Cardinal Walter, Varesino and former head of the Vatican Pavilion at Expo 2015, is forced to move to Rome, a city that he hates to devote himself to the management of the Jubilee of the Pope. Flanked by a picturesque entourage, he must cope with the organisational tasks. A surreal and tragicomic series, Cardinal Walter is sorely tested by adversity. He must deal with the Pope’s immature advisers, a silly Swiss guard and irresistible air of Pope Francis himself, who – without ever appearing on screen – continues to disrupt Rome and Italy.

We spoke to director Marco Castaldi about the creation of this web series. Marco has won previous awards for Il Camerlengo including 2016 Best Director at Terminillo Film Festival, 2016 Best Comedy , Best Directing , Best Scene at Rome Web Awards and 2016 Best Italian Series at Roma Web Fest.

When basing this series around the context of the Pope and the Vatican, were there many controversial issues you needed to be wary of?
The controversial issues were obviously those that we wanted to get to, but approaching them in a fresh, new way. We wanted to show the Catholic Church as a big, over-the-top corporation run by a guy that loves cracking jokes while also being one the most powerful men on the planet. But we actually wanted to used the Vatican City as a metaphor of Italy’s most grotesque side, with all its freaks and Macchiavelli-wannabes.

The set and costumes are essential to the look of the series. What kind of research did you undertake to source them and ensure they looked authentic?
We were so incredibly lucky to have our wonderful Noemi Intino as the costume designer. She is a true pro and has gotten into deep research and went absolutely crazy to find all the right stuff. Probably, the most challenging item for her has been the Swiss Guard’s halberd. But she is a really passionate person and realised that this kind of setting was something very unconventional that rarely gets made.

Was Cardinal Walter based on anyone in particular?
When Jacopo wrote this character two years ago, he had in mind an older, northern-Italian version of Kenny Powers from Eastbound and Down. Cardinal Walter is the typical arrogant, gung-ho guy that thinks he knows how to handle the hardest situation better than anybody else but is obviously wrong most of the time. At the time, we thought that this was the general tendency of the global political landscape. We are happy to say that the last US elections have proven us right.

Do you have any future plans for this series?
We would obviously love to expand the “Camerlengo-verse” and we already have the second season’s episode breakdown ready together with a couple of scripts. Without going into spoiler-territory, let’s say that it builds up to a bigger final showdown than season one. We only need the money! Oz, help us out!

What is unique about your series?
Probably its main character, cardinal Walter. He is a mean, too-human figure that has been ahead of this time and age, one full year before Paolo Sorrentino’s The Young Pope, if I might add. (We had uruguayan soccer player Alvaro Recoba’s picture sitting on Cardinal Walter’s desk waaaay before his Napoli trident Hamsik, Higuain and Insigne ones…). And I don’t know how we would have written him today: as Matt Stone and Trey Parker recently said, the world has gone so completely nuts that satire has become reality. How can you make fun of something that is becoming frightfully un-funny?

What are the challenges you came across making your series and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge we have faced was certainly the budget. Our goal was to make a series that did not seem independent, even though it was. We have succeeded in this thanks to the professionalism of all the crew and the cast, who have worked without thinking of the salary but thinking the good success of the project.

How did you approach the marketing of your series?
Our secret was to keep up with the news. We were able to start airing the day before the beginning of the Pope Francis Jubilee and this allowed us to reach as many people as possible. In this sense, our distributor helped us to involve various national newspapers.

What was your experience with web series before creating your own?
This is my first web series. First I was assistant director for movies and television series.

What advice would you give to emerging creators?
Even if it sounds like a clichè, I believe that I would tell them to be brave, to do what THEY want to do. We live an incredible age, where with a little effort and a lot of passion you can create works that can be watched by millions of human beings. It won’t be easy, but never give up. So my advice is to chase your dreams even when they seem unattainable. Never stop experiencing because the best things arise from research and discovery.