Throw Lord of the Flies, Monos, Midsommar together and you get El Hoyo en la Cerca (The Hole in the Fence), Joaquin del Paso’s thrilling ensemble drama about a religious summer camp for privileged boys in Mexico. We caught up with the talented and charismatic teen actress Valeria Lamm Williams after the premiere at the Venice Film Festival for a quick chat about her breakout role as Jordi, one of the most vicious bullies to hit the screen this year.
Congratulations on going to such a big festival for your first film role. How is Venice going so far? Have you been partying or sightseeing or seeing any movies?
It’s been so wonderful. We haven’t had the opportunity to go to other movies but hopefully today we will go to another premiere. It’s actually my first time in Europe, so I’m very excited and going to this festival makes it such a special experience.
How did you get interested in acting, and how you were cast in El Hoyo en la Cerca?
Ever since I can remember, back to when I was like 3 years old, I’ve always wanted to act. Through the years I started going to an acting academy back in Mexico. That helped me explore a lot of emotions and helped me in my personal life, and I got like, the basis. After some years, I decided to quit the academy, right as some guys came to my school looking for boys to cast. I met Joaquin and we had an instant connection.
What were your first impressions of the film when you read the script? Did you always want to or know you were going to play Jordi?
I’ve always liked to play the villain and I always wanted the Jordi character. At the end of the day, we needed to fight for the role that we wanted and show Joaquin that we could do it.When we did the casting, there was over 30 guys. We had some meetings and rehearsals where we improvised little parts of the movie. With that foundation, Joaquin decided which role everyone should take and in the end, he decided I’m make a good Jordi.
The scenery and cinematography is gorgeous. Where’d you shoot?
We shot in Puebla, a state in Mexico. Yesterday Joaquin commented that he chose the location because there’s this famous volcano near Mexico City called Iztaccihuatl. It can be seen from different states of the country, and Puebla was one of them. We shot on a beautiful mountain where we could see the volcano. A lot of people thought it was green screen, but all the scenery in the movie is 100% real. We got to be there for around 7 weeks. It was great to wake up every day and see that view.
The movie deals with male hierarchies and toxic masculinity in group dynamics, amongst other things. Tell me about the vibe on set. Did everyone get along well?
We’re teenagers, so we had our disagreements and stuff, but nothing too bad. Joaquin was a good director and he cared a lot about us, and we got to know him a lot more as a person. And a lot of things in the movie, I’ve lived personally, like being rejected just for being me. I think that was one of the themes of the movie I related to the most. It also helped me to heal some emotions I had before shooting and filming all those scenes, I took it as a sort of therapy.
Congrats on being crowned Miss Teen Trans Mexico. Tell me a little bit about that.
Yeah, you know. I’ve always been interested in beauty pageants, and thanks to a beauty pageant I found myself at Miss Spain in 2018. I fell in love with them. I used to think it was like like “You put on high heels and walk around”… like it’s not a big deal. But they come with a strong message and I get to spread mine through beauty pageants. I think this is my third, but unfortunately I had to resign the Miss Teen Trans Mexico thing because of the movie. I know the girl who has it now will do an amazing job.
Has the Mexican film industry been welcoming and supportive so far?
Yeah, they have, but in some ways it’s still a taboo subject. I’m hopeful that after this movie a lot of other opportunities will open and they will just see me, the person and me as an actress instead of focusing on my gender. I hope to find some new projects soon after the festival.
Yeah, I was going to ask what your plans are for the next couple years. Do you want to go to university…or do have your eye on any roles?
I’m working with someone right now and we’re writing a movie about how the teenagers in Mexico live…with the parties and the drugs and some of the other important problems we’re facing right now. I’’m really excited about that and hopefully we can get the movie going by December.
We’ll be on the lookout for that. Thanks, Valeria!
El Hoyo en la Cerca (The Hole in the Fence) premiered at Venice Film Festival last week