Foreign TV is scary sometimes. They’re speaking another language! It’s another culture! Maybe I won’t like it. Maybe I won’t relate. A thousand things go through our minds when we find ourselves facing something that’s so far out our comfort zone.
Well, I’m here to tell you that, if you haven’t given foreign shows a chance, you’re definitely missing out. On different cultures, yes, and on learning, but most importantly, on beautiful stories, on love, on bad-ass female characters that don’t take any shit. You’re missing out on a different face of life.
Today, we’re here to talk about one of those shows, the Spanish Gran Hotel, which is being adapted for the US by ABC, and will premiere in 2019. Before it does, though, I – we – really, really think you should give the original a chance, and here we discuss out reasons why.
Joining me for this round-table are Lyra, Rachael, Ellie, Angela, Lynsey, Jen, Sarah and Luci. So let’s get into why we love Gran Hotel and why we think you’ll love it too, if you give it a chance!
Let’s start with the big questions: Why is this a show everyone should watch? What drew you to it?
Lizzie: It’s such a complete show! It’s got a little bit of everything, it’s got a grand romance, it’s got friendship, it’s got family feels, it’s got humor and it’s just so dang entertaining. I promise, once you start watching, you won’t be able to stop! I started watching it when they were airing it live, actually, as living in Spain taught me that their TV was much better than a lot of people thought, and that Yon Gonzalez was someone I should be paying attention to. And here I am, trying to convince you all to follow in my footsteps.
Lyra: Honestly, what initially drew me in was Yon Gonzalez. He’s a talented, fun, and handsome actor that has been in A LOT of shows, including El Internado and Las Chicas del Cable. What kept me watching, and why you should too, is all due to the relationships between the main characters. Julio and Alicia have this amazing love growing between them born out of trust, respect, and kindness. And Julio and Andres, the best friends of this whole show, are what great and memorable friendships are made out of. Just for that, you should watch Gran Hotel. Trust me, THEY’RE WORTH IT!
Rachael: This is a show everyone should watch because it’s just plain fun. It sucks you in and traps you and before you know it your hanging onto every scene and analyzing every character to figure out who you can and can not trust. There is murder mystery but on top of that there is so much else going on in this hotel you’d think it would be hard to keep track of it, but the way it’s written, it’s not hard. The romance is beautiful crafted and woven throughout the crazy drama going on and it becomes something you end up craving in every episode. This show does not disappoint in any areas of genre.
Ellie: I could manufacture a really intellectual answer here, but the truth is simple: I’m a shipper. When I saw GIFs of the show’s main ship, I was immediately intrigued because their chemistry and their intensity were evident even in those fragmented little animations. I was drawn to the show for Julio and Alicia, but I continued watching the show for the stunning visuals, for the beautiful score, and for the addictive storytelling. There’s something very sweeping and elegant about it when these elements are all combined. I came to care about this ensemble of characters very early on, and I found myself feeling desperate to know what would become of them. I found myself rooting for some of them and cursing at others. Each time the end of an episode came, I found myself clicking over to the next in line. I told myself I would watch an episode each night. I ended up watching an average of five or six each night, which left me with enough baggage under my eyes to check in as a Gran Hotel guest. But in the end? Totally worth it.
Angela: I think this show is so great because there’s something for everyone – murder? There’s PLENTY. Humor? OF COURSE. Love story? You bet. Bromance? One of the best. Evil person who manipulates everyone? Definitely. It’s the kind of show that you can start by watching an episode, and then all of the sudden, it’s 14 hours later and you just HAVE to know what happens next. It’s fast-paced while still being detailed. My love for this show actually started when it was airing in 2011. I saw it on Hulu, and it sort of hit all my check marks – period drama that has a dysfunctional family, some good romantic tension, and a good plot that keeps the show moving. PLUS, the Alarcon family is super rich and of course a lot of stuff happens concerning their wealth, so it’s fun to see the dynamics with their staff, their family members, and their guests. Another big thing that really makes this show top notch is that every single actor/actress is casted PERFECTLY. Yon captures Julio’s determination and his loyalty so perfectly through his subtle actions. Amaia is the queen of subtle facial expressions. She’s so great with expressing an emotion through the quirk of an eyebrow or a slight quiver in her lip. I could literally go on for hours about each person. I highly suggest watching the entire show. It’s only 66 episodes, which does sound like a lot, but the time literally flies and before you know it, you’re on the series finale and you’ll go back and immediately rewatch it.
Lynsey: Because it will consume your soul and who doesn’t need to have their soul consumed, right? I mean I watched all 66 episodes on Netflix in 10 days. I didn’t want to stop watching, could barely stop watching to feed and bathe my 4 year old! The show took over my life and the love story on the show has me obsessed to a point it may be a little unhealthy…but I’m ok with that. In all seriousness, though, this show is so well written and it really draws you in from the first scene. The acting on the show is brilliant, as well. If one could bottle longing looks and sell them, Yon Gonzalez would be a billionaire. Not only does this show have great acting and a superb cast but there really is something for everyone in this show. There is mystery, secrets, lies, humor, and relationships with some very intriguing dynamics, and last but not least a love story for the ages! Legit one of the most romantic love stories I’ve ever had the privilege to watch unfold on a tv show.
As to what drew me to the show, in all honesty I started watching it because many of my mutuals on Twitter were gushing about the show and the ‘ship and I am always open for a great new ‘ship to swoon over. However, it didn’t take long after watching the first few minutes of the show to become hooked. There are twists and turns around every corner and so many things that took me by surprise. This definitely isn’t a predictable show. Anyone new watching will wonder what is going to happen next.
