Inside Apple TV+’s Addictive Rosie Perez Thriller ‘Now & Then’

·5 min read

At first blush, Apple TV+’s mystery-thriller series Now & Then seems to share a lot of DNA with a certain movie from the 1990s. (Although, oddly enough, the film in question is not 1995’s Now and Then, a coming-of-age story starring Rosie O’Donnell, Demi Moore, and an enviable treehouse.) Instead, the series—which kicks off with a car full of inebriated teens, a fatal accident, and a blackmail years later—initially recalls I Know What You Did Last Summer.

As the show’s creators will tell you, however, the similarities pretty much begin and end there. The bilingual drama stars an international cast of superstars from Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and the U.S.—hello, Rosie Perez!—playing a group of friends tortured by a bad decision from their past and the obsessive cop bent on hunting them down.

“We wanted to explore their lives,” co-creator Ramón Campos told The Daily Beast in a recent interview. “We were interested in their dreams, and if they realized those dreams when they came to the adult age.”

As for the I Know What You Did Last Summer comparisons, Campos added with a laugh that if any idea involving blackmail and a mistake from one’s youth is now off the table, “then we are really limiting ourselves.”

The exact circumstances of how Now & Then’s fateful tragedy upended these friends’ lives unfolds in tandem with the present. One thing we do know: By the time the night ended, a stranger as well as a member of the group (swimmer Alejandro, played by Elite’s Jorge López) were dead. The “how” and “why” of it all take more time to unravel—and as viewers solve that mystery, we also witness the incredible damage the group’s past choices have wreaked on their present.

Now & Then has so far debuted three of its eight episodes on Apple TV+, with subsequent installments premiering on Fridays. The series relies a little too heavily on contemporary TV’s favorite crutch—non-linear storytelling that feels designed to stretch out the plot rather than illuminate it—but makes up for that allergy to efficiency with magnificent performances and sizzling drama.

Roma actress Marina de Tavira plays the adult version of Ana, a pragmatist whose young political aspirations have given way to playing second fiddle to her idealistic husband, mayoral candidate Pedro (Narcos and Narcos: Mexico’s José María Yazpik). Maribel Verdú, who starred alongside Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal in Y tu mama tambien, plays Sofia, whose spark with her college sweetheart Marcos (Manolo Cardona of Narcos and Who Killed Sara?) doesn’t seem ready to die just yet. Soledad Villamil (The Secret in Their Eyes) plays the reclusive Daniela—and her path forward from this college disaster might be the most shocking of all.

Rosie Perez plays police officer Flora Neruda, who becomes obsessed with the cold case from her first days on the job. Her partner, Sullivan (Željko Ivanek), grows worried as Flora begins fretting over the case 20 years later. Perez and Ivanek are the only two actors who play their characters during both time periods; for the rest of the characters, who begin the series as early twentysomethings before we flash forward to their forties, the casting department found lookalikes.

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Perez recently told The Daily Beast that she loved the scripts upon first read but wasn’t immediately sold on Flora. “There needs to be a reason for her obsession,” Perez said. So she made some suggestions: “What if she doesn’t have family? What if a great injustice happened to her brother and that’s the reason she’s obsessed with this case? Let’s incorporate issues of classism into this.”

Campos and fellow creators Teresa Fernández-Valdés and Gema R. Neira happily obliged.

“Rosie is amazing,” Campos said. “She even shared some anecdotes from her life with us; she wanted us to include them in her character.”

The personal touches Perez described were subtle. Her daughter-in-law is a cop; the two love to watch The First 48 together, she said, “because we’re both addicted to murder porn.” As Perez prepared for her Now & Then role, she recalls asking her daughter-in-law, “How was it when you saw your first dead body?” The response she received became a line in the show: “Oh, I don’t do dead bodies.”

Campos and his co-creators know how to make an addictive series; the trio’s previous collaborations Gran Hotel, Velvet, and Cable Girls were among the early Spanish-language series to break big in the U.S., paving the way for further success stories like Money Heist and Elite.

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“For many years, people said that Spanish series did not travel to other countries, and Latin American series did not travel to any other countries,” Campos said. With their prior collaborations, he said, he and his collaborators “broke that image.”

It was important to Campos, Neira, and Fernández-Valdés that their characters look and behave consistently across their younger and older years. That attention to detail resulted in, for the most part, uncanny actor pairings whose mannerisms and expressions feel seamless. But it was even more important to the creators that these characters’ backgrounds shaped who they would become.

“Pedro, for example, was born in the States from an illegal migrant mother who used to work in a wealthy family home,” Campos said. “When he grows older, he becomes a politician and he fights for the rights of migrants.” Marcos grew up in a wealthy Colombian family that’s tangled in more than its fair share of corruption; his ultimate goal is to return to Colombia to help the needy. “We wanted to apply that for each character, with their own countries,” Campos said.

“In the past,” Neira added, these roles “were represented by others. But now we are representing our own world.”

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