Paulina Dávila is a Colombian-born actress whose magnetic presence has left an indelible mark on the global stage. From her childhood dreams of becoming an actress to her remarkable journey through Latin American and international entertainment, Dávila’s career is a testament to the power of passion and perseverance. Chatting with Schön! Magazine, Dávila delves into her influences, experiences, and the empowering narratives that have defined her path — the same journey that would eventually lead her to a role in Netflix’s latest show, Griselda.
Growing up in Colombia, did you always dream of becoming an actress? What inspired you to pursue this career path?
I dreamt about being an actress since I can remember, but to be honest I’m not sure what it was exactly that influenced me. I know it of course had to do with the movies and TV shows I saw growing up, the female characters I saw myself in and I wanted to be/play, but I can’t pinpoint exactly to the moment I said to myself “I’m going to be an actress,” it was always just there in my mind. The idea of playing someone or something else, I was always drawn to that. I kind of knew it was going to happen one way or another, I just had to figure out how.
You’ve had the opportunity to work in both the Latin American and international entertainment industries. How has your cultural background influenced your acting and career choices?
I feel very lucky with the opportunities I’ve had in my career thus far and am excited to see where else it takes me. So far I’ve been able to work in Colombia, Mexico, Cuba, Spain, Argentina, and the USA, and every set has felt different because they are like a micro-version of the location and I find that fascinating. It’s a great way to learn about other cultures and I love finding inspiration from every place I visit, which is why I gravitate towards roles and projects that challenge me to broaden my comprehension of life. I’ve done mostly Spanish-speaking roles given my cultural background, and I will continue with more in my career because it’s important to me to be able to tell as many Latino stories as possible, both inspiring and tragic.
However, I am also itching to be in the shoes of someone who could be of any background – it just being an amazing role to play, an amazing story to tell. Ask any actor and they will likely tell you that their dream role is a character that will allow them to fully transform. Hopefully, all the amazing life lessons I’ve been able to pick up during my travels and all the different sets I’ve been on will be able to help me get there one day.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time when you’re not working on your acting career or ambassadorship? Are there any hobbies or interests that you’re passionate about?
I have way too many! It’s hard to find time and space for all of them and I keep finding new ones. I come from a visual arts background so everything related to that like drawing, analog photography, and filming I love to do. I also really enjoy spending time in nature and I gravitate toward sports that let me be out in the open. I’m obsessed with surfing for example and I like to skateboard too. Music is also another passion of mine. I make music here and there, I sing and I write songs just for fun.
Are there any actors or actresses who have had a profound influence on your acting style or career? If so, who are they, and what have you learned from them?
I’m inspired by so many wonderful actors who have shaped the way I approach the work and how I prepare myself for a role. For example, Juana Acosta, a colleague and friend whom I admire a lot, and Sofia Vergara, someone I’ve looked up to since I was little because no one I knew who had come from where I come from had achieved what she has been able to. For me it’s a matter of feeling represented, it empowers me to believe in my own dreams.
You’ve portrayed a wide range of characters throughout your career. Is there a particular role or project that you hold especially dear to your heart? If so, why?
I think it would have to be one of my first roles in “Que viva la música (Liveforever).” It was one of the first movies I did, I was so young, so free and naive but I enjoyed it so much. It was based on an iconic Colombian novel that follows Maria del Carmen Huertas (my character), a rebellious teen who in her quest to break all the rules ends up finding herself in a vibrant musical city and discovering her sexuality and her darkness. There was a lot of dancing and salsa involved, the story took place in Cali, Colombia and I was obsessed with the book since I read it in high school. I remember feeling so lucky to have gotten the part!
Can you tell us more about your character, Isabel, in the Netflix series Griselda? What attracted you to this role?
Isabel (‘Isa’) is a former sex worker from Medellin, someone with a tough background but with big dreams. She is Griselda’s confidant and support system. Without giving too much away, Griselda taps into Isa and her connections in Medellin to help her establish her new business in Miami.