Jen: To quote my friend who I’ve recruited into watching – “Holy shit, this show has EVERYTHING!”. Never has a truer statement been made! Murder, mystery, shipping gold, suspense, romance, humour, drama – it’s so intricate without feeling like it’s overloading your senses. I truly believe it has something for everyone to enjoy, plus it’s a period drama which is a huge bonus for me. The mysteries – and there are many! – kept me absolutely hooked. How can so much happen to just one group of people?! Trying to work out where everything was going, alongside the romance of epic proportions made me fall in love with this show completely. You can’t just stop at one episode, you HAVE to keep going. Even though so much happens to these characters, it doesn’t feel over-done or too much, which I think really shows the high quality of the show. You always ALWAYS want more!
Sarah: On my browse of twitter one day I spotted a few of my friends use a GIF of a young man and women standing in a kitchen. He was shirtless and she was offering to help him clean some wounds. Of course i instantly had to know what show or movie this was from. Then my dear friend Lizzie proceeded to scream at me via DM why I should watch the show. Like many I was hesitant because it was subtitled. I had never watched a foreign series before, but I trusted Lizzie fully and we share the same thoughts and feelings regarding ships, and boy was she not wrong. I have always loved a period drama, and added to that I love mystery and suspense in a romance. This show does have it all, and I am so glad I listened to Lizzie about it. Because i can safely say, this is one of my favorite shows ever. Humour in the right places, murder without being too overdone, and romance that just hits the nail on the head.
Luci: Gran Hotel is like the perfect show wrapped in a nice little package. It has literally everything you could possibly want — mystery, drama, suspense, romance and an amazing cast and crew. It’s rare when you get that magic combo of stellar cast and writing, but Gran Hotel is like one of those mystical unicorns. When you find them, you just want to hold on to them forever.
As to what drew me to it, my friend Lizzie yelled at me until I started watching it and I thank her every day for talking me into this. It really is a fantastic show — probably one of the very best I’ve ever seen.
Gran Hotel is a Spanish show, aka, most of the people watching will be doing it with subtitles. Is it worth it? Give us your pitch as to why.
Lizzie: I’m biased because I actually speak Spanish and watching it wasn’t a chore at all, but I have watched plenty of subtitled shows, and I think the quality of foreign TV is something people in the US are not aware of, and they’re missing out on a lot of great things. Plus, you don’t even know if the subtitles are really going to bother you until you try it! You’ll get used to it in one episode tops, I promise.
Lyra: IMMERSE YOURSELF, PEOPLE! Experience the beauty, fun, drama, and love of el Gran Hotel in it’s original form. It’s worth it, especially because for most people it’s on Netflix and you can just rewind it a little to catch what you missed. Also, this isn’t a light watch. Even if you changed the audio to English, you’re going to have to sit down so you don’t miss any details. So you might as well immerse yourself in all the Spanish and maybe pick up some of the language along the way.
Rachael: It is 100% worth it. There is so much going down with the characters and the plot before long you don’t even realize your reading the subtitles. Plus it enhances the spanish telenovela feeling of the series, and trust me, that’s the best part.
Ellie: I’ll admit that the subtitles were a bit of a turn-off for me at the start. I’m a multitasker when it comes to television, so I like to grade papers or lesson plan or fold laundry as I watch. As a result, my initial reaction was one of skepticism: You mean I have to actually sit? And pay attention? But I think that’s actually the beauty of the subtitles. They require you to sit down and fully immerse yourself in the show. You must pay close attention to the dialogue. You must listen carefully to the shifts in tone and watch closely for the subtle gestures. There’s something appealing about giving up that inclination to be productive even during your down time. I came to like the fact that I couldn’t work during the show because it felt a bit decadent to sit back and fully enjoy it. In addition, the Spanish adds a sort of magic to the viewing experience. I realize this may be unique to me as an English-speaking viewer, but the pace and the rhythm and the general beauty of the language enhance the pace and the rhythm and the beauty of the storytelling.
Angela: So I’m going to be 100% real for a moment and say that I typically don’t like watching shows with subtitles. I’m very much a “TV in the background while I’m doing something else” kind of girl, so subtitles are typically a no-go for me. HOWEVER, this show is worth it. I cannot stress enough that Gran Hotel works because it is a Spanish-speaking show. It’s authentic, and it almost makes you watch the show without being distracted by something else. I love that I had to sit there and really make myself watch it because there’s so many amazing, small details that you can miss. I’m also a huge History buff, so learning more about the Spanish culture was something that I also enjoyed. TL;DR, this is the show that you’ll want to watch, subtitles or not.
Lynsey: Yeesh, subtitles. One of my least favorite things. A friend of mine – Lacey, I’m looking at you – has them on when she watches a show and it is so distracting! LOL However, they are English subtitles for a show that is spoken in well, English, which I think is what makes it so distracting for me. I went into Gran Hotel thinking the same thing, that it will be distracting and I won’t really enjoy it like others are experiencing it. I was so wrong. The show is so captivating that after a few minutes, having to read the subtitles didn’t bother me at all. I HAD to know what was happening! Especially when it came to scenes with Julio and Alicia. Yes, Julio has that heart eyes, longing look that is absolute perfection, but I had to know what he was saying to her!
Jen: I honestly though the subtitles would put me off but the show is just so fantastic that after the first half an hour of the first episode I didn’t even notice. It is 100% worth it, so don’t let the idea of subtitles put you off. I was promised that I would fall in love with everything about Gran Hotel so to give it a fighting chance even though I questioned my potential enjoyment in regards to subtitles and I’m so glad I did. You get so sucked into the fast-paced plot and there’s so much going on that the subtitles just become second nature as you’re desperate to know what’s going on. PLUS… the shipping. I have to talk about Julio and Alicia. THEY DON’T NEED WORDS… some of the intense looks they give each other, you can just feel the emotions they feel for each other. No words – or subtitles – necessary. Swoon!
