Manolo Cardona: Strong, Passionate, Determined
I remember the first time I saw Manolo Cardona on television, 21 years ago. The Colombian telenovela ¿Por qué diablos? would only mark the beginning of a very successful career for the actor. “I haven’t stopped since I started,” said Cardona, now 44 years old. “It’s been an amazing journey.” Today, he stars on the very successful Netflix original show ¿Quién Mató a Sara? (Who Killed Sara?) as Alex, a young man who is framed for his sister’s death and is sentenced to 18 years in jail.
Cardona is no stranger to crime dramas; you may recognize him from La Hermandad and Narcos. But before he started solving crime (and melting his fans hearts) on television, Cardona was studying finance in Cali, Columbia.
“I was doing some theater in Cali, my hometown. Then went to university to study finance and international relations. In the meantime, while I was doing that, I was taking some theater and I was doing some commercials. I was doing that to, for example, get some money to get my girlfriend dinner,” he explained. “Then I met a couple of casting directors, they knew some programs coming up, and some of them called and asked me if I wanted to do a casting call for some roles. I said, yes.” He got the role and did it for five years. But after a year and half of juggling school at night and work during the day, Cardona decided to quit university and devote all of his time to acting. “It was too heavy for me.”
Cardona has played more than 40 characters throughout his career, and each one has meant something for him. “Every role makes me grow in so many ways—personally and as an artist, as an actor—every role leads me to my next challenge and gives me the strength and knowledge to go and try to do the next thing I have to do,” he said. Cardona’s characters have been strong, passionate, and determined. “I’ve been doing very heavy stuff,” he said. “I need to do more comedy,” he laughed. “I love that, and love to have fun and enjoy and be able to laugh, but I love every genre.” He confessed that without knowing, he has more in common with his characters than he once thought.
“I’ve been doing characters that are searching for the truth and justice, and I think that is something that I do. I fight for the truth and justice and equality and rights for everyone. Without knowing I’ve been doing that in characters and in my real life,” said Cardona.
¿Quién Mató a Sara? (Who Killed Sara?) was a project Cardona couldn’t resist. “When they were telling me about what the story was about, and the character, and everybody who was involved with the project, I was very happy because I knew the producers, a couple of the people involved in the show, and I love the character—so many multi-dimensional phases. He is a very strong character and I love to do that; I love strong characters. The story was amazing—I loved it—I just jumped in,” he said.
And there is nothing that Cardona would change about the show or his character, Alex. “Why would I change something? It’s the number one show in the world, why change something…then it will become number two,” he laughed. “Just kidding. I like how it is. I like the story and writers, and I trust them. Of course, I have my opinions, but most of the things are great.”
Cardona explained that in season two Alex realizes that he didn’t know his sister—and what she was involved in. “He is going to start searching for that, to try to know about the past and what happened” he explained. “Season two is reloaded, it’s explosive, and amazing, and actually better than the first one, which is very hard to do. People are going to have answers, and that’s the most important thing when somebody follows a story, and you give them the answers they are looking for. I think that’s a great payoff.” And the promise of these answers is what made 55 million Netflix subscribers’ binge on season one.
Season one premiered in March 2021, and in less than two months season two was released in May. “We had been filming in Guadalajara and Mexico City. We shot during pandemic—we were in the middle of season one, and then the pandemic arrived, and we had to stop for six months. Then we received a call that we were going back with all the protocols. The good news was that Netflix had already seen first episodes and had seen what we had shot. And said, you guys are going to come to finish the first season, and we just gave the green light for the second season,” explained Cardona.
So, the entire crew of ¿Quién Mató a Sara? (Who Killed Sara?) finished filming the first season, and then immediately continued to film the second season. Which lead to the release of season one and two to be very close. However, a season three has not been confirmed yet. “Hopefully, I would love to do more Who Killed Sara, it’s an amazing group.”
Cardona has a lot of upcoming work, between three announced mini-series and a couple movies currently in post-production he’s keeping busy and keeping fans at the edge of their seats. “Right now, the direction of my career is doing more premium shows, fewer episodes—not than many—where you can really develop a story in 6-10 episodes, not 100. I will go in that direction for sure.”
“I’ve been doing characters that are searching for the truth and justice, and I think that is something that I do. I fight for the truth and justice and equality and rights for everyone. Without knowing I’ve been doing that in characters and in my real life.”