What attracted me most to this role is what Isa represents – she’s a vulnerable character, a champion and devoted friend who is willing to risk her life for Griselda and the promise of a better life. She believes in Griselda and is part of her support team from a more emotional side and I thought that was a very interesting character to play in this type of story which is usually full of more cutthroat characters.
Griselda is set in the 80s and tells the story of a female drug lord. How does the series shed light on the empowerment and struggles faced by women during that era in such a male-dominated industry?
That’s a big part of it and a very important one for me. The women we portrayed in the story had their lives threatened so many times, they were really struggling to survive, but were able to support each other while doing so and that is empowering especially in a time where there was very little room for women. It’s crazy to think about, but that wasn’t so long ago and even though there’s still work to do, I do believe there has been progress made since then and it’s been really inspiring to currently see women supporting women in all industries.
What was it like working alongside Sofia Vergara in Griselda? Can you share any memorable experiences from the set?
It was the best time! My scenes with Sofia are some of the really fun ones in the series – without giving anything away, one of our scenes is a big party that the director does in slow motion and it just packs a punch. It was so fun to see it roll out on the screen. When we weren’t filming, Sofia and I would load up on snacks, we both have a sweet tooth so she was my “snack partner in crime.” It was also incredible to see Sofia go from her natural gorgeous self to full Griselda and then back to herself. Big shout out to the hair and makeup department for that transformation of hers!
The series portrays the complex relationship between Griselda Blanco and Isabel. How did you prepare for your role to capture the depth of this connection?
I think the chemistry between Sofia and me helped us build that relationship between Griselda and Isa. We have a good rapport. I’m glad we were able to repurpose it to build the relationship you see between Griselda and Isa. They were both sex workers, they shared a room, they went through dark situations together and got to really care for each other. We really wanted that to show on screen. I also wanted Isabel to capture the essence of women I know who lived in Medellin during that time, the way she speaks, the words she uses, I got them from some of my mom’s friends, we had long conversations about what it felt to live in Medellin during that time as a woman and that enriched my character.
As the only female Breitling ambassador in Latin America, how do you balance your career in acting with your role as a brand ambassador?
It’s a really fun partnership! I have a lot in common with Breitling’s values, they are innovators, environmentally conscious and celebrate sports. I think that’s why we connect, we’re both versatile, I wear my Breitling to surf in the morning and then attend a fancy premiere at night.
Griselda is set to release on January 25th, 2024. What can viewers expect from the series, and what do you hope they take away from it?
I hope people enjoy it, and on some level are able to connect with the characters and the story. It’s entertaining, but it’s also a reminder of the consequences we face when we make decisions based solely on power.
In your opinion, what sets Griselda apart from other drug cartel series, and how does it contribute to breaking stereotypes about Colombia?
I think this series takes place in a very specific time and context of Colombian history. Before Pablo Escobar, there was Griselda, “queen of all kingpins.” I’m not saying that what she did was right or good in any way, but it’s impressive in its own bubble of a story. How a woman rose to power and that in itself broke stereotypes of the time and enabled her to uplift other women alongside her.
Can you share any upcoming projects or goals you have in your career, both in the US and internationally?
I would love to continue on this creative journey of being an actor. Hopefully, I can be involved with projects that allow me to travel to new places and I can keep expanding my cultural knowledge of the world. I’m currently preparing for a new role that I’m very excited about, wish I could share more but it’s confidential for now. I mentioned I like to sing and write songs just for fun, but I’m also hoping to release some music this year. I’m very grateful for all that’s to come this year!
Finally, what message or impact do you hope Griselda will have on its audience, especially in terms of female empowerment and representation in the entertainment industry?
More than anything I hope they see the sisterhood we created in this series. Yes, it has one woman at the helm, but she got there because of the other women who supported her. It’s so important for me that as women we keep united and supportive of each other. It’s important for women to claim their space and to be respected. I believe that one of the main reasons there’s been progress for female empowerment in the past couple of years is because of women supporting women. So many amazing women put themselves on the line for all of us so we could claim our own power and enjoy the freedom we have now and we should continue that for future generations. It needs to come from a place of generosity though, never from greed, or as we also see in the series, that’s when it turns dangerous and could have terrible consequences.
Griselda is out now on Netflix.