Drama Quarterly: Conquering Europe
After the production team behind Dutch royal drama Máxima scoured Argentina to find the actor who could play the title character, Delfina Chaves was at the top of their list. Then when Martijn Lakemeier, who had already been cast, travelled to Buenos Aires to audition with his potential co-stars, he confirmed what they already knew: she was the one.
Already a star at home – with 1.2 million Instagram followers – Chaves has appeared in more than a dozen film and television series, including soap opera Argentina, tierra de amor y venganza, Dias de gallos (Rap Battlefield) and El Secreto de la Familia Greco (The Secret of the Greco Family).
She’s now set to break out worldwide as Máxima Zorreguieta, the woman who would become the Queen Consort of the Netherlands. The six-part biopic dramatises Máxima’s first encounter with then Crown Prince Willem-Alexander (Lakemeier) and how their relationship blossomed, while also exploring her determination, ambition and her struggle to balance loyalty to her family and her own identity. Meanwhile, flashbacks reveal her childhood growing up with her father and his role in Argentina’s autocratic Videla regime.
“So far it’s been a really interesting journey,” Chaves tells DQ in Amsterdam, where the globe-trotting series is based while filming scenes where Máxima first meets her prospective parents-in-law in nearby Utrect. “I still am really nervous, to be honest. But that’s what makes my job interesting. We have a huge team, I’m not by myself, and there are so many people who know about her and her life, so it’s teamwork, really. That’s something I realised from the very beginning.”
Breaking into the industry in Argentina, Chaves paid for acting classes through her modelling work. Now she’s on the other side of the world, playing the title character in a series for the first time.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me, getting to know these amazing people, different cultures, different ways of working and directing,” she says. “On a personal level, it’s really moving because I’m far from home, I’m far from my family. But the whole team makes me feel like we’re in this together.
“I’ve never done a series where the name of my character is the name of the show – and she’s somebody who’s still alive, and is a queen. It’s all adding up! But I trust myself. I’m playing the queen when she’s going to be a queen – she’s not the queen yet. It’s still a story about a person, and certain things happen to her – she meets her love and makes sacrifices. You can connect to those things on a human level.”
Chaves was still very young when the real Máxima joined the Dutch royal family. Researching the person she plays on screen, she uncovered lots of information she hadn’t previously known about Argentina, Máxima’s family and the political choices her family made. “It’s such an important part of her life, her journey and her identity, so studying all of it and having an excuse to know more about my country was really interesting,” she says. “And I had to learn a new language.”
Indeed, like Máxima, Chaves is having to learn Dutch for her new role in the Netherlands, and is finding support from the rest of the cast and crew.
“I have a coach but every time I have 10 or 15 minutes, I’m like, ‘Martijn, can you help with this?’” she says of picking up the language. “It’s really hard, which only makes me think how much more I admire Máxima for doing it, because for Spanish speakers, there are all these sounds in Dutch that are so far from us. It’s been a journey to learn this language. I’m really proud of myself.”
Chaves says she isn’t imitating the Queen Consort in front of the camera, although she has changed her appearance to better resemble the royal. “The contact lenses, it’s a struggle,” she jokes, “and sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t know who I am. I have a crisis moment, which is so helpful! It’s really far from anything I’ve done before.”
Chaves now has her eyes set on further work in Europe, but she insists she’ll never stop working in her home country.
“I love working with people from other countries and learning another language, but I love Argentina and we have great directors and great writers,” she says. “I hope I can be open to the world and still work in other countries, but I would never forget about my own country.”