Sarah: I was put off at first, but as many have said, that melts away within the first episode. The Spanish are known fast talkers, so I thought I would struggle. But not at all. And what’s great about watching a subtitled show is you miss stuff the first time because you are reading, so rewatches are just required! I also found that if I turned the volume down I could concentrate more on the words then the sounds….however I would turn it up whenever Julio would say “Alicia” Gahhhhhhh!
Luci: I’ll be honest here. English is not my native language, so I grew up watching movies and shows with subtitles. It had been a while since I’d last needed subtitles to watch anything and it took some adjustment, but it didn’t bother me. It didn’t take away from the experience at all, so if that’s what’s holding you back, you really have nothing to worry about. This show is definitely worth it.
What’s your favorite thing about Gran Hotel?
Lizzie: The romance. THE ROMANCE. The way they grow from two people helping each other, to partners, to friends, to this …epic romance. I love Julio and Alicia, I love the way they talk to each other, the way they fight for each other, and I especially love the way they love each other, and make each other better by that love, which is something not just rare on TV in general, but especially in period dramas.
Lyra: I wanna say the romance. I really, really, really do. It’s important to me and one of the things that kept me watching even when things were hard. But my favorite thing about Gran Hotel is the friendship between Julio and Andres. Rarely do you see men being so open with each other. Andres and Julio know that they have the others back, can come to each other for comfort because men have feelings as well, and have an unshakeable bond of brotherhood and family.
Rachael: Usually the romance of a series is my favorite part, and don’t get me wrong, the romance is incredibly rich and sweet, but I have to say my favorite part of Gran Hotel is the mystery and the secrets each character brings to the table, add that to the classic telenovela feel, and the romance and it’s no wonder why this show is so entertaining. I’m also a sucker for the slapping of the faces, I can’t explain why I love it so much, but I do.
Ellie: My favorite thing about Gran Hotel is the way the show manages to take storylines that might otherwise seem overly campy or melodramatic and then manages to make them compelling and suspenseful. While the show is certainly dramatic and soapy, and the Gran Hotel has more than its fair share of murders and scandals, it never feels truly tacky or ridiculous, which is my issue with many US attempts at similar types of drama. Another favorite element of the show is its portrayal of women. I love that (for better or worse) women are pulling many of the strings throughout the series, and I love that many of the female characters are portrayed as being intelligent and capable and ambitious. On the flip side, I appreciate the fact that the poor choices made throughout the series are split between the male and female characters. There are men and women you can’t help but adore, and then there are men and women you can’t help but despise.
Angela: Oh my goodness, can I say every minute of it? No? Okay…I absolutely love the tangled webs that are woven in this show. The relationships – Julio and Alicia, Julio and Andres, Julio and Angela, heck, even Julio and Diego (and so many more) are what make this show so unique. There’s multiple murders, betrayals, love affairs, tomfoolery, stupidity, angst, laughter (you get the point), but that all doesn’t matter until you factor in the relationships all the characters have. I constantly asked myself questions like “Would that have happened if Julio wasn’t in love with Alicia?” or “Did Andres really need to do that if Julio wasn’t his best friend?” and for me, that’s what made me come back episode after episode. No spoilers, but there’s are several key moments where actions are purely character driven and not plot driven, and that’s what makes Gran Hotel in a class of its own. I always think that a TV show is a good TV show when you can see parts of yourself identifying with the characters on screen. That’s what makes them human and that’s what makes you a little more idealistic.
Lynsey: Julio and Alicia. Hands down. I adore a good love story. I read romance. I look for it in every show I watch. It was all the tweets about Julio and Alicia from my mutuals watching Gran Hotel that first sparked my interest in the show and I was in no way disappointed with them.
Their love story basically starts in the first episode and we get to see this beautiful story unfold amid so much other drama and intrigue. Everything is against these two but you can’t help rooting for them to get their happy ending. There is so much tenderness and longing between them, so many sweet and forbidden moments. I can’t say enough about how much I love Julio and Alicia! They are what make this show worth watching, in my opinion.
Jen: Oh my gosh, can I say everything?! I think the romance ranks pretty highly for me – I love a show which provides good shipping! And Gran Hotel does not disappoint. The build, the adoration, the pure love Julio and Alicia have for each other definitely hooked me from the start and I wanted to see them get their happily-ever-after and overcome the many (many many many) obstacles they had to encounter. I also love the many (many many many) mysterious elements as well – crime/murder/mystery is one of my absolute favourite genres and this show is a gold mine. They seamlessly flow together so you’re never bored and there’s always something going on for you to solve along with the characters. And the fact that it’s a period piece is a winner for me as I love all things historical.
Sarah: I don’t think I have ever watched a show that seemingly has everything I want in a tv series. First and foremost I usually have to have a couple to ship, and I was told by Lizzie this was the OTP of all OTP’s (a bold statement) I knew I had to watch. So after the first iconic scene at the train station when Julio’s eyes fall onto Alicia walking past him, he’s instantly enchanted, and so was I. Forbidden love is a trope of mine, and Julio being from a lower class and Alicia being from a higher, I knew instantly I would love it. But after that, slowly I saw other reasons i would come to love this show, the bromance between Julio and Andres (the sweet waiter from the hotel who immediately helps Julio and shares a room with him) is wonderful, their friendship is so pure and strong. Then Alicia and Andres have a delightful relationship too (no spoilers here). You have Javier, Alicia’s older wayward brother who drinks, womanizes and loves to rub his Mother up the wrong way (he is frustrating, yet comical character). Of course you have Detective Ayala and Agent Hernando who also add comedy to the show. Ayala is of course the Spanish Poirot!
