Creating a LatinX Superhero Podcast Drama with Claudia Dolph and Crissy Guerrero
Written by Lee Schneider
Claudia Dolph and Crissy Guerrero are the co-creators of SOLDADERA, a LatinX superhero podcast in production and part of the FutureX Podcast Network. I spoke with them about the project, its genesis, and what it means to them.
Claudia, you’re a co-founder of Geek Girl Authority and with Crissy you’ve done comedy shows and both of you have produced podcasts. How did all that wealth of creative experience lead you both to create a podcast audio drama?
It was unexpected but also seemed to be an organic evolution for C & C Studios. We’ve been doing the C & C: Variety Hour live show, since 2012 and out of that has come several filmed sketches and a filmed Christmas special. I guess you could say we’re a multimedia conglomerate, but not.
When I was approached to develop this series, it seemed to check all of my boxes for a project I could get really excited about. Crissy and I both have decades of experience creating, producing, writing, and performing and we’re super fans of the superhero/scifi genre. I think you can approach this business a couple of ways, you can wait for the auditions/jobs to come to you or you can be proactive and create. I’ve always chosen the latter because it keeps your creative juices flowing and keeps those muscles working. Another upside to having been in the game for so long, is that we have a wealth of talented friends that we can collaborate with, and that is certainly a joy.
Crissy: In addition to what Claudia said, I think working in comedy is essentially the same as working in drama. You still have to have a cohesive story, engaging characters,interesting plot points and elements of fantasy. So, I think between the work I have done in the comedy world, and the work I have done dramatically in the theater, it gave me a great base to tackle this podcast drama. Thankfully, it has also coincided with producing another podcast (Don’t Say…with Paul & Dave), giving me a basic knowledge of what to expect and how to approach this.
How, as actor/performers, do you think you are approaching this differently from another team of show runners who are not actors?
Claudia: Perhaps. A big consideration for us as showrunners, is how can we be the most efficient and practical with everyone’s time. I’m also a big fan of collaboration and not so precious with the dialogue that is written, initially. If something comes up in the recording booth, as long as it still maintains the essence of what we’re trying to get across, I’m all for it. Whether it’s from the actors or Eban Schletter, our composer/sound engineer. We’ve all worked very closely for a long time, so it definitely affords us a shorthand.
Crissy: Yes, and I think as we are writing, we are hyper-aware that somebody has to say these words and make them sound natural. That’s one of the great things about collaborating - we have a built-in proofreader in our partner. We call each other on dialogue that doesn’t work. And even the, sometimes what works for us doesn’t work for the actor, so we have to allow them room to make it their own.
Why is there a need now for Latinx role models and how will a superhero podcast help with that?
Claudia: How long do you have for this one? There was a study in 2018 that found that 7 percent of speaking roles for women in TV, went to Latinas. 7 percent which translates into representing 2.8 percent of the population, which is absurd. While things are shifting, there is still a long way to go. Representation matters. When I was a kid, Wonder Woman, Princess Leia and Deanna Troi, were my idols, simply because they had brown hair. I mean, they were also badass, and then the brown hair. Superhero stories and science fiction has always been an amazing way to tell stories that might challenge you, make you think, help you see a different point of view, so what a great way to share a story about a superhero that looks like me.
Crissy: Ditto. When I watched TV as a kid, the characters I loved most were Diana Prince, Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson on Charlie’s Angels) and JoAnna Cameron a.k.a O Mighty Isis on The Secrets of Isis. I don’t think it was an accident that they were all brunettes. We didn’t have a lot of role models at that time, so you had to cling to the closest thing. I recently did a play with an all-latinx cast and the number one comment we got was how happy people were to see themselves on stage in a show with universal themes. It wasn’t just funny brown people doing stereo-typical things. It was a show about family issues where the family just happened to be Latinx. Representation matters.
Can you let us in on some of the development process for the show? Without giving away any spoilers, what led you to create these characters and put them in the world you’ve created for the show?
Claudia: There’s such a wealth of folklore in the Latinx culture, we wanted to start there. Then after a few more conversations, we started to focus in on the stories and history of Mexico, being that we are both Mexican. The stories of the revolution, of Mexico in general, just isn’t taught. I personally, received a very limited education when it came to Mexican history. It was a very challenging and destructive decimation of a people, that we know very little about.. Then when you get to the Soldaderas specifically, what great characters to jump off of. It’s all there for you and why not educate while we entertain.
Crissy: Mexican history tends to also crossover with Mexican folklore, so it seemed a natural jumping off point. From the Aztecs to the Conquistadors to the Zapatistas, there is a wealth of information to draw from and adapt. I think once we stumbled on to the idea of the Soldaderas - the women who helped win the war, mostly uncredited, we were both sold.
What do you find most creative and most challenging about doing a fiction podcast?
Claudia: Honestly, the most challenging but also the most fun is the sound engineering. We’re telling a superhero story, with a lot of action, in a medium that is all audio. That’s why we’re so grateful to have Eban on our team. He’s the genius behind not only the amazing theme, but coming up with the sound design. It’s truly old school and he’s a one man foley artist.
Crissy: Amen to that. We’d be lost without Eban’s genius. I thing second to him, the idea that we can take the story anywhere and give our protagonists any powers we wish gives us great freedom to be creative, but also presents challenges when we are also trying to create a story that’s plausible.
In a futurist drama you can have the characters do “anything” and in the superhero genre you make your own rules. How do you sort through all that so that it makes sense for the listening audience? Are there ground roles of consistency that you simply cannot break or else it would mess with the audience’s trust? Or do you feel that anything goes so long as you can make it believable?
Claudia: There are definite rules. I think you can say “anything goes” but then I want to see that there is science or probability that these things we say happen, can happen. You have to. We all like structure, even in chaos.
Crissy: Yes, as I said above, we are very conscious of the fact that people need to buy it. I think we started with the idea that, yes, they have superpowers that can’t really be explained, but that so much of what they do - in combat, plotting, etc - comes from their natural human strengths. Adela has developed her abilities with a machete through hardcore physical training. She is also capable of outwitting her enemies because she is intelligent. Just like her weaknesses, those are qualities that any human can have if they develop them. I think it is important to both of us that somebody can look at Adela and think, “Maybe I can do that, too."
Why do you think listeners will become fans? How will they become hooked?
Claudia: Well, I hope first and foremost, that it’s just kickass and fun! Then, education of course is super important.
Crissy: It’s an engaging story with a Latinx female lead. What’s not to love?