Being Picasso’s Mother: A Conversation with Maria Jose Bavio for Nat Geo’s GENIUS PICASSO
(Main Photo credit: Nikki Leigh Scott)
Pablo Picasso confronts the threat of fascism in Spain, and Young Pablo rejects traditional painting to search for his own voice.
Of Argentine and South African descent, Maria Jose Bavio stars alongside Antonio Banderas, Alex Rich, Robert Sheehan, Aisling Franciosi, T. R. Knight, Sebastian Roché and Seth Gabel in the second season of the critically acclaimed National Geographic series. With Maria now residing in London I took the opportunity to catch up with: Maria Jose Bavio.
With the new Genius Picasso anthology scheduled to premiere later this month The Fan Carpet’s Melanie Radloff caught up with actress Maria Jose Bavio, who plays Picasso’s mother in the period drama…
Tell us about your role in the new Genius Picasso series.
I play Maria Picasso Lopez, who is Picasso’s mother. It’s a small role, I’m in four episodes. But she is a very strong character and pivotal in Picasso’s life. She is the steering force behind him. She was his number one fan. She is this constant presence in his life, whether you see her on screen or not.
What was the most memorable moment?
I would say the birthing scene. Trying to remain grounded in the presence of 30 men on set, staring at my spread legs, rehearsing the birth. What really helped, when I was trying to take all of that in, I had Kathy (Kathy Herndl, 2nd camerawoman on set). She introduced herself and handed me my lifeline by saying “I’ve got you!”. She really made me feel that I wasn’t alone. Although I was in the most vulnerable state, exposing myself, physically and emotionally, she was my support system. Oh and what was really amazing about this was that I gave birth in the house Picasso was actually born in. Right underneath the room where his birth took place. You could just feel the energy. That gave me chills.
Do you have any funny anecdotes from set?
I don’t know if it’s an anecdote, but after my birthing ordeal Poncho (John Pontrelli, 1st AD) came up to me asking if I needed anything and I jokingly said “Gin!” and he said he can make that happen, but I quickly added I was just kidding, I need to focus on the scene etc etc. Few days later, we’re shooting in Barcelona and I’m on set, watching from the side lines before my next scene and Poncho comes up to me and says he has a surprise for me. I close my eyes and he places something in my hands. It’s a small gin bottle. I got so overwhelmed because he remembered. It was just very moving. That was the general atmosphere on set during production. And I still have that gin bottle!
Tell me about the press screening in Malaga you attended.
It was held at the Cervantes Theatre in Malaga on the 22nd of March. They screened the first one hour episode. We came on stage as it ended to a standing ovation, which then turned into a flamenco clap- and-stomp by the audience. Everyone was buzzing. It was amazing.
But you know what else was amazing? Not only did I get good feedback for my performance in Genius, but a fellow cast member recognised me from another project, a short called “Struck”, which had just been released to the public. It explores the female gaze on conflicted modern masculinity. You think no one will watch that outside your little social media circle and then you have someone like Theo (T. R. Knight, who plays Max Jacob in Genius Picasso) mention he’d seen this short on Short Of The Week and how much he loved my performance. That’s when it hit me. Don’t underestimate the exposure you get online. How many people it can reach and who might potentially see it. It is such a great project with such a strong voice. Directed by Aurora Fearnley and written by Isley Alana Lynn. The release of Struck coincided with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which was perfect considering it depicts the theme of survivor, sexual aggression and female empowerment.
What’s your next project, what are you working on at the moment?
There are two things. I’m the co-founder and producer of CLD, The Chronic Love Dispensary, which is a theatre company focussing on real life stories. Very intimate, fly on the wall performances. Our next show is called “Penetration”. For exact dates and venue check out our website.
The second bit I am working on is a short film with a group of women, which again deals with female empowerment. This whole movement has given us a need to tell our stories and we’re riding that wave. It’s time for more female stories to be told.
Thank you so much for sitting down with me.
To keep up-to-date on Maria’s next projects check out her website.
Genius Picasso had its US premiere April 20th at the Tribeca Film Festival. General audiences get to see it starting April 24th on Nat Geo, and that includes us here in the UK.