Luci: I love how intrinsically connected everything is in the show. Of course, the main story is the romance between Julio and Alicia, but the mystery surrounding the hotel and everyone in it is so carefully woven that it literally takes your breath away. Gran Hotel truly is one of the best crafted stories I’ve ever seen in my life. I love everything about it, but what really sets it apart is the chemistry between all the characters, but especially between Julio and Alicia, played by Yon Gonzalez and Amaia Salamanca. This show wouldn’t be half of what it is if these two hadn’t been paired together. Their interaction and chemistry is really lightning in a bottle and it makes every scene so intense and profound that you can’t help but fall in love with them and root for them.
Who’s your favorite character, and why? Pick a second fave as well. Hell, pick a top 5.
Lizzie: I wanted to say Alicia, but the truth is I have an easier time relating to Julio than I ever have to Alicia. He’s more open, more free with his feelings, and yes, I understand that it’s easier for him to be, but that’s just a draw. Alicia is, however, my second fave, because she’s smart and so kind, and because she’s genuine. She doesn’t play with people’s feelings, not even her own, no. She’s a woman of action. Third would probably have to be my magical unicorn Andres, who is literally one of the nicest characters in the history of characters, and sometimes I wanted to strangle him because he was just too nice, but in the end, I always just loved it. Fourth would be Ayala and Hernando, who are like an entity, and who added much needed levity to this show, which could have been a dark period piece without them. Fifth, I’M AS SURPRISED AS YOU ARE, I’m going to say Doña Angela. Yes, most of the times, I didn’t really agree with her, but she did all she did out of love, and she was a force to be reckoned with, and for a woman in that era, that was hard.
Lyra: Alicia. Hands down. Girl knows what she wants, when she wants it, and what she has to do to get it. She fights hard and knows the true value of family & friendship. Also, she’s kind AF without being a fool and having people take advantage of her. She’s truly an unforgettable woman.
Rachael: My favorite character is Andres. Why? Because bless this poor man, he is kind and sweet and he ends up wrapped up in the middle of everything just by being a friend and being in love with the wrong woman, and he becomes someone all the other characters can count on even when they don’t deserve him. My second favorite character is Julio. He comes to the hotel and works as a waiter to find out what happened to his sister but he ends up finding a best friend and falling in love, and he is loyal and dedicated to finding out the truth. My third favorite character is Alicia. Even though she is part of a family who is manipulative and rich and deceiving she lets none of that affect her and she is kind and warm and loyal. My fourth favorite character is inspector Ayala. This man reminds me of Sherlock Holmes. He’s smart and most of the time figures out the truth and I just enjoy watching him. My fifth favorite character is Angela. I love how she bends over backwards for Antonio and looks out for his best interest as a mother while walking eggshells around the family she works for.
Ellie: Warning: Out of control rambling ahead! I’m sorry!
- Alicia — Alicia is a beautiful character because she has such a kind spirit. Her biggest flaw is her desire to make other people happy, and while that desire certainly lands her in some difficult situations, it comes from a very pure and genuine place. I love that Alicia has been so protected, so insulated during her upbringing, and that she tries to see the best in others as a result. Another character remarks at one point that she has always been “the best of the Alarcóns” and it’s true.
- Julio — Julio is just so unfailingly charming. He’s charismatic from the moment we first see him on screen, and his dedication to the people he cares about — Cristina, Andrés, Alicia — is admirable. I like that, while he is capable of being extremely tough when necessary, he’s also extremely kind and sensitive. The contrast of this toughness — his background and his fight scenes — with the achingly beautiful tenderness of his scenes with Alicia is one of my favorite things about him. He treats her with reverence because he truly loves and adores her. The dynamic nature of his character is just wonderful to watch.
- Andrés — Andrés is the sweetest, most earnest, most precious of humans, and he deserves everything in the world. From the very first episode, his wide-eyed, deer-in-headlights expression made me love him for being such a fish-out-of-water in this hotbed of scandal and deceit. I love nearly everything about Andrés (except maybe his weakness for Belén). The friendship he shares with Julio is absolutely beautiful — their love for one another is one of the most moving parts of the show. And the closeness that develops between Andrés and Alicia is truly special. Everyone should have an Andrés in their lives.
- Ayala/Hernando — This might seem like a cheat, but I feel that they have to be lumped together because, for me, their likability is direct result of their interactions. Hernando is just so profoundly dim-witted that seeing him paired with someone as sharp as Ayala is comedic gold. Hernando has a true gift for stating the obvious and remaining totally oblivious to anything even remotely subtle or nuanced. As a result, I absolutely adore Ayala’s reactions to Hernando’s less-than-insightful declarations. His expressions of utter disbelief and his head-hanging sighs of resignation are hysterical.
- Maite — In spite of the fact that we don’t meet her until later in the series, I truly enjoy Maite. She’s a lawyer during a time when she’s expected to be a wife, she wears pants during a time when she’s expected to wear skirts, and she goes head-to-head with her male counterparts during a time when submission was the default expectation for women. She, like Andrés, is also an incredibly loyal friend. I love that she always puts her friendship with Alicia first, and I appreciate that she and Alicia are never pitted against each other in any way. It’s lovely to see a female friendship portrayed this way.
Honorable Mention…because I couldn’t stop at five characters. Sorry!
- Javier — I feel like I might be one of the only people to include him, but I enjoy Javier. Much of my enjoyment is more of the cover-my-eyes-and-cringe-because-he-makes-such-horrible-decisions variety, but he amuses me at several points in the show with his utter idiocy and his inability to just grow up and live life as an actual adult human. He does have a few sweet moments with Alicia that suggest his fondness for her, and I think those sweet moments happen when Alicia needs him most, so…points for Javier in that respect.
