7 Questions With… El Presidente’s Karla Souza: ‘FIFA would definitely benefit from having some women in power’

BT TV talk exclusively to How to Get Away with Murder star Karla Souza about her new Amazon Prime Video drama series about the 2015 scandal, El Presidente.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 5 June 2020 - 2.50pm

The 2015 FIFA corruption scandal made headlines around the world and its mix of power, greed and football make it the perfect backdrop for a TV drama.

Amazon Prime Video’s new series El Presidente frames world football's governing body as a mafia-esque organisation and through a mixture of thrills and farce exposes how deep-rooted the problems within FIFA were, right across the world.

Set in Latin America, the US and Europe, the series focuses on the story of Sergio Jadue and his incredible journey from an obscure Chilean club to becoming the president of his country’s football association before getting involved in a major conspiracy.

Karla Souza stars in the series as Agent Harris, an FBI agent determined to expose FIFA corruption and who becomes embroiled in a game of cat and mouse with Jadue.

BT TV caught up with Karla to ask some burning questions about El Presidente…

1. How much did you know about the 2015 FIFA scandal before this?

El Presidente on Amazon Prime Video

I didn’t really know much. I’d heard the general strokes in 2015, but I was very curious to learn more about how it had all unravelled and the reasons why the US had become involved. And the motives behind it.

My character Agent Harris is someone dealing with sexism in the workplace and having to bring justice with very little help or support.

Ultimately she is tempted by corruption herself. So that was what really interested me, the humanity of that and the story: how human the character was. We weren’t going to be playing a straightforward FBI agent here.

2. The series shows FIFA to be pretty wild. Did it shock you?

Karla Souza in El Presidente Amazon Prime Video

I know, it’s crazy. It’s really crazy to think about these things. Any sense of safety we have with these huge organisations and companies dissipates when you find out how they are run and what they are allowed to do. It gave me a new perspective in how much we’re all participating in corruption without even knowing it.

3. What did you think of creator Armando Bo’s decision to focus on two female characters?

Karla Souza (How to Get Away with Murder), Andrés Parra (Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal) and Paulina Gaitán (Diablo Guardian) in El Presidente Amazon Prime Video

When I was first approached I thought this would be all about FIFA and older men and I wasn’t that interested. That was until Armando shared his vision for the show. The two female characters are really the people pushing the action and manipulating the men to get what they want and what they need from them. That was definitely a big part of my decision to join.

4. How much does the series follow the true events?

El Presidente on Amazon Prime Video Amazon Prime Video

It’s definitely more creative than a documentary would be. It’s a fictionalised account, but I can tell you the legal team were very close to the writing, shooting and editing, because were using real names of people involved and they didn’t shy away from telling how things really went down.

I think it will be pleasing for people who really want to know what happened and also people who just want to be entertained by good storytelling.

5. How would you describe Agent Harris’ relationship with Sergio Jadue?

Karla Souza in El Presidente Amazon Prime Video

It’s like a cat and mouse in reverse. He has a huge chip on his shoulder and she can see that. She exploits that and gives him tips and advice, working her way into being needed by him.

Shortly after, when he becomes aware of who she truly is, the tables turn and she becomes overtly manipulative and almost bullies him into whatever it is she wants.

However, at the same time the pressures in her personal life start to grow and that then makes her susceptible to working with him. There’s a really interesting intersecting arc for these two characters.

6. How did FIFA got away with it for so long?

Karla Souza in El Presidente Amazon Prime Video

I think it’s a boys’ world. It’s a boys’ club. You watch my back, I’ll watch yours. Little by little the greed got to them. And the amount of money they were making became interesting for other countries that weren’t being allowed in and that’s what made it all explode in the end.

7. Do you think any of it would have happened if there were some women in those meetings?

The heads of FIFA in El Presidente Amazon Prime Video

When there’s no diversity whatsoever, you’re right, that is a problem. They would definitely benefit from having some women in power… and different ages and new blood.

I was surprised to see how old these men were and how there was no sense of renewal. It felt so outdated. It felt like it was from the 1980s.

Hopefully more and more, companies like this will be changing - even soccer. Hopefully we’ll see female coaches and we’re starting to see women’s soccer being portrayed and getting the attention that men’s soccer gets.

This show doesn’t really touch upon that, but it does really show the old dinosaurs at the top, which really feels like something that has to change.

El Presidente is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.