If you are one to confidently strike up a conversation about politics, you likely honed your skills as a dinnertime debater. If the thought of a conversation about politics makes your palms sweaty, you can probably trace it all back to one ill-fated dinner table conversation. Anything can happen at a dinner table — a Red Table Talk-style coming to Jesus or a Succession-style spat that has everyone on their knees yelling "boar on the floor!" It’s easy to hate dinner parties when that's all you get invited to during the holidays, house-warmings, and any other kind of celebration. But responsible social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have made us all nostalgic for an intimate gathering of food and friends.
Diego Luna's new Amazon Prime show Pan y Circo is ASMR for dinner party lovers. Luna, one of Mexico's most beloved actors, is best-known in the U.S. for leading Narcos: Mexico on Netflix and for playing Cassian Andor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. And of course, he's best friends with Gael García Bernal.
In his new show, Luna travels throughout Mexico, hosting dinner parties served by illustrious Mexican chefs doing their best to honor local ingredients. At the table, Luna is joined by actors, thinkers, activists, and personalities working closely with the topic of the episode, which ranges from climate change to gender violence, colonialism, and identity. Although his show is set in Mexico, featuring the country's most interesting voices and thinkers discussing locally-relevant topics, the show is an incomparable learning experience for everyone.
Refinery29 caught up with Luna to talk about his show, Zoom dinner parties, and having tough conversations that lead to action in urgent times.
Pan y Circo premiers globally on Friday, August 7 on Amazon Prime.
Refinery29: I wonder if this is a staple of Latinx culture because in Puerto Rico we're taught that you don't talk about religion or politics at the dinner table. This show seems to directly defy that rule. Is that the purpose of the show?
Diego Luna: That rule exists not just in Puerto Rico, but in Mexico, you hear a lot of that: "Oh let's not talk politics at the table." That rule exists because what we talk about most at the dinner table is politics, and someone wants to stop that. Basically, there's no other place where you express your opinions with the intention of actually changing someone's point of view, then the table. The table is where you sit with different people — your family, the people you didn't choose in your life and they're there with you. There’s always someone in your family that wants to confront every idea you have and the points of view can be very different. There's also a generational thing — you talk to your parents and your grandparents at the same time.
You confront those different perspectives of life of someone exploring something for the first time while someone else already had that experience. It's interesting what happens at the table, and I believe food has the power of sitting us down and reminding us that there's always something we can share. It doesn't matter how different we think we are. That reminds us of what we're capable of as a society.
In the show, you travel all over Mexico having dinners made by your country's prominent chefs in so many enviable locations; you talk about race, colonialism, climate change, religion; and you eat a lot of amazing food. Which episodes were your favorite to film?
In terms of the food, it's difficult to say because I almost have a love story with each. In terms of the food and travel, the one where we went to Baja California in El Valle de Guadalupe in the north of Mexico on the side of California on this side of the border. It was magical. Also because I went with a chef that I really admire and consider a friend. I do believe it's one of the places where you can eat the best, not just in Mexico but in the Americas.
The conversation there was really interesting because we went to the border in the North to also talk about the border in the south and how little we look at what we do as a country — we tend to point out and demand fair treatment for Mexican Americans in the States but we take very little... cómo se dice atención, we take very little attention in how we treat all the Central Americans and South Americans that reach North America and change their lives. It was really interesting, but to be honest, every conversation is interesting…
The one about gender violence, femicide — it was transforming. This idea of how every little violence lets femicide exist and how we are part of all those little displays of violence that we kind of accept as normal and how much that contributes to a scenario where femicide happens. It's like holy crap, it's all connected and the impact in the way I see myself. It was huge.
Which episode did you learn from the most?
All of them. But the one about identity and racism and the one about gender violence and femicide were definitely two where I sat down and when the conversation ended I saw things differently, and all from my perspective, what I'm doing. I don't want people to think that the show is about what we're living today, the politicians we have today, the stuff that is being decided today. I think the conversation goes even deeper and further, it confronts you and the way you behave and the way you deal with these issues or ignore them. It always reminds you of what can be done and how much that needs you and that you're needed for change to happen. Every episode has a little bit of that.
The show was filmed before the pandemic, but you chose to add in an episode where the guests all meet over video call to eat a meal you made for them and sent to their homes in accordance with Mexico's "confinamiento." Since we won't be able to have dinner parties in the U.S. any time soon, how can people recreate this at home?
If what happens in the table of Bread and Circus is recreated in your house, then we've succeeded. Yes, the pandemic has shown me how important it is to have these opportunities, how we have to take care of this opportunity which is necessary for us to understand who we are and how we can change the world we live in. The episode on COVID was exactly an attempt to show that it's possible. It's a challenge, but it's possible, and we have to focus on that. We have the tools. So we don't forget what we're capable of doing together because this loneliness that the confinement is bringing to our lives cannot stop us from actually making sure we still hear those who have something to say and we still hear those who think differently from us. One day, we'll be allowed to go back and see each other face to face, but we cannot waste our time and wait for that to happen. We have to make use of the time we have because some of these issues cannot wait. That is the point of the show.
If the show gets a second season, are there any topics you wish you could have brought to the table but weren't able to in season one?
There were so many topics we couldn't bring to the table that we also think are as important as these and matter to me a lot. I would love to do one about educating your kids in these times. We're not showing our kids what we are capable of as human beings, in terms of listening and respecting others and working together. Making sure that they are aware of the impact our existence has in a place that's not ours. We have a lot to learn before we even try to teach them something.
Another topic I really want to talk about is journalism, in countries like mine where it's so dangerous these days and the state is so not interested in protecting this right that we have as citizens, which is the access to free information. I want to talk about this topic because it's a global issue these days. I mean, in the States with your president, it couldn't be more relevant, this topic.
But there are so many and I hope there's not just one more season but plenty of them and that we bring this table to other countries and other places. I don't think there's a single place where there's no need for a conversation like this today.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.