La Fortuna: Stanley Tucci and Clarke Peters go to war over sunken Spanish treasure

An underwater treasure trove discovered off the coast of Spain sparks a transatlantic legal battle with a deeply personal feud at its heart in this six-part AMC drama.

By Rhys Lewis Published: 17 January 2022 - 9.31am
La Fortuna

When a 200-year-old Spanish ship is discovered at the bottom of the ocean, who owns the wreck and the millions of dollars worth of gold and silver found in its sunken hull?

Is it the Spanish state? Is it the descendants of the men, women and children who went down with the ship? Or is it the treasure hunter who spent time and money scouring the seabed for the financial and cultural bonanza?

That’s the question posed in La Fortuna, a six-part drama written and directed by Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar and starring Alvaro Mel, Ana Polvorosa, Stanley Tucci, Clarke Peters and T’Nia Miller.

La Fortuna stars Tucci, Peters and Miller share their Secrets from the Set

What is La Fortuna about?

La Fortuna Teresa Isasi

Treasure hunter Frank Wild and the crew of his ship Atlantis have made a thrilling discovery off the coast of Spain – a ship on the seabed loaded with gold and silver coins.

When Wild announces the find to the world, Spanish government officials suspect the ship to be La Fortuna, a Spanish vessel sunk by the English in 1805 while returning from the New World with riches for the king.

The Spanish government is reluctant to get embroiled in an expensive legal dispute with Wild but young diplomat Alex Ventura, with the encouragement of the maverick Minister of Culture, teams up with ministry archivist Lucia Vallarta to confirm that the ship is indeed La Fortuna and prepare for a bitter battle with Wild.

Their ace card is maritime lawyer Jonas Pierce, whose long-lasting feud with Wild – a man he calls ‘a pirate’ - appears to be over much more than just sunken treasure.  

Is it a true story?

Coins from the wreck of Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty
Coins from Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes were returned to Spain in February 2012

La Fortuna is based on the popular Spanish graphic novel, El Tesoro del Cisne Negro (The Treasure of the Black Swan). This in turn was based on the true story of Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, a Spanish frigate sunk off the south coast of Portugal in 1804 by the British Navy while en route from Montevideo to Cadiz.

In 2007 the sunken frigate was found by a Florida company called Odysseus Marine Exploration, which recovered almost 500,000 silver and gold coins from the wreck and took them to the US.

The Spanish government fought a succession of legal battles to recover the coins, until eventually in 2012 the US federal court upheld their claim and the coins were delivered to the National Museum of Subaquatic Archaeology in Cartagena, Murcia.

In 2018, graphic novelist Paco Roca and diplomat Guillermo Corral joined forces to publish El Tesoro del Cisne Negro. A fictionalised telling of the Odysseus case – though featuring recognisable characters and names barely distinguishable from those of the real-life protagonists - the book became a Christmas bestseller before Amenabar and Alejandro Hernandez began work on the six-part adaptation.

Who’s in the La Fortuna cast?

La Fortuna Teresa Isasi

La Fortuna includes both Spanish and English dialogue and as such features Spanish- and English-speaking actors.

Alvaro Mel plays Alex Ventura, the young diplomat at the heart of the drama. 25-year-old Mel began his career as a social media influencer before moving into acting, joining the cast of Spanish drama La Otra Mirada in 2018 before taking the role of Alex in 2020.

Ana Polvorosa plays archivist Lucia. Polvorosa is best known in Spain for playing Lorena Garcia in Aida and Sara Millan in the Netflix series Las Chicas del Cable – she won Spanish Actors’ Union Awards for both roles and has been nominated for her a prestigious Feroz Award for her role in La Fortuna (as has Mel).

Clarke Peters plays maritime lawyer Jonas Pierce. Peters is best known for playing Lester Freamon in TV series The Wire but spent much of his early career on the stage and co-wrote the musicals Five Guys Named Moe and Unforgettable. More recently he has appeared in the Oscar-winning film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

T'Nia Miller and Stanley Tucci in La Fortuna Teresa Isasi

Stanley Tucci plays treasure hunter Frank Wild. Since making his film debut in 1985’s Prizzi’s Honor, Tucci has featured in movies including Road to Perdition, The Devil Wears Prada, Spotlight, The Hunger Games series and The Lovely Bones, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

T’Nia Miller plays Wild’s lawyer, Susan McLean. London-born Miller is best known for starring in series such as Witless, Years and Years and the Haunting of Bly Manor, and has also appeared in Marcella and as Maxine Tarrington in Netflix show Sex Education.

La Fortuna also features Karra Elejalde as culture minister Enrique Moliner, Manolo Solo as Horacio Valverde, Pedro Casablanc as Ambassador Arribas and Blanca Portillo as Zeta.

La Fortuna is directed by Spanish-Chilean director, writer and composer Alejandro Amenabar. Amenabar has won nine Goyas – Spain’s highest film award – including Best Director for his English-language debut, The Others, in 2001. He has also directed The Sea Inside, Agora and Regression. La Fortuna is his first TV series.

Where was La Fortuna filmed?

La Fortuna Diego Lopez Calvin

Although many of the scenes are set in the US, La Fortuna was filmed entirely in Spain. Locations included Madrid, including the Prime Minister’s residence at the Moncloa Palace, Zaragoza, Guadalajara, A Coruna and sites in the Province of Cadiz, including Algeciras, across the bay from Gibraltar, and La Linea, which sits on the border with Gibraltar.

The historic scenes showing the sinking of La Fortuna were filmed off the north coast of Spain near Pasajes in the province of Guipuzcoa. The frigates used to portray the Spanish Armada and British Navy were modern replicas - Étoile du Roy and Shtandart.

Replica of Rusian frigate Shtandart Nacho Calonge/Getty

Both ships are no strangers to the small screen: built as Grand Turk in 1996, Étoile du Roy appeared in the ITV series Hornblower in 1998 and has since appeared in Longitude, To The Ends of the Earth, and Crusoe. Shtandart, above, is a 1999-built replica of Peter the Great’s 1703 ship of the same name; it has appeared on Russian TV and stood in for Captain Hook’s ship in ITV’s 2015 Peter Pan adaptation Peter and Wendy.

Is there a trailer?

Watch the official AMC trailer for La Fortuna below

When is La Fortuna on?

Watch La Fortuna on AMC with BT TV from Monday, January 17, with new episodes premiering every Monday afterwards. 

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