Close-up: An Interview with Maiken Schmidt

Q: You recently starred in Priit Paasuke’s film The End of the Chain. Can you tell us more about it and the character you play (the Waitress)?

A: THE story is based on my course mate Paavo Piik’s play The End of the Chain – originally a theatre play in Tallinn City Theatre. The main lead is the waitress who is working in a lonely hamburger restaurant at the edge of the city.

One morning she receives a note that the hamburger chain will be closed and this is her last day.

After that things happen or to be exact, customers with different problems in their lives start appearing. One young man also comes and stays longer. The waitress notices it all and also what is happening to her.

It is a story about being in a chain, to be or not to be brave enough to change things and start all over again. Being in a moment and having the courage to do what you really love.

Of course this is only some of my thoughts [smiles].

Q: The film has a wonderful style. What was it like working with director Priit Paasuke and his team?

A: I LIKE the colours and lights of this film. I think in some way many of us were beginners when we did this movie. I had never done a lead role before and the size and responsibility of it was a new thing for me.

For Priit it was also the first full movie he had done so we were testing and trying as best as we could. The shooting time was short so I think the crew was concentrating and hard working.

I also admired camera operator – Meelis Veeremets – with his calm nature and professional skills.

Q: Can you tell us about your background. Have you always wanted to be an actor?

A: I STUDIED choreography at Tallinn University for three years and after that some years later I went to the Estonian Academy of Theