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Gael Garcia Bernal plays an orchestra conductor, and now he’s the real deal

Gael Garcia Bernal
Gael Garcia Bernal actually conducted the L.A. Philharmonic for his role in “Mozart in the Jungle.”
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Production on the third season of Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle” starts this summer, and lead actor Gael Garcia Bernal steps back into his role as superstar conductor Rodrigo de Souza being able to boast two things: He is a Golden Globe winner and has actually conducted the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.

Wunderkind Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who serves as the L.A. Philharmonic music director and is the inspiration for Bernal’s Rodrigo character, not only made a cameo appearance in the first episode of the season, but also arranged for Bernal to shoot a scene with the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Bernal, as Rodrigo, conducted the overture to Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

“It was nerve-racking,” Bernal said during a visit with The Envelope. “I held onto everything I could. I can’t even remember what I did, but I remember for like a full 30 minutes I was thinking, ‘What am I doing? What is this? What is this? Why? Why? Why? No!’”

Bernal, who praised Dudamel for all the support he’s given to the show, likened the experience to an actor who is tapped for a role as Michael Jordan and then is invited to play in a professional basketball game.

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Do you find that doing this show has made you think about music differently?

Yeah, in a kind of surprising way, now whenever I listen to classical music, modern classical music or from whatever time, I know where the instruments are, I know where it’s coming from, in a way. Of course, I do it with my — with whatever parameters I have which are very incredibly super-duper basic, you know, I mean, people have studied this forever. What’s interesting about music is that it is not like a common language, as such. Everybody makes a story behind music; everybody has something to invent behind what they’re listening to. That’s what the power of music is. A three-minute, incredibly good pop song means something different for each and every one of us.

Everybody makes a story behind music; everybody has something to invent behind what they’re listening to. That’s what the power of music is.”
Gael Garcia Bernal

You’re a Golden Globe winner now. That was such a nice moment, the look on your face.

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I was really very surprised. I didn’t expect the nomination, and then never expected to win. And then all of a sudden, when you hear your name being mentioned, and you go, “What? OK. Wow. This is great.” And what’s really fantastic, and maybe kind of metaphysical, about this is that life goes on in the same way. The next day I had to be doing pancakes for my kids but, at the same time, there is a life that’s kind of becoming bigger, which has to do with the character and with the series. All of a sudden, a fictional life has bigger wings and Rodrigo is a little bit more — I don’t know — lives a little bit more, you know?

How can he live more than he already does? He does whatever he wants.

Yeah. I think that’s why I like the character.

He is a very sort of chaotic type of personality, and a lot was going on around him this season. There were the strike talks, and his sort of mentor wanted him to fill in for him in Mexico, the hearing problem.

The whole strike issue, it’s something that’s happening a lot in different orchestras all over the world. Most prominently, right now, there is a big issue with the English National Opera, for example, and it’s quite curious that the chorus was the part that decided not to go to work.

Right.

Music, in a way, can be put out from that real world into something that lives forever — it just needs a listener and a player, you know, and that’s all that’s needed. It doesn’t need a contract. It doesn’t need an infrastructure. So that’s the dichotomy that the characters have. They love what they do but, at the same time, they cannot sustain themselves and they want to be respected, and for it to be treated as a proper job.

What was your reaction when you were told you were going to be conducting at the Hollywood Bowl, alongside Gustavo?

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It was actually Gustavo who proposed it. I mean, the pressure was on, of course, but, at the same time —

How could you pass it up?

I go, “OK, well, if you say so, but honestly, I think you’re — I mean, you’re very brilliant, but I think you’re really making the worst mistake in your life.”

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Yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com

 


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