Telefe will take a deep dive into the life of late cherished Argentine singer, songwriter and actor Sandro—also known as the “Latin American Elvis”—with a 13-episode series that explores how, through charisma and talent, Roberto Sánchez—the singer’s real name—managed to overcome poverty and other challenges to become an idol across Latin America.
Rather than the traditional format of running weekly, Sandro de América, La Serie (Sandro of America, The Series) will premiere staring Monday, March 5, and will air nightly, Mondays through Thursdays, at 10:30 p.m.
The movie-quality series features a well-known cast, including Agustín Sullivan, Marco Antonio Caponi and Antonio Grimau, who play Sandro throughout three different stages of his life.
Sandro de América, La Serie is co-produced by The Magic Eye and General Video, with the support of the National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA).
Riding the Biopic Wave
The project began three years ago when The Magic Eye Director Juan Parodi had an epiphany after some friends produced El patrón del mal (The Drug Lord).
“I realized biopics and bioseries were trending and that these formats could cross borders, but I had to find a figure that was strong across the region,” says Parodi.
He considered such icons as Argentine soccer players Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, as well as Pope Francis, before landing on Sandro as a subject. He got the production rights, as well as director Israel Adrián Caetano, and settled down to work.
“It was a big challenge for a production company that was just starting up,” says Parodi. “We had to build the team very quickly to recreate five decades, complete with period contexts and three different actors playing the same leading role.”
In turn, Telefe was interested in pursuing bio-series, and had already started down that path as co-producer of the movie Gilda, no me arrepiento de este amor (Gilda, I Do Not Regret This Love).
“We are interested in continuing down that road, because it worked very well, it brings us closer to our audience, and it projects us into the future,” says Dardo Sauret, senior creative director at Viacom Telefe. “Telefe is investing in high-quality productions and local productions with topics that are relevant to the region, and we thought Sandro was a very important figure for our brand, with a connection not only to our Argentine culture but also to the culture of Latin America as a whole.”
Promoting the Idea of “The Series”
The launch campaign began three months ago with a test-campaign that revolved around concrete programming initiatives aimed at building buzz.
“We started to install and build ‘sandromanía,’ repositioning the artist with a modern, current look by remastering many of his classic films in high definition,” says Sauret.
Then, the campaign was slowly rolled out in two stages, with pieces strategically revealed little by little. The first phase focused on the lead character.
“Sandro is a figure that constitutes itself as a concept. His name is almost like a brand that transcends all,” says Sauret.
Rather than focusing on his biography, the campaign presented the artist as an exceptional character, who lived the histrionic, intense life of a rocker.
“We are positioning Sandro using the same rules as we would a pop or rock star, adapting them to the current language. Also, the series features guests and special contributors who are very relevant to young viewers,” says Sauret.
In the second phase, the campaign sought to position the series as a turning point in the way TV series are viewed. The 13 episodes will run daily, from Monday to Thursday, instead of once a week.
“This has never happened in free-to-air TV,” says Sauret. It is our differential approach; we want to position the series as an event. Also, we want to own the concept of ‘La Serie’ (The Series), so we are selling it as Sandro de América, La Serie.”
One of the elements at the core of the campaign is fire, which represents the passion and intensity of the artist’s life.
“As it is such a carefully designed series, with cinematographic style and a remarkable recreation of periods and costumes, the look had to live up to expectations. Fire was an element that imposed itself naturally,” says Sauret.
A Multi Pronged Strategy
The promotion of the series took a slightly more didactic approach on social media.
“Sandro is a very relevant figure, though maybe not so much for younger audiences, and this is a demographic to which we want and need to tell more about his life,” says Sauret.
The social campaign includes several fun promos, such as a series of GIFs that call attention to interesting facts about the idol, such as his connection to Elvis from an early age, and where his name “Sandro” and his nickname “The Gypsy” came from.
It also focuses on engagement by encouraging users to comment on posts with a rose emoji in honor of his hit song: Rosa, Rosa (Rose, Rose)—while promising to unveil exclusive content once 10,000 comments were reached.
In addition, Telefe played up the three different stars playing Sandro across three different stages of his life on billboards.
“The challenge of outdoor advertising and that form of communication in general was how to handle having three different actors when promoting the series,” says Sauret. “In the first stage we opted to introduce the youngest Sandro, since that’s how most people think of him. In outdoor promotions we highlighted the course of his life by showing the three actors who represent him side by side.”
The Three Life Stages of Sandro
When establishing the three different stages of Sandro, the premise was to move away from the idea of “legend” that surrounds the artist.
Renowned director Israel Adrián Caetano played a key role in the development of the lead character, on which he worked separately with each actor.
In each case, there was a dance coach and a vocal coach, especially for Agustín Sullivan who plays a 16-32-year-old Sandro, since it was necessary to mark the changes in his voice as he became an adult.
Sullivan—who went to a casting call and was chosen for the role—feels a connection with the crooner’s life.
“The character touched my heart because of his history. Sandro went through many challenges to live his dream. Me too.”
The actor also acknowledges the values of the music star.
“He was an ordinary man, with his moments of happiness, his fears, his dreams and impediments. But he was able to see what he wanted and dared to overcome obstacles. This is an example to us all; it is the overall message of the series,” he says.
In turn, Marco Antonio Caponi—who plays Sandro in his middle age—- showed his affinity for the project from the very beginning.
“I was so excited to interpret a character who has so many variations and changes, who is so true at one moment and so fictitious the next, who is always ready to be reborn as an artist,” Caponi says. “It’s a wonderful role to play because there’s an evolution to it. The arrow that guided me along the way was music. It is in his voice, in his songs, that you really find out who Sandro was.”
Antonio Grimau—an actor with an extensive career who plays an older Sandro—explains how he approached the role.
“To try to embrace the legend would have been an abstraction; instead, we decided to approach the man he was in order to interpret him.”
Grimau personifies Sandro during a period in the musician’s life when he is undergoing a disease related to his tobacco addiction.
“He chose his fate, knowing it had an end. From conversations I had with people who knew him, I realized he was such a deep and spiritual man that, until the last moment, he surrendered himself to fate without hesitation or complaint,” says Grimau.
The vicissitudes in Sandro’s life have not only inspired the three actors, but the technical team as well. Producer Juan Parodi says a great lesson from Sandro was his fight.
“I started a production company with two or three people, and suddenly we were 140. We had to row upstream, just like him. The transformation of the character was the transformation of the producer throughout this process,” he says.
Sauret considers Sandro de América, La Serie a perfect project for Telefe as it seeks to expand its programming purview and its audience.
“We are putting in love, energy and hard work. It is a high-quality series with an acclaimed director,” he says. “We have the highest expectations that it will make a difference when it comes to both the series itself, and the new way of airing it. We hope it triggers ‘sandromanía.’”