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Ivana Baquero returns to the world of fantasy in her latest role as Eretria on MTV’s “The Shannara Chronicles.”

Photography by John Hong
Styling by Adrien Rabago
Makeup by Justin Tyme for Solo Artists/Tyme Cosmetics
Hair by Benjamin Terry for Solo Artists/Oribe Haircare & T3 Micro
Story by Ethel Navales
Video by Jonathan Navales

Imagine walking into an audition you’ve spent weeks preparing for. You deliver the first few lines with ease, but a single glance at the director tells you something is wrong. He stops your audition, and to your horror, you discover that you were sent the wrong lines to study. You’re handed the correct script and given just 20 minutes to memorize it and re-do the audition. And finally, imagine all of this happening when you’re just 11 years old.

Even now at the age of 22, Ivana Baquero recalls this nerve-wracking experience with vivid detail. Talented beyond her years, Baquero ended up nailing her newly memorized lines and was called back for a final audition. This second time — where she had more than a mere 20 minutes to prepare — she brought the onlookers to tears. Famed director Guillermo del Toro instantly declared her Ofelia, the lead character in what would become one of his most critically acclaimed films, “Pan’s Labyrinth.” The 2006 Spanish film, which is both a war film and a dark fantasy, dominated the awards season, was given a 22-minute standing ovation at its Cannes Film Festival release, and boasts a score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.

“It was an emotional and beautiful process,” Baquero says of her experience as Ofelia, the award-winning role that catapulted her into early success. “It was like going to a very good acting school because Guillermo was such a great director and I learned so much. That was probably my most favorite part of the project.”

Though incredibly young, Baquero was certainly no stranger to the limelight. She began her acting career three years prior to landing her role on “Pan’s Labyrinth” and already had a handful of films under her belt before walking into the audition.

“I would have never thought that I’d end up becoming an actress,” Baquero admits. “It was something that was very far from anything my family has ever done — they’re all judges, architects, and engineers. But at the same time, I loved putting on a show.” Thankfully, Baquero’s incredibly supportive parents took notice of this and treated acting like an extracurricular. So when other kids went to basketball practice, she went to shoot a film. And just like any other child with a hobby, she was only allowed to continue pursuing her passion as long as she kept up her grades.

“Sometimes I left for long periods, maybe for three or four months at a time,” she says. “I would come back, and kids had formed their own little group of friends and had moved on. So it was rough when I was a little kid in school. But because my family, teachers, and close friends were so supportive, it was not something that was traumatic or caused me to not want to act anymore.” With a healthy support system behind her, she continued balancing her acting career and in 2009, landed her first American role in the horror film “The New Daughter.”

These days, Baquero has returned to the world of fantasy in MTV’s “The Shannara Chronicles,” a drama adapted from a novel series by Terry Brooks. Baquero stars as Eretria, who bands together with two elves, Will (Austin Butler) and Amberle (Poppy Drayton), to go on a quest to save the kingdom from being invaded by demons. “It sounds a little like ‘Lord of the Rings,’ which is good for my case because I’m a big, big fantasy fan,” she laughs.

Eretria is quite different from many of Baquero’s previous roles. Raised by a band of thieves, Eretria spends much of the first season battling between the person she wants to be and the person she was raised to be. “You know, when I got this script, it was easy to judge her because initially she makes the wrong decisions, and she seems like the villain (which was actually a lot of fun),” says Baquero. “But then you realize that deep inside she just wants to overcome what she’s going through. She wants to get away from her background and from her abusive clan. And I think that’s her journey in the first season. She goes from being selfish to really realizing that there’s more to this world, so she starts trusting and she starts learning about herself.

“She’s a great character [to play],” Baquero continues, “not only physically because I got to do a lot of action and amazing things with her, but also emotionally. I’ve learned a lot from her, and it’s been a great journey.”

In fact, the action scenes for the show were so intense that the actors were flown to New Zealand a month before shooting to train daily and practice stunts, horseback riding, and sword and dagger fighting. Though Baquero admits that this role has been one of the most physically challenging things she’s ever had to do, it’s also one of the reasons she’s having so much fun. It also helps that she gets along with her other cast members incredibly well.

“It was six months of laughs because we all lived in the same hotel, and that allowed us to become like a real family.” She laughs before admitting, “All of us had to keep a diet during the week, but occasionally I would sneak a pizza into the hotel, and sometimes I would get caught by different cast members. They each think they’re the only ones who know, and I always told them never to tell anyone else, so they probably all think they have a secret against me.”

In truth, the amazing co-stars and exciting stunts are just icing on the cake. For Baquero — who is an avid fantasy fan and has often said that she wouldn’t have minded being a tree or a rock in “Lord of the Rings” just to have been a part of that world — this experience on “Shannara” has been a dream come true. “There’s no way to describe how it is to be part of [the show] or to have people excited about it,” she gushes. “There are a lot of fans of the actual book, so there’s a big fandom behind it. All I can say is that I really just hope I do it justice. I just couldn’t feel luckier to be part of this project.”

The first season of “The Shannara Chronicles” may be behind her, but Baquero isn’t slowing down anytime soon. She recently shot “Sister of Mine,” a movie she describes as completely different from anything she’s ever done. Then, in a couple of months, she’s off to shoot season two of “Shannara,” all on top of pursuing a degree in law. “I realized there’s a lot of downtime when you’re acting,” she says. “Yes, you have to travel and work, but you spend a lot of time on an airplane or in a hotel or in your trailer. So I wanted to fill in those empty spaces, and I felt like studying was probably the best way rather than trying to start a whole new venture or business. So I decided to study law.”

Baquero admits that juggling everything all at once can get quite stressful and requires quite a bit of sacrifice. “But it’s worth it for me,” she says, smiling. “I am where I want to be, and I’m working towards what I want to be in the future.”

The entire first season of “The Shannara Chronicles” is available on Netflix.

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