Angela: Again, no spoilers, but my top 5 are:
- Alicia and Julio (I count them as one entity) – because, well duh, main characters. They’re also the reason why you’ll come back each episode (trust me, you will)
- Andres – He’s just the type of guy you will root for from the first minute you see him
- Maite – No spoilers, but she’s like a hurricane and she carves her own path in the show in such a great way
- Javier – He’s like the comedic relief in this show with small pockets of wisdom
- Ayala and Hernando (really, they’re like one entity) – Again, they’re another point of comedic relief, but they’re also there to save the day in multiple scenarios
- Julio and Alicia. I’m counting them as one character because, well, let’s face it, they are one. You can’t have one without the other, not for me. Julio comes to Gran Hotel to find out about his missing sister but Alicia is the reason he stays.
- Julio and Alicia – see above
- Julio and Alicia – legit my fave character
- Andres – He’s a precious puppy and deserves only the absolute best. He is such a good soul and it hurt my heart to see how some people used that against him. He, along with Julio and Alicia are the only truly good people in this show. In fact, I would say he is the best (if not sometimes a little bit of a sucker because he sees only the best in people.)
- Ayala – Because he is the captain of the Julio and Alicia ship and no one will convince me otherwise. LOL Honestly, he is such a well written character and the way he gets aggravated at Hernando constantly had me laughing uproariously.
Jen: This might be a controversial choice but hands down for me – Ayala. I love love love him! The poor man is just trying to do his job. When Hernando was bumbling around, or Julio or Alicia were withholding information, or Teresa was trying to thwart his investigations I was sat here shouting “Just let the poor man work!”. He saw through most of the characters, worked out their motivations and generally knew them better than they ever assumed he could – and remained cool as a cucumber the whole time! He wasn’t taking crap from anyone and I absolutely loved that about him. He truly wanted to help Julio and Alicia and I loved that he became their ally. Obviously I love Julio, Alicia, Andres and even have a soft spot for Angela as well – but for me, Ayala is my favourite.
Sarah: I will be taking 5 of the characters, because so many are too great that i can’t pick just one.
- Alicia. This lady. Wow, i won’t put any spoilers, but she goes through it in the three seasons. Not only is she strong and brave through it all, she is selfless and kind. From the very beginning you see that Alicia is the sweet and caring one of the family, always thanking the staff, knowing their names and having the time to talk to them. She would have been classed as unusual of her time. She never saw class divides, she only saw people. They were all the same in her eyes and i think it’s one of the main reasons Julio fell in love with her. She’s independent and won’t be told what to do, i love her.
- Julio. This young man is passionate and caring to those he loves. He’s incredibly protective and always fights for what he believes in. Sometimes that passion makes him impulsive and reckless, but who doesn’t love a reckless hothead? *wink wink*. Slowly as the series goes on, the main reason Julio goes to the hotel isn’t the reason he stays. He falls desperately in love and has found a great friend. Unlike men of his time, he’s tactile and wears his heart on his sleeve. Yon is incredible at portraying him, you know when he’s angry, jealous, hurt, upset or annoyed. He’s one of my favourite leading men, and Lizzie told me he never trained to be an actor, so all i can say is WOW.
- Andres. Ahhhh the precious unicorn. This sweet angel is too nice, pure and sweet for his own good. Even though everything in his body is telling him not to, he feels compelled to help Julio when he first arrives at the hotel. Quickly they become firm friends, and Andres does everything he can to cover for Julio when needed. Andres has his own storylines throughout the three seasons, and i will say i did get frustrated with him in parts. Sometimes being that nice and sweet had its downsides, he was naive in places and too willing to see the good in people, even if it was very very small. He could also add comedic parts to the series, sometimes his back and forth with Julio and also with his Mother, who in the first season you could almost say he’s afraid of upsetting, but as time goes on, you see the wonderful bond they have together, and it’s beautiful.
- Ayala. This man is fantastic, he does his job, but at the same time, does care about Julio, Alicia and Andres. He always wants the best for them, but of course at times he has to follow the rules of the law. This man is very astute and certainly knows people’s actions and behaviours. Never a point through the series was i annoyed at him, because he did his job so well. The unlikely friendship and almost a detective team he creates with Julio and Alicia is wonderful. He’s like a Father figure to them both, and even though he gets annoyed at withheld information and the both of them putting themselves into dangerous situations, there is always a smirk to say he understands why they did what they did.
- Angela. At first, i didn’t like Angela too much. She was your typical housekeeper, does things by the book and was strict on the staff. However you find out many many things about this closed book of a women. You understand why she is like she is, it all falls into place with each thing you find out. Then i began to like her more and by the end i loved her. She has a loving relationship with her son, and her surrogate son Julio (i do love the scenes they have), she also basically brought Alicia and her siblings up from children and her bond with Alicia is different to some of the others, its fraught now and again due to secrets, but there is a love there. I think that some of that is a love that Alicia never felt she truly got from her own Mother.
Luci: 1 – Alicia is my absolute favorite. Considering this show starts in 1905, Alicia Alarcon is so much more than just a woman ahead of her time. She is kind and compassionate and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about social classes or hierarchy. At the same time, she’s fierce and so strong and independent that you can’t help but wish you had even half of her strength and determination. Her sense of right and wrong is what drives her and she fights with everything she has to do the right thing. Her romance with Julio does not belittle her or just make her the love interest. No, instead, it empowers her. She was already a force of nature without Julio Olmedo, but with him? Boy, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
2- Julio Olmedo. I don’t even know where to start with him. He’s pretty much the most perfectly imperfect guy to ever grace our screens. It’s not that he is handsome and just a perfect guy all around. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. He is very handsome, yes, but he is so flawed and so complex that, as a writer myself, I could only wish that I can ever write a character as beautiful as Julio is. He is kind and so fundamentally good, and he’s fiercely loyal to those he loves. In fact, his heart is so big that his love knows no bounds and it’s so, so incredibly beautiful to watch him show his love, romantically or not. The main relationships in this show are Julio and Alicia, and Julio and Andres; and even though they are two completely different relationships, the intensity of his love is exactly the same. He would do anything for these two, even at his own expense. Julio Olmedo has basically ruined every other male character for me.
