphere on set was very light.”

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Photographed by Mark Mawston

There are many shocking death scenes on par with Game of Thrones where anyone could die during any given episode. “That’s all true – but it’s based on fact. In reality, there are more events that are even worse. So many things have been left out of the story because they’re so unbelievable that they sound fictional. The series is so close to reality and it is even worse than what audiences have seen so far.”

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With this in mind, Dell’Anna encountered some very challenging moments in the show, whilst notably representing a real person on screen. “You have to love your character no matter how bad they are but there were moments when I felt really bad. For instance, I have a younger brother in real life and if my brother was threatened then I, Cristiana, would save him immediately. Patrizia thinks about it and bides time – she’s so much more strategic. When we shot those scenes I felt terrible towards her; I didn’t agree with her behaviour and I didn’t want to feel those feelings. I was so emotionally involved in the scene that it took me quite a while to come out of it. It was so intense.”

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Patrizia’s motivations show her to be very human, we understand why she reacts the way she does. “Yes, there were moments when I hated her and others when I understood her. She’s very human and she represents all of those young people that I have met in my life or have heard about and they do not have an alternative path to follow in their life. They do not have any other choice which doesn’t justify them but we understand them more. Of course, when you play a character you have to love them. You can’t judge a person you are playing. This allowed me to really connect with her.”

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From the outset, Patrizia seems like a Genny or Ciro protégé and many fans are wondering if she will become a core character in the third season. “She has the potential. I don’t know much about the third season just yet but she does have the potential to be a boss and become just as bad as Ciro or Genny, or even Don Pietro. She’s been close to one of the most terrifying characters in the series, not necessarily the one with the best strategy but the one who has been in the business longer. Patrizia has learned quite a lot from him so she has the skills and the intelligence. Plus – she’s a woman! Woman are capable of anything.”

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Crime series celebrate the role of the heroine or strong woman, especially in Nordic Noir shows. Gomorrah is mostly a male dominated underworld, however, there are many representations of women from girlfriends and wives to gang leaders. “They match reality quite a lot so, in that sense, women are represented very well. In the real life of the ‘Camorra’, the women do have a lot of power and make a lot of decisions to manage their businesses. I think the female characters should be given more to say because there is so much to tell about them, which I hope will happen in the third season. I’m very lucky to play someone like Patrizia because she has lived the best journey in the series, from an actor’s point-of-view, because of her deep transformation. She has a family that she takes care of and slowly she forgets what her sacrifices are made for; becoming more egocentric and desiring more and more power. She wants to be recognised for what she can do now, not necessarily just for her life sacrifices.”

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Dell’Anna shared with us her own experience living in Naples and researching the ‘Camorra’ from Roberto Saviano’s book. “I read the book years ago and, growing up, I knew about it and I did live through the depression in the territories from the presence of the ‘Camorra’. The young Neapolitan who lives there knows that they are not necessarily allowed to create their own opportunities in life. I felt it was best for me to move out and see other realities. I did know all about what happened but not in great detail because I was too young. After reading Saviano’s book, I was more aware of how scary it was. I was very lucky to meet Saviano a couple of times when we started promoting the second season – he’s very funny actually! He’s a very funny man and a lot of people tend not to realise that – the human side! He’s known as this really brave writer and there is so much more to him. It must be really scary for him having to live under protection and not be able to live a normal life. He was only 26 when he wrote the book and was threatened by the ‘Camorra’.”

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Gomorrah is very raw and pragmatic with the host of characters in the show. The series stands out as even more compelling in that it deviates from many Noir crime shows that include an element of law and justice. Instead of a detective leading the story, Gomorrah is shot from the criminal underworld perspective – does this challenges how we engage and like the characters? “I don’t think so. The series is so well written so it doesn’t matter what perspective you look at it from. It makes people very curious about it because the show is from that perspective. It’s not necessarily a new angle but it’s quite refreshing not to have any police or ‘good’ characters, which is a good selling point. This also teaches us a lot about how the ‘Camorra’ works. That’s why so many people love it – they’re curious and want to know more.”

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The Guardian coins Gomorrah as “the ultimate Mafia show” with “plot shocks and gratuitous killing”. This alternative and immersive appeal presents a shocking environment international audiences are not accustomed to from recent Euro Noir. Although, the reach of the ‘Camorra’ is a little closer to home. “What is interesting is that in reality, the ‘Camorra’ has businesses all over the world. You might have heard already that their capital city for money laundering is London. Even though this isn’t pictured in the series they have businesses like restaurant chains in Germany and Spain as well – pretty much everywhere in Europe!”

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Photographed by Mark Mawston

When can we expect to see Cristiana Dell’Anna on our screens next? “I’m going to be starring in a film – a comedy, so something completely different – with Alessandro Siani, a famous comedian in Italy and hopefully get some work in England. I consider myself to be an English actress; I trained here and I worked here at the very beginning of my career.” Fans of the show may not be aware of this from seeing Dell’Anna on-screen, but the actress has been a UK resident for quite some time: “I moved here in 2006/ 2007 when I was 20-years-old, so I know London pretty well and I am very happy to be back. I was missing it a lot, actually, especially the glorious weather!” To further separate the star from her Gomorrah character, it is difficult to detect any hint of the Italian vernacular from Dell’Anna’s refined English accent: “I love English and I have learned to the best of my ability!” The only exception being the perfect pronunciation of places and character names, with a resonating trill of the rs.

Words and interview by Antony Smith

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Gomorrah season two is released on DVD and Blu-ray Monday 25th July by Arrow Films

Photos for this interview were taken in London at Picturehouse Central by Mark Mawston