Growing up, Eréndira Ibarra was surrounded by lights, cameras and movie action. The daughter of famed Mexican director/producer Epigmenio Ibarra, her summers were spent at Mexico City’s Estudios Churubusco Azteca. However, her early immersion in film and TV was tempered by a second life beside the ocean in California with her freethinking mother.
Both aspects of her upbringing have infused her burgeoning status as one of Mexico’s finest acting exports, and following a breakthrough role as polyamorous actress Daniela in Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s sci-fi drama for Netflix, Sense8, the girl who grew up climbing trees is set to reach even greater heights.
THE RED BULLETIN: You led something of a double life as a child. What was that like?
ERENDIRA IBARRA: I was called ‘earthquake girl’, because I was hyperactive, and also ‘tree girl’, because I liked to climb trees. I had a very happy childhood in San Jose, where I was in touch with nature. At my elementary school, there was a giant tree, which was my castle.
When did you choose acting?
I was doing badly in high school, and it was clear to me that I wanted to go into acting – but who wants to be an actress when you’re the daughter of someone like my dad? Then, one day, I lost my history book and went crying to my father’s business partner, saying, “I lost my book! I’ll never finish high school!” She said, “Enough! So what if you don’t? Do what you have always done, and stop being unhappy.”
It’s easy to think you got into the business because of your dad. Is that the case?
For my dad it was more important that I studied before I started to work so that people wouldn’t assume I was in the industry because of him. I am a fourthgeneration Casa Azul [Mexico’s famous acting school] graduate, and it wasn’t until the end of the first year that they knew who I was. When I started, every director I worked with who knew me was tough on my work, which helped prove that I was there because of my effort. I went to a casting call for the HBO Latin America show Capadocia and I didn’t get the role I was looking for … I have never been given a role for free.
You have always earned them…
And that is something I will always appreciate. Now whenever someone asks, “Are you Epigmenio Ibarra’s daughter?” I think, “All right!” That’s the beauty of it—that after 10 years of career, people are still surprised to find out who I am. But those who know me since I was young know that it hasn’t been an easy road to get to this point and that I have worked very hard to become experienced.
You’ve undergone some radical changes in the past few years. What caused this transformation?
It may sound strange, but it started during a time when I achieved a self-confidence that I never had, and it was when I met my husband [martial arts trainer Fredd Londoño]. It was during the second season of Capadocia. I used to say to myself, “I’ll never have the leading role, I am the chubby one, the leading role’s best friend and that is going to be my life,” because that’s how I saw myself. I’ve always been very self-critical, but above all, insecure. Although it doesn’t look like it, I was constantly bullied and I suffered, because it made me believe it was true … Thank God I lived in a time when bullying wasn’t like it is today—with all the trolling on the internet. The school bell rang and I went home to my mom, to a safe and loving place.
What helped you heal?
When I met Fredd it was as if there was peace again in my world. This job is very hard and tough on your appearance, and when you are forced to change because of what others want, you have a conflict with yourself, and it’s impossible to be the best version of who you want to be. When I started to love myself a little I started to heal, and surprisingly my body started to change too, because before I was reluctant to do exercise and eat well, because I had given up.
You like working out—what did you find in it that transformed you?
I started to like exercise through CrossFit, because it changed the way I saw things. Before I would go for four hours to a traditional gym to watch TV and hang out, then I would look in the mirror and think, “Shit, four hours here for nothing,” and I would get mad at myself. With CrossFit it’s just one hour, I have a great time, I have an incredible community and I see almost immediate results. And since I am training, I can eat whatever I want. I can’t complain. I may curse my coach every once in a while, but I do so with gratitude.
You connect soul, mind and body…
And that happens because you realize you can do it, because you are not in the usual mindset that you can’t. I thought I would never be able to do a “Karen,” but now I can throw the ball against the wall 150 times in 15 minutes; it’s all about breathing and thinking you can do it.
Did that help open the door to your acting career?
Yes, totally. If I hadn’t entered a community, I couldn’t have landed the roles that I got and many other things, because I didn’T believe in my ability to do anything. But the moment I started to break barriers, I also started to break my limits and realized I am capable of doing much more.
Like getting the role of Daniela in Sense8?
Surprisingly I didn’t get the role for Sense8 in Los Angeles but in Mexico. And what happened was natural: I grabbed a major opportunity because I was ready and I had the discipline and preparation to do it.
How was it meeting show creator Lana Wachowski?
It was in Mexico. I was told she would be there with James McTeigue, director of V for Vendetta and Noviembre, movies that marked my life. When that happened I thought, “I will face these people and I may not get it, because this job is like that.” I dream with the best, but I get ready for the worst. I got there a little bit late. I was nervous. I did the scene; they corrected me and thanked me. I thought I had f*cked it up. Later I found out I had gotten a role but nobody told me which one. Then, already in San Francisco during my fitting, I asked the person in charge of the wardrobe; she then told Lana that I had not been informed of my role. So she came to me and told me, “You are Daniela, my Daniela.” We hugged each other and I cried, because it was one of those moments I’ll never forget.
What did Lana teach you?
She gave me a big lesson on profound empathy, that it is possible to be successful staying true to your beliefs, even if it’s hard. She is an example—she has done it and if she can do it I can too, because she always broke with everything in her life, and Sense8 is that. I love the story, because on the show Las Aparicio we tried to do something similar and we made it within the Mexican context. The best of all the shows I have worked in is being able to break stereotypes.
Your character breaks free of the typical hot girl archetype.
Indeed. In the first episode you think, “Oh! A girl like any other,” and then you realize she is a very complex character who loves freedom, and who has always been an eagle trapped in a canary cage. That the only thing she has ever looked for is to love and be loved. She doesn’t care about gender, she only wants people to stop judging her. I can relate to that. When I look at the other roles on the show, I think they cast us because the roles were created for us, and they were made with love.
How do you avoid being typecast?
That’s the beauty and the complexity of this job. All the characters are a part of us. We build them according to our own history and what we have lived. The most difficult job of an actor is finding the different aspects that make their characters unique. My previous roles were all stepping stones to where I am now. Through these different characters, I found my inner femme fatale. I didn’t feel like one, but after I discovered that person inside of me, she helped me be Daniela in Sense8.
What would you like to achieve?
I wish to be at peace with all my decisions. Some roles give you good experiences and some give you bad ones. I like to think that I have taken the best of my characters, but it’s very clear to me that some roles have left me with scars. As actors we live on the brink of insanity. It’s something very hard for someone too sensitive. We learn to look in the deepest of darkness and in the shiniest of happiness. So you better be ready, because Eréndira Ibarra is here to stay.