3- Andres. My baby Andres. You know, I’m not usually a screaming fangirl, but I love this show so much that Lizzie got a lot of screaming texts from me as I was watching it. And within the first four episodes, I had already defined Andres as he truly is. I believe my exact words were “Andres is the sweetest child to ever grace this Earth” and that truly sums up this character, because he is really the most beautiful, loving, loyal creature I have ever seen on my screen. Just like Julio, his love knows no bounds, but he is so fundamentally good and pure and you just want to hug him and keep him in a bubble so he can be protected from all harm in this world.
4 – Ayala. You know, at first, I thought the detective would be annoying, but he is just so funny and he loves Julio and Alicia like they’re his own kids that you can’t help but love him. He’s so sarcastic and good and fair and by the end of season 2, he has perfected his annoyed-but-so-freaking-amused parent look that every single scene with Ayala, Julio and Alicia are hilarious. Not to mention Hernando, who is dumber than a freaking door, but also the greatest partner he could have ever asked for. They work so well together and they’re so incredibly funny together that their scenes bring some levity to otherwise very intense moments.
5 – Angela and Teresa. I know I’m cheating, but I can’t really choose between them. They’re both mothers who love their children fiercely and would do anything to protect them. Angela grew on me over the course of the first season. At first, I thought she was just this very strict lady, but she’s really just a mother looking out for her kid in this environment that is full of drama and mystery and intrigue. Now, Teresa is a whole other story. I’ll be honest and say I hated her until season 3. She was a villain and it felt like she was only ever looking out for herself. But in hindsight, she was really just the worst kind of helicopter mom, just trying to do what she thought was best for her family. Her arc in season 3 was so incredibly amazing, that it bumped her up to one of my favorite characters.
Let’s talk Julio and Alicia, the OTP to rule all OTPS. What makes them the kind of couple you root for? What was it about them that made you fall for this show?
Lizzie: That they became friends first. I mean, there are a million other reasons why they work, but the foundation of friendship, and friendship between people who came from two background as different as they did, is what made them work, in my eyes. I felt like I was part of their journey, all the way, because they started as most couples start, and especially in period drama, it seems like people are deciding they love each other RIGHT AWAY and that makes me angry. These people were working together, in a way, to solve a mystery, became friends and THEN fell in love, and that’s what made me invested in their story from the beginning. And then the way they just love each other, so completely and in such a pure way, and how they make each other better people, is just beautiful to see.
Lyra: Alicia and Julio are top tier OTP material because they were friends first. Too often, shows sacrifice friendship because they want to move the romance along. They think that’s all we wants, kisses & all the nookie behind closed doors. Yes, I do want that. But friendships between men and women are real and the way that a lot of couples get together.
Rachael: Julio and Alicia are the OTP to rule all OTPS. Why? Because they’re the kind of couple who even when they are not a couple, they’re still a couple. They automatically belong to one another and nothing changes that. They work together as a team and they don’t give up on each other. The moments when they do physically interact are filled with so much fire and passion it leaves you anxiously waiting for more.
Ellie: They’re just so beautiful! If you could see me right now, you would see my uncanny resemblance to the heart-eyes emoji. I love that, during the first episode, Alicia and Julio arrive at the hotel at the same time, but they are clearly arriving from very different places and experiences…in the literal and figurative sense. I love that, in spite of the upstairs-downstairs nature of their relationship, there are never really any overt power-plays between them. Despite being “just a waiter,” Julio never shows shame or lacks any confidence in himself. Similarly, Alicia is never made to feel apologetic about her privileged upbringing. I love that while their differing circumstances are problematic from a societal perspective, they’re never problematic for them on a personal level. They care about each other and value each other despite their differences—or perhaps even because of their differences. From the very start they are partners. They treat each other with respect and dignity, and they work as a unit to solve each other’s problems. Julio is protective of Alicia and comes to her rescue, sure. But there are also times when Alicia is protective of Julio and saves him from catastrophe. There’s a beautiful reciprocity to their relationship, and I really think that’s the most appealing aspect to me. Oh, and the softness and the cheek-strokes and the longing looks and the swoon-worthy kisses over the crescendo of their love song? Those things don’t hurt either.
Angela: First, I’m a huge sucker for a romance where there’s a class difference (hello period dramas!), so immediately this checks that off. This is a very heavy question, so I’ll break it down as best I can:
Julio – He’s the melancholic guy that sits in the back of the classroom that really doesn’t speak that much, but when he does, be careful because what he’ll say will immediately draw you in. He definitely has his flaws, but who doesn’t? What makes him great is that he can use those flaws and make it work for the situation. He’s loyal and he’s kind and his smile can melt glaciers but don’t expect to get a rose from him because his eyes are already set on someone else. Speaking of that…Alicia. Boy, do I love this woman. She’s classy, she’s strong, and she knows when to speak up for what’s not right. When you first meet Alicia, she doesn’t say a word, she’s just walking. I think that’s extremely telling because you’re meeting her in the perspective of Julio: here’s this beautiful, young woman who is properly dressed and doesn’t even give him a second glance, but she has this aura that draws you in before she’s even said “hello”. Basically, she’ll be your favorite person by the end of this series, and even though a lot of what happens happens to her, she handles them with grace, just like any Alarcon would *cough cough*.
The relationship between Julio and Alicia is like a PG-13 rated Hallmark movie. It’s gooey without being too sappy, and it’s not overly sexual (meaning the sex scenes aren’t overly done) but they ooze sexual tension. They work because the cinematography isn’t one sided. Viewers aren’t only seeing Julio’s perspective, they’re seeing Alicia’s too. There’s so many moments where you’ll see Alicia staring wistfully at Julio when he’s working, or busy with something else and you can just feel her need for him and her affection for the type of man that he is, and vice versa. That’s why this pairing works, it’s based on what’s not said, not what is.
