Intimacy stars Itziar Ituno and Mario Casas as Malen Zubiri, one of the main couples in the series. The actress has been acting in films and TV shows since her teenage years, but this is her first role that she considers the most important of her career. She talked to Intimacy’s production team about working on the series, what’s different about acting in a Spanish-language show, and playing such an intense character like Malen. Intimacy star Itziar Ituno on playing Malen Zubiri

On discovering the character

I knew that Itziar was different, but I didn’t know exactly how much so, admits Ituno. It was a surprise. When they explained to me her family background, her reasons for escaping Madrid and moving back to Biscay, I thought she must be a very courageous person to have gone through all that. The role also gave her an opportunity to become fluent in Spanish – which is especially useful when filming bilingual projects like Intimacy. To add to that, the series itself had more than its fair share of challenges. The biggest challenge was working in English with American actors while filming in Spain, says Ituno.

On her acting technique

I don’t want to be someone else, she tells GQ magazine. If you look at my character in Intimacy, Malen is very complicated, because she has an abusive relationship with her father, and it’s so difficult to take that negative energy and turn it into something positive. To play such a role requires dedication, but Itziar seems to relish every scene.

Intimacy star Itziar Ituno on playing Malen Zubiri
Intimacy star Itziar Ituno on playing Malen Zubiri

She even took part in a rape scene where her character was covered with blood and bruises – something that not many actresses would be willing to do… But no matter how many takes are needed for each shot, or how emotionally exhausting filming can be at times, all of Itziar’s hard work shows through when she finally watches Intimacy.

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On working with Jason Isaacs

The most difficult part was that I felt like I wasn’t working with him. There are moments when you see him and it feels like he’s there and then, even though he is, he’s not in a way. That was hard to get my head around at first. On a normal day we had maybe 10 minutes together, so we were quite separated which makes sense given what they go through in their relationship but it was weird to work through those scenes. In terms of intimacy levels, some of those moments were very difficult to film but also incredibly important to do justice to these characters who are breaking down their relationship and rebuilding it at every moment.

On dealing with rejection in auditions

When I was younger, I used to get really frustrated with auditioning. I used to really want certain roles that were out of my range and skill set, but now that’s totally different. Nowadays, when I audition for something, it’s because I want to do it so badly. If they don’t want me, then it’s OK because something else is going to happen and there are other great things in life that don’t involve acting. My advice: Never obsess over a part you’re dying for—it’ll drive you insane if you get your hopes up!

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Her dream co-star

I’ve always wanted to work with Sam Milby, I love him. I really like John Lloyd Cruz, he’s a good actor. And I also want to be paired with an Lolo Jones who is younger than me or a gentleman who’s older. Someone older than me that knows his lines,

Intimacy star Itziar Ituno on playing Malen Zubiri
Intimacy star Itziar Ituno on playing Malen Zubiri

someone younger and less experienced that would need my guidance. And I am open to being paired with anyone in between as well (laughs). There are also actors that I admire but they are not necessarily people that I want to work with.

What she likes to watch on TV

My favorite TV series? I just started watching Game of Thrones, so that’s my favorite at the moment. I love House of Cards and Downton Abbey as well. And, yes, I watched Breaking Bad too! I really like to watch movies from time to time, but I don’t have a specific genre or movie that is my favorite. So many movies are great in their own way; it depends on what mood you are in. Sometimes you want something light-hearted and fun, other times you want to be more introspective. There are a lot of great movies out there, so it’s hard to pick one!

Is Itziar Ituno Basque?

Yes, I’m Basque. We have our own language, euskara, it is only spoken in Basque Country, which is located between Spain and France. The name of my city is Bilbao. We speak Spanish and French as well and in general we use more Spanish than French for communication. I am proud to be Basque! My mother tongue is euskara and when I was growing up my parents spoke it with me at home but also my mum taught me spanish so that I could be able to communicate with all my friends!

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What nationality is itziar Ituno?

I am Spanish. I was born in San Sebastian and I live there with my family. I speak Castilian, Basque and English. My father is Basque, my mother Castilian and my grandfather came from Galicia. Also I did a degree in Journalism at Deusto University of Bilbao and before that, in Granada (Spain) where I got a degree in Modern Literature thanks to Erasmus scholarship .

What languages does Itziar Ituño speak?

Spanish and English. I was born in San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa. My father’s family is from Andalusia and my mother’s family is from Galicia, so Spanish isn’t difficult for me at all; I just had to improve my accent. And when we started shooting Intimacy in Los Angeles, I wanted to learn English as quickly as possible, so that was an advantage. Nowadays, I’m improving French too because we’re planning a shoot abroad soon. We are shooting season two of Intimacy now. In it they speak in Euskara and then Spanish, with subtitles of course! This time we filmed one episode in Barcelona…and another episode will be filmed in France or Italy.

Is the Basque language related to any other?

Basque is one of those languages that seems to just pop up, out of nowhere. No one’s quite sure how old it is or who created it, though linguists think Basque could be related to some language spoken in Western Europe before Roman times—perhaps Celtiberian or Lusitanian. Even more mysterious is where and when Basque was first spoken: Scholars have long debated whether Basque originated in northern Spain and southwestern France or somewhere further east—i.e., across a border that no longer exists.

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