Two weeks ago, WarnerTV launched the broadcast of “Para – We Are King”, a German series about 4 young women from a difficult district of Berlin, who will try everything to make their dreams come true.
Created by Özgür Yildirim, already at the origin of 4 Blocks, Para – We Are King tells us the story of Jazz, Fanta, Hajra and Rasaq, four best friends from a poor district of Berlin, who will try everything to see their dreams come true.
On the occasion of the broadcast of the series on WarnerTV, Allociné met the creator Özgür Yildirim, as well as Jeanne Goursaud and Jobel Mokonzi who respectively play Jazz and Fanta.
Allociné: How did you come up with the idea for this series? What was the genesis?
Özgür Yildirim : it all started when I was shooting another series, 4 Blocks, which was very popular in Germany. During the third or fourth season, the producers asked me to create another series, in a similar spirit, but with female characters.
Originally, this project was supposed to be a spin off of 4 Blocks, but we didn’t want to tell a gangster story yet. We first created the characters that could come from the universe of my previous series without being the main protagonists.
It was not easy to create a new series that was not a repetition of what could be done before. It was a big challenge. I also wanted this series to be more fun and less dark than 4 Blocks.
Jeanne and Jobel, you are both young actresses. How did you get into the shoes of your characters?
Jeanne Goursaud : It was quite easy to get into Jazz’s skin because she looks a bit like me. She’s outgoing like me. Ozgur also let us improvise which helped me even more to find the right tone.
I also did a lot of research to better understand where Jazz came from, and for example I spent a lot of time observing young girls who looked like him. And since she’s a dancer I also started to train seriously by learning pole dance and Hip Hop. My body had to adapt to the character.
I also had to learn to walk differently to fully feel myself. I find that she has indeed an almost feline gait.
Jobel Mokonzi : the character that I play, Fanta, is an introvert and I, in life, I am rather extrovert. So it wasn’t easy to change your skin overnight. I too have researched the girls living in these sensitive areas of Berlin to better understand who they are and what their challenges are.
Is directing young women, when you’re a male director, an additional challenge?
Özgür Yildirim : Yes and no. Even though I am a man, as a director I have a method that allows me to put myself in the shoes of the actors I direct. In Para’s case, since the four of them were young women, I let them guide me as much as I guided them myself.
If they told me that they saw a certain scene take place in a different environment than what was written, then we made the change. The same goes for the dialogues: if they told me that they should say this instead of that, I would make the necessary changes.
By giving them this freedom and trusting them, I was sure to get a more authentic result and a stronger expression of their emotions. You have to know how to listen to the actors when you are a director. It made me more sensitive to their needs as an actress.
And you, Jeanne and Jobel, tell us about your collaboration with Ozgur?
Jeanne Goursaud : For him it was a series totally opposite of 4 Blocks which was a very macho series. But he was great because he always asked us what we would do as women, what we could say. He always listened to us even if it was he who guided us in terms of the production.
Jobel Mokonzi : I loved working with Ozgur because it was a real creative collaboration. We wrote most of the dialogue together to make it as realistic as possible.
What themes are explored in Para – We Are King?
Özgür Yildirim : We explore the dream of these young girls from a disadvantaged background who want to have a better life. They just want, for once, to have money and live like the rich. They want to be able to buy what they can’t buy and party like the people they envy.
They want to taste the luxury. The series also explores the theme of friendship between women and shows how these four friends end up forming a real united and strong family.
Jeanne Goursaud : For me it’s a series about the friendship that can exist between young girls. Beyond the romances these girls can have, what matters is the friendship that binds them together. These girls, these friends form a real family with very strong bonds. They are ready to do anything to help each other.
Jobel Mokonzi : I agree with Jeanne, it’s really a series on the friendship that can exist between several young girls. It’s also a series that shows that even if life is sometimes hard, we can manage to get by with work and with the support of others. You always have to fight for your dreams and money is not everything.
Can this series inspire young girls today to find their way in a still very patriarchal society?
Özgür Yildirim : I wondered how the men who liked 4 Blocks would appreciate Para – We are King. While a few weren’t won over, a lot of them love the show.
What is certain is that we are still in a very macho society. Perhaps a series like this can empower women to fight for a more equal society. I am really proud of the series.
Jeanne Goursaud : Yes, I hope this series will give more strength to the young girls who watch it and that it will give them the strength to dream and make their dreams come true. Jazz, for example, is a character who knows what she wants and who knows her limits.
I also hope Para shows that friendship between girls can exist and that there is not always jealousy between them. Myself, I have great girlfriends for life. Between girls, we must help each other. It’s a series that also deals with diversity in society and shows how young girls from different backgrounds can have a great bond.
Do you have any idea of the future of this series? Are you already thinking about the next season?
Özgür Yildirim : What is certain is that we have a lot of possibilities to continue telling the story of these girls. It remains to know the reception of Para among viewers …