Lynsey: I root for Julio and Alicia because they have so much against them; they have that forbidden love thing going on strong. Their love story is so romantic. Here you have a young man, who basically comes from nothing, falling for an heiress who has always had everything. They come from two completely different worlds. Even though their love is forbidden, nothing can keep these two from being drawn together; from falling for each other. This is the kind of couple I want to watch, that I want to read about. Forbidden love is one of my favorite tropes and this one has it IN SPADES.
*insert starry eyed-gif here* THE PASSION, THE LOOKS, EVERYTHING ABOUT THESE TWO!! That’s what made me fall for this show. My goodness, there is so much passion between these two!!! Yon Gonzalez has the total heart eyes, longing look, down to an artform. I swooned every time he looked at her with those eyes, so, basically, I passed out quite a bit. If we can cite examples, two things got to me (well more than two but these are good ones.) Things I never expect to see in any American show: The moment when Julio grabs Alicia’s hand, pulls him to her for a passionate kiss, where he then picks her up and swings around with her in his arms, all while STILL KISSING HER! (see what I mean about the swooning??) And seriously, in what show will we get the man running through the water, WHILE WOUNDED, to chase after a ship he has no earthly way to catch, all the while calling her name and falling to his knees in agony for losing her!? Not a one. See? PASSION.
Jen: SWOONWORTHY. From the moment Julio sees Alicia on the train in episode 1 you know this is going to be something special. It’s a great build – although Julio likes Alicia from the start, she’s not his main motivation which I think makes the romance feel more genuine. He’s there to find out what happened to his sister, so the romance doesn’t feel forced or like “insta-love” because the mystery is at the forefront. They fall in love over time as they work together to find out what happened to Julio’s sister, and the fact that they’re friends first who fall in love is just beautiful. Alicia is so kind (an unusual trait in her family) and the kindness and sympathy she shows to Julio is beautiful – you can literally SEE them falling in love in front of your eyes with the intensity of their looks, small touches, how much they care for one another. Their friendship, let alone romance, is also forbidden due to their differing classes making it even more delicious. Although how everyone in the hotel didn’t know what was going on with their constant longing looks across the dining room I have no idea… A romance of EPIC proportions.
Sarah: Ok, where do i start?! From the first moment we get introduced to these characters, the class divide is shown. Julio in intrigued by this beautiful upper class women, watches her walk to the first class carriage, as he goes to the very end to the working class carriage. Until she boards, he watches her. Instantly i felt something strong with where this was going to go. But after that, Julio is fully focused on finding his sister and what happened to her. I don’t believe in ‘insta love’. And i don’t believe that was it, sure he was enchanted by Alicia, but he didn’t know anything about her. But then this beautiful women is also at the hotel, but she lives upstairs. He knows the boundaries and divide (although sometimes he clearly forgets because he feels so comfortable with her) there is between them. But that doesn’t stop her from wanting to help Julio, find out what happened to his sister, so they become friends, even though there share a mutual strong attraction for each other, they try to ignore it on some occasions. But they both know what they feel, they begin to care deeply for one another and so starts a magical and beautiful romance. I love that these two became friends and worked together first, there was a foundation there to build on and boy did they build. It only gets stronger as the seasons go on, Alicia seeking out Julio for comfort or whenever she needs help, he’s there for her and just when you think there is no hope for these two, they bring it straight back. The meaningful and intense looks to the touches, this couple are extremely swoon worthy. They go through so much apart and together, and it only makes them stronger as a couple. I find it really hard to find a couple like this, both are willing to die for each other and cant stand to see the other in pain. They are both selfless with each other, sometimes without the other one ever knowing, and they can’t live without each other, that is made clear on a number of occasions. This is a romance novel love, one that has angst, true love feels and only want to be with each other love. Dare i say it? They are my OTP of all OTP’s.
Luci: I don’t even know where to start. They’re just completely swoon-worthy, but this is really only possible because Amaia Salamanca and Yon Gonzalez have this ridiculously amazing chemistry together. They just ooze sexual tension, but the show is actually very PG when it comes to their relationship. And maybe it’s the forbidden element that has you rooting for them from the get-go, but they have a way to lure you in and the next thing you know, it’s 3am and you’ve watched seven episodes in a row.
But their love story is just breathtaking. While the mystery and overall arc of the show is very well done, the romance between Julio and Alicia was just so perfectly crafted and woven so well with the rest of the story. The stakes are always very high, but their love for each other is pure and strong that it’s just absolutely beautiful and breathtaking to watch. The intensity with which they look at each other is…god, I don’t even know how to put it into words.
I told Lizzie that they’re the best OTP to ever OTP and that is absolutely true. I have yet to find a couple that is as perfect for each other as Alicia Alarcon and Julio Olmedo are.
ABC is coming up with a Gran Hotel remake, to premiere midseason. Will you be watching? What do you think that show needs to do to be successful?
Lizzie: I watched the Pilot already, and I found it didn’t hold a candle to the original, but I think it could grow in some ways, especially with some of the side characters, as I didn’t love the new Julio and Alicia as much as I probably needed to. But then again, I think what the show needs to be successful is to forget about the original. They can’t hope to replicate it, so they have to try to be their own thing. That’s the only way they succeed.
Lyra: I’ll def be watching. Why not give Latinx shows WITH ACTUAL LATINX actors, a chance? Not like another show out there *cough* Charmed *cough* Also, the only way that this remake will be a success is if they bank of the friendships between these characters. They’re more important than the romantic relationships, hands down!
