American Family Home
American Family

Cisco's Journal:

A personal
perspective on the
Gonzalez family.

An Interview with Sonia Braga

“It’s like they have more questions than answers.”
– Ms. Braga on families

Sonia Braga
Sonia Braga

Tell us about Berta, your character.
Berta. She’s a mom. Above all, she’s a mother. More than a wife, or Mexican-American, or whatever. She’s the international mother. She’s a woman with a big, big heart. Don’t they say, “In the heart of a mother always fits one more?” I think they always say that in Portuguese. That’s what Berta is. She’s nothing but unconditional love.

What do you like about Berta? What don’t you like?
Well, I love the character. There’s not much to dislike about her. You may not agree with her – her life, her lifestyle – but there’s very little to dislike about her because that’s what she is. She’s love. She has this huge amount of love [for] her kids, her husband, her lifestyle. There was one scene that I did that really explains Berta, where she says, “It’s so hard to understand right now because for me growing up was so different. I knew what my life was going to be like. I was going to get married and have children. My mother knew everything. She had all the answers. But now I don’t have any answers.” She was made to be a wife, a housewife and a mother. I have a huge amount of respect for people who are like that. I can say that I wish they could have another life. A better life, maybe, but I totally respect them.

What questions do you explore through your character?
My questions about life, about family. What is it to have a family, to have a father, a mother and children, and to try to hold these people together? I grew up in a very open-minded family. My father died when I was very little, so my mother was really, really incredibly busy trying to provide for us. So I think that what I gave to Berta is my searching for love, maybe. That’s what it is.

What does family mean to you?
I don’t know. I think all families are different. They have more questions than answers. All generations are different from one another. One comes very open. The next one comes very restricted and dry. In the big sense, I have no idea of the truth. I have no idea if we were supposed to be in a family, if we were supposed to be together. If you take away money, if you take away the houses and things, who are we really? What is love really about? What is it to love each other? Why do we stay together, and why do all the kids split? All these questions I have really deep inside of me. The only thing I know is that we came from the stars, and that we have the same material as the stars. That’s all that I know. Everything else I don’t know.

Where does Berta come from? Is she part of you?
There are fragments. She’s like a mosaic of women I've known. Part of Berta, believe it or not, is one of my friends, one of the people who disappeared in the Brazilian regime when we had the dictatorship. So Berta, she goes everywhere, because this to me is a woman that can be revolutionary, the way she holds people together and says, “Look, let’s go.” There’s a scene. The man is depressed and she says, “Shut up and get out. Don’t stay in bed. We’re going to get there. We’re going to get over this and together we’ll do it.” That to me is fantastic. I have an image. My grandmother, my mother, myself, my friends, the women in pictures that I see that I have never met. The women from another part of the world – from Japan, from wherever, all over the world. These women that I try to describe are all the picture of painful mothers trying to survive and trying to give to their kids education, trying to feed their children.

What do you like about acting?
You can keep yourself alive. That’s the magic of being an actor. Like today, when I miss Raoul Julia so much, I just go and see a movie. I see “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” and there he is with the same power as when he made that picture. That’s the magic that makes movies and television and art and painting. That’s a mystery, too. How we do that, I don’t know. I have no idea. But that’s the beauty of it and the magic of it. We can bring to characters dark and bright sides that nobody even dreams about. Guess what? Sometimes we don’t have to tell this to anybody. We just stay there. If the pain is right for that character, if the director reads that as a good thing for the scene, that’s what he prints. We agree that the pain is right or the happiness is right or the love is right. So when you agree with that, and go to a magical place, that’s total amazing.

© 2004 Public Broadcasting Service. All Rights Reserved.