Close-up: An Interview with Oona Airola

Q: You played the role of Raija in Juho Kuosmanen’s critically-acclaimed film The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki. How do you look back on the film?

A: I STILL love the film more than any other work I have done as an actor. Not only because it was my first film published, but also because we had a special team and crew spirit.

Of course I can find thousands of things in my own work that I would do better now, but I do not feel the wrong kind of shame for my work. Although shame is usually a big part of an actor’s work. I am proud of the film. And above all, I am happy and thankful that I got the role in the first place.

Q: What were your experiences working with Juho and your fellow cast members?

A: WITH Juho it was easy because we had worked together before in theatre. We were not too afraid of being honest and straight with each other. We were even arguing during filming and I find that as a mark of trust.

Of course we worked everything out later. The most important thing that Juho did was to make acting easier  and he often met us before we started shooting. He also made us meet up as a team. I mean with the ‘main’ crew. We read the script together and talked about it.

Jarkko Lahti & Eero Milonoff were both experienced with the camera and I learned a lot from the both of them. They were supportive towards me.

Q: On that subject, you composed the music for the film with Ykspihlajan Kino-Orkesteri. Can you tell us about your passion for music?

A: I LOVE music more than anything. That is what I cannot live without. The weird thing is why I did not study it longer. I only studied singing as a main subject in conservatory before theatre academy, but I quit my studies and applied to theatre Academy Helsinki – and got in.

I am still dreaming of studying composing one day. I will do when I get old and ugly and no-one calls me to act in their movies anymore [laughs].

But anyway, I am happy to be a member of a few bands and to still have music and singing in my life.

Ykspihlajan Kino-orkesteri is important to me. We are now in Kortfilmfestival Leuven playing the silent films of Juho Kuosmanen. There are two of them: ‘Romu-Mattila & kaunis nainen’ and ‘Salaviinanpolttajat’ (The Moonshiners.).

We play these movies live and we have also Foley artist Heikki Kossi with us live playing the sounds. In these films Ykspihlajan Kino-orkesteri has also composed the music – Miika Snåre, Laura Airola, my sister, and me.

Unfortunately, I could not take part in composing in The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki. I was so busy with other things. Conductor Miika Snåre and my sister Laura did most of the composing work.

I did sing in the film, but I could not have lead-singing parts because people could have recognised my voice. That was a problem because I was also singing in the movie as Raija.


Q: I understand you write many of your own songs and sometimes use pseudolanguages. What is your approach to songwriting?

A: I AM not very good with any instrument. I can play piano and guitar so that I can write songs as I want – but I am not a pro with them. So I guess that is the reason why my melodies are quite abundant. I compensate. I do not understand writing lyrics and harmony separately. I always do them at the same time.

I just love languages and I guess that fake-russian is in my genes because I heard that my grandfather who – when he was drunk – used to sing in Russian even though he did not know a word.

In fakerussian I compose music for my other band “Lada Nuevo”. I would love to learn French, but unfortunately I have yet to do so. It sounds so beautiful that I just love to sing as I think it goes.

Q: I believe theatre is another passion of yours. Do you get different thrills out of music, theatre and film acting? Or are they all part of a love for performance?

A: YES, they are all part of a love for performance. They are all supporting each other and somehow I hope I can go on forever with this beautiful circle of these three things.

Theatre acting is all-in-all for an actor because it is as a forum more about “the art of acting” than a movie. A movie is more the art of cinematographer and director. This is only my opinion and people see things in different ways.

Theatre happens all the time and I can train in different ways every day – in every rehearsal and in every show. It is also more physical than on-camera work and that makes it a more developing experience for an ”acting body”. Also theatre is harder in terms of rehearsing and teaching.

Music is completely its own thing and personally I am not sure if have ever reached the same state of calmness from acting as from making music. I am trying to reach that feeling with acting as well all the time.

Q: You must have had a very creative upbringing. Was that the case?

A: MY father is the artist of my life. He is a completely crazy cellist who can play anything by cello or violin.

Also he plays in the same position as cello with a small violin on his lap. I guess I have basically learned everything important and smart from him in terms of art.

My mother is a journalist and general benefactor. She is the most unselfish person I know. Then of course I have three sisters and one brother who all are my most important idols.

Q: I read that you also enjoy comedy and would love to do more projects in that genre. Why do you think you are you drawn to comedy?

A: I LOVE and adore rhythmically skilled actors. Comedy is definitely about rhythm and timing. I have always admired actors who can make me smile and immediately afterwards cry – exactly in that order.

I do not think that comedy means only slapstick or farce although I appreciate those genres a lot. But I actually admire most those artists – writers, directors and actors – who handle the secrets of black or somehow surprising humour.

My humour is quite sick – maybe because I have been watching horror films and thrillers since I was five years old. Also my upbringing was not very stable after all because we have pretty weird kin and we were living in a so called “weird/fun-house” where anyone was welcome anytime.

I learned to meet different kinds of people and learned to read the world – and us humans – in a quite humorous way.

Q: Do you have any comedy idols or favourite actors?

A: IT is so hard to say. These questions are always so hard [laughs] because there are simply too many wonderful actors.

Lately, or at some point, these few actors have had a huge impact on me: Michelle Williams, Hannu-Pekka Björkman, Devid Striesow, Sandra Hüller, Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep and thousands of others.


Q: You have an English speaking role in the Sorceress. How did you find working in English and are you interested in more projects like this?

A: THE film is by writer and director Naama Kates. She plays Nina and I play a librarian called Katja. They meet and get together but then there are some problems, mostly because of Nina’s past.

I was happy when Naama told me that I was not supposed to speak English with a fluent American accent because Katja is Russian. Also I was told to change the text so that it would fit my mouth better. And some scenes we just basically wrote it all over again on location.

I have to admit that without rehearsing it was frightening to go to shootings, but I think we managed it well. Nowadays it would already be easier because we are always working on self-tapes in English. It gets easier just by doing it. But that time I had never acted in English before.

In my next film I am going to act in German. There is lots of work to do, but I love these kinds of challenges. It is never useless to learn languages and when there is possibility to learn one beside a dream job, it is a perfect situation.

I definitely hope to get more international work. It is so refreshing and inspiring to work with people from different countries and I think it always does good for art as well.

Q: We are almost at the end of the year. Do you have any goals for 2018 and beyond?

A: I REALLY hope I will have some time to advance my music – solo material. It has been standing there as demos and on paper for way too long.

But I have decided to concentrate on acting as long as I get interesting offers. I think I would not do just any role in the world. I want to stay and stand behind my principles.
There is a mission that I am running – like many other actresses as well – that I want to play active and somehow interesting female parts.

Then, when I realize that I am about to do just those basic sidewatching “traditional” female roles, I can quit and apply to that composer-institute. Heh?

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