Rachael: This is the first time I’ve watched an international series before it’s remade and premieres in the US. I’m very skeptical about a remake, only because I can’t see an improvement on the original. I think it would be successful if you haven’t seen the original first and they follow the same storyline, but I have seen the original. I will not be opposed to giving it a shot, and it may surprise me, but right now I’m fully satisfied with the original.
Ellie: I will give it a chance, but I’m approaching it with some reservation. I think many of the things I mentioned loving about the original version will be difficult for the US version to emulate. We have a tendency to take things to extremes here in the US — we have a ‘more is better’ approach to most aspects of life. I fear that this approach will result in a show that is all of the things I’m so glad the original is not: campy, ridiculous, and over-the-top. I am hopeful that the ABC version will somehow manage to capture and bottle its own version of the Gran Hotel magic, but I’m afraid it will end up being little more than a caricature that embellishes the features that make the original so special. Only time will tell.
Angela: I will have an open mind towards it. In all honesty, I don’t think any remake is ever going to be as amazing as the original Gran Hotel is (and I’ve seen both remakes), but I will definitely give it a try. I like Eva Longoria and I think her shows have been top notch, but my personal opinion is that remakes can be a risk – if it pays off, you’ve introduced a whole new demographic to the original show. If it doesn’t, it takes away the uniqueness of the original show. I am interested to see what themes and motives are the same, and I’m also interested in the personal touch Eva will bring to the remake. If I had to say one thing, for me, the remake will be successful if the casting is done well. The story lines can be exactly the same, but if the cast doesn’t have a rapport, or if there’s not visible chemistry between each person, I think that’s where the remake will lose me.
Lynsey: I actually will be watching but truly, I’m going in already biased against it. I honestly have no expectations it will be anywhere near the level of greatness as the Spanish Gran Hotel. Partly because the show takes place in the present. Gran Hotel has the beautiful period element to it and I really think it adds so much more to the story. It even, I feel, makes the love story more epic, since crossing the boundary lines of employer and employee was quite a scandal. Today? Not so much. Plus, there were no cell phones, no social media, etc. The period element of the Spanish version makes it feel so much less of a soap opera, which is the feel I get with this American version.
Personally, I think there are different elements for different people that make a show successful. An element I think makes a show successful may be entirely different from another person. I mean, there are shows I’ve loved that were cancelled by networks (I’m looking at you nbc), that just make me go, “huh???” and others that keep getting renewed and all I can do is scratch my head over the decision. In reality, it seems the soap opera is a show that sells. Maybe more so on a network like the CW (where Dynasty seems to sit as a reigning night time soap). However, abc also gave us Desperate Housewives, which was quite soapy, and lasted for how many seasons (I jumped ship after they ruined Mike and Susan AND THEN KILLED HIM OFF THE SHOW AFTER THEY GOT BACK TOGETHER – I’M STILL BITTER) so this show may actually appeal to people. For me, the show has to keep that strong love story between Danny and Alicia (this versions’ Julio and Alicia). Without that, it won’t keep my interest. I am the tv watcher who goes into a show looking for potential new ships to obsess over and if that piece isn’t there or isn’t done well, the show will lose me as a viewer.
Jen: Hmm, I’m certainly intrigued. I’d be interested to see if they make any changes – for example, I would have liked the fate of Diego to have been witnessed by more people OR for him to have been brought to justice in a more satisfying way. That might be a personal preference, but as always with remakes I do wonder if they’ll make any adjustments that I might prefer – though this is unlikely with Gran Hotel as I pretty much adored all of it with very little changes necessary! I don’t think anyone could ever play the romance more perfectly than Julio and Alicia – they were just beautiful. I’d almost have to think of it as a completely new entity and not compare in my head because no remake romance will ever be better than those two. I think I’ll watch more out of curiosity than anything else, but because I loved Gran Hotel so much I’ll be thinking of it as an entirely new/different show else I won’t make a fair assessment of it by comparing it too much to the original in my head. Although in all honesty, as with most things, I don’t *really* know why a remake has to be made at all as the original is such a masterpiece.
Sarah: Honestly? I am going to watch as if it were a different show. You can’t compare anything to the original. I am open to enjoy it and maybe even love it. But for me it’s about the time period Gran Hotel was set in, there were more social divides and barriers then there is in the modern day. I won’t feel that same feeling with Julio and Alicia (although i believe in the new show its Danny and Alicia) when it’s just the owner of the hotel’s daughter is “off limits”, because that’s just ‘easy’. Back in 1905 a relationship with a working class young man and a first class women was frowned upon and it was ‘social suicide’, not only that, families would disown children for falling in love with someone who wasn’t from their own class. It was a big deal, so i don’t think you can in any way capture that in the modern day. I also hope, as that won’t be possible, they have Julio and Alicia fight for one another, i won’t believe in their love if its quick and by a few episodes in they are getting it on with other people. What made Gran Hotel beautiful was the love affair between the two, it captured me and kept me on tenterhooks the entire time. I was never bored with any of it and i hope the new show keeps that alive. I am also wary of the Mother being dead in this series, a BIG part of the original was the matriarch Dona Teresa, she was a force to be reckoned with, so having the Father alive and a (evil) Step Mother i guess are her replacements, but one can almost say that no one could replace that women. All in all i’m not super excited about the new series, however colour me intrigued.
Luci: Eh, I saw the trailer and I’ll be honest and say that it didn’t really do anything for me. I mean, maybe it’s because it’s set in modern times and that sort of takes away from the experience of the original, but it feels like it’s completely different. I’ll probably watch the first couple of episodes to try it out, but I’m not going to be holding my breath, waiting for the magic that the original has to happen on my screen.
Gran Hotel is available to stream on Netflix.
Don’t miss out on posts like this! SUBSCRIBE to our monthly newsletter HERE!