Alice Braga Tells Us How Her LGBTQ Role in ‘We Are Who We Are’ Is Empowering and Why People Will Love ‘The Suicide Squad’

In the world of modern film and TV, Alice Braga has done it all. The Brazilian star has traveled the roads of melodrama and fantasy to science fiction and drug cartel sagas. Beloved by fans for her role as the gangland boss in “Queen of the South,” Braga always brings a strong presence to any role she inhabits. But to speak with her is to meet a compassionate soul very much full of life. Even as the world comes to a pause due to the ongoing pandemic, Braga is hopeful that shows and films will display a greater diversity and room for new voices. 

She brings this spirit to Luca Guadagnino‘s “We Are Who We Are.” The HBO limited series is a shimmering evocation of young people experiencing an enclosed world during the year 2016.  Braga plays Maggie, the wife of Sarah (Chloë Sevigny), the newly appointed commander of a U.S. military base in Chioggia, Italy. In essence Maggie is a witness to the unbalanced relationship between Sarah and her manic son, Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer), a free spirit who bonds with a local fellow army brat, Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón). The backdrop of the series is the year itself, as these characters experience love, feel disorientation of their emotions and explore identity with the dawn of the Trump era just around the corner. 

Braga spoke with Entertainment Voice about the journey of making “We Are Who We Are” and her upcoming roles in hotly anticipated titles like “The Suicide Squad.”

Let’s start with the whole genesis of this role and what drew you to working with Luca Guadagnino on this script. 

I’m a huge fan of Luca Guadagnino. I met him in 2008 and had seen his first movie, “I Am Love,” which is a wonderful movie. I started following his career and once this came up as a possibility I read the script, spoke with Luca, and I wanted to join because I thought it was wonderful to tell this story now. Coming-of-age stories are always amazing, as Luca showed in “Call Me by Your Name,” but these characters are in an interesting environment which is a military base in a foreign country. They are trying to figure out who they are and what their role is in their own lives and the world. I thought it was a beautiful journey and knew that exploring that with Luca would be unique. He’s interested in personalities and their nuances, more than what’s in your face. I also liked that it was HBO doing it because I knew they give directors real freedom, so Luca would be free to truly explore. 

You have great chemistry with Chloë Sevigny on screen. What was it like working together on this series?

I’ve always admired Chloë as an actress and human being. She always brings such truthfulness to her performances. When I met her it was a dream come true. I knew doing a story like this with her would mean truthfulness would come out. You’re inspired by it and challenged. I really wanted to learn from her and find the nuances of these characters which compliments each other, even as they are different in a way. It was a nice challenge because Luca also keeps adding little pieces to find the nuances. Chloë was just amazing.

Luca just dives in organically without a concrete plan. He’s like a maverick.

Totally! It was the first time I worked with him, hopefully I will work with him more because I just love that man. But what he does is take you out of your comfort zone. Everyone thinks a script says this and this is how we do it and then move on. But with Luca anything can change, anything can be dynamic and alive. Maybe it’s part of his bigger plan, that by taking people out of their comfort zones you put them on this journey of discovery where you are truly looking at each other, listening to each other. Being a director that improvises a lot doesn’t mean he doesn’t prepare a lot. He loves the details of everything. If there’s a plate in a corner he wants a little piece of cake on it so it feels like a real house. It makes a difference because when you watch the show you really believe this family exists and that someone lives there.

In many ways, it’s a series about identity. The kind of relationship you and Chloë have on screen helps bring more of a refreshing diversity to what we see on TV. How do you hope the role you play alongside Chloë advances the representation of lesbian and same-sex couples on screen?

I thought it was a brilliant idea that we have this family that is not just living in a military base but it’s also this gay female couple, these lesbians with this kid moving to a new country. It’s two women also up in the hierarchy of the base. Chloë is the commander which is the highest you can go at a base. So I think putting these characters in this situation also helps promote female empowerment. Luca did it on purpose to have a discussion. You also see in the background Hillary Clinton running for president. The women here support and empower each other. It was on the script from the beginning.

There are no genre limits for you either. You’ve done it all, from telenovelas to major Hollywood movies with all sorts of directors.

You know, it’s amazing when you work with a director you’ve been a fan of for more than ten years, like [I am of] Luca. But every director has their own signature. Fernando Meirelles, who I did “City of God” with in Brazil, has his own signature. Each director brings their own way of working. It’s interesting because at the same I was working with Luca I was also working with James Gunn on “The Suicide Squad.” I was filming both projects and it was two completely different worlds. It was interesting to move from a coming-of-age story and then going to James Gunn’s comic book DC world with lots of fun, intensity and action. 

Let’s talk about “The Suicide Squad.” Can you give us a hint as to what we can expect?

What I can say is that it was wonderful as a comic book fan, as a DC world fan, to see a director like James Gunn get involved because he’s so visionary, so brilliant and so much fun. He’s good with “fun.” He brought that to “Guardians of the Galaxy” and definitely brought it to “The Suicide Squad.” People are gonna love the film. We had so much fun on set. When you’re making it you get a sense of it and [from that] I think people will love it.

The pandemic has slowed everything down and put so many projects on hold, including “Queen of the South.” Artists are in this moment of working and waiting at the same time. How are you finding inspiration and preparing for your next projects during this crisis we are living in?

It’s hard because our world, this entertainment world, is based on human connections. It’s hard because makeup artists, technicians, all the physical aspects of this industry were heavily hit. It was heartbreaking. I’ve tried all this time to help with projects that could help our people survive in these insane times. I’ve also gone back to reading books I’ve wanted to read. I’ve become involved with environmental causes in Brazil. I’m also working on preparing scripts. We had to stop shooting season five of “Queen of the South,” and I’m an executive producer on that so I’ve been working with our team on making sure the scripts are really good. The arts are so important to help us through these times, especially people at home impacted by the lockdowns. People value the work. This is especially true in a country like Brazil, which was heavily hit by Covid but is also culturally being heavily attacked by this government we have now. But here [in Brazil] I really hope we can find ways to support and keep theaters alive as well.

Well, one day Bolsonaro will be gone but the art you’ve made will last. Art will always outlast the sleazebags.

Exactly! I agree!

We Are Who We Are” season finale airs Nov. 2 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.