Coisa Mais Linda (The Most Beautiful Thing): First season of new Brazilian series premieres Friday, March 22
By Marques Travae with information from JB and Vogue Brasil
Last week, while passing through the subway tunnel connecting the Consolação station with Avenida Paulista, the latest film/TV series ads caught my attention. And as I kept walking, I noted one black face along with three white women. I thought to myself, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was Pathy Dejesus, the model/DJ turned actress. Over the black actress’s face read the name “Adélia”. Hmmm, again, if this is a new face, she looks a LOT like Pathy Dejesus. Then I noticed the mole under the lip and I was even surer that it was her. My hunch was confirmed when I punched in the information I saw on the wall ad on my cell phone: “Adélia” and Coisa Mais Linda.
As it turns out, the ad that accompanied me to the Avenida Paulista section of the subway was promoting the new Netflix series set in the late 1950s, around the time when Brazil’s Bossa Nova sound was preparing to become the hot new sound to take the world of Jazz and Pop by storm.
A series permeated by music. That describes Coisa Mais Linda, a new original Brazilian production from Netflix. The drama set in the 1960s brings the story of Maria Luiza (played by actress Maria Casadevall), a young woman from São Paulo who, abandoned and robbed by her husband, decides to open a bar with live music in Rio de Janeiro.
Because of this, Malu, as she’s called throughout the drama, counts on the help of three other women: Adélia (played by Pathy Dejesus), a single mother, a maid, black and from the peripheral of the city that undergoes several humiliations from her employer; Lígia (played by Fernanda Vasconcellos), a childhood friend and owner of a charming voice; and Thereza (played by Mel Lisbon), an independent journalist and ahead of her time.
Pathy Dejesus is passionate about her character. “Adélia is potency at a time when women had no power to speak. The black woman, then, even less.”
Others in the cast are Leandro Lima, who plays Chico Carvalho, a Bossa Nova bohemian musician; and Ícaro Silva, in his character, Capitão, a drummer with an international career who returns to Brazil to live near the love of his life, Adélia, and his daughter, Conceição.
As it turns out, several of the characters of the series are based on real Brazilian musicians. Lígia is a sort of mixture between singers Nara Leão and Maysa Matarazzo, while Capitão, the black drummer portrayed by actor Ícaro Silva, took famed drummers Milton das Neves and Dom Um Romão as models. The character Chico, played by Leandro Lima hints at a mixture between guitarist João Gilberto, one of the musicians credited with creating Bossa Nova and another Chico, Buarque, one Brazilian Popular Music’s most important singer/songwriters.
In a press conference, Caito Ortiz, one of the producers of the series, spoke about the mission of constructing a suitable environment for the plot, between hairstyles, costumes, scenarios and musical composition that well represented that historical moment. “It’s the challenge of going back in time and being faithful to a time of great glamor. We bring the drinks, the cigarettes; it’s is a very strong universe of references.” Director Julia Rezende added: “We pay attention to detail, from the lingerie to the jewelry.”
Maria Casadevall, protagonist of Coisa Mais Linda, says that the production also proposes being a point of reflection. Many scenes are loaded with sexism, racism and social prejudice, which will make even the most conservative of viewers uncomfortable. “The script doesn’t hide class relations. The characters are fallible, carrying other realities aboard. This brings humanity.”
An emblematic scene occurs when Adélia is prevented by her employer from using the elevators to take grocery purchases to the apartment in which she works. Of course, something as common as an elevator can be yet another signal of the race/class hierarchy that exists in Brazil (see here and here). “It was a very difficult moment for me as an actress to put myself in this place of extreme submission,” says Pathy Dejesus. “In the series, this exists explicitly, as it was at the time. Today, it still happens, but in a veiled way,” comments Maria Casadevall, in an interview with the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo.
Speaking of Dejesus, who recently shared the news of her first pregnancy with her followers, she isn’t the only one in the cast have gotten a start in the modeling world. We know that Pathy made a mark for black models in Brazil, becoming one of the first of a new generation to gain fame on the runways both in Brazilian fashion shows such as São Paulo Fashion Week, but also internationally. Co-star Leandro Lima has also modeled for brands such as Calvin Klen, Chrisitian Dior and Versace.
The secondary role of women in society, customary at that time, is also, addressed in the series several times – and questioned by the main characters. Malu, for example, can’t get a loan from the bank without the written consent of her ex-husband. Lígia is physically assaulted by her husband after singing at a meeting of friends – and, at first, says that her companion thus acted ‘out of love’.
The question of women in the series wins by being told from the point of view of four women, to the actress who plays Maria Luiza. “We grew up seeing stories being told from the perspectives of men, even more narrative about that era. This story is told from our perspective.”
Art as a reflection
“It is extremely important to bring such content to people’s homes,” says Fernanda Vasconcellos, about the fact that the series addresses such important issues in today’s time. Mel Lisboa emphasizes that it is necessary to celebrate the achievements, but also to reflect on what has not ceased to exist: “women are still beaten.”
In bringing current discussions – whose traits were present in the 1960s -, Coisa Mais Linda establishes a double dialogue: with its own time and with the time it seeks to narrate. “The responsibility of the artist is to be a reflection of his own time,” says Ícaro Silva, citing an inspiration for his career, Nina Simone.
Coisa Mais Linda debuted yesterday on Netflix, with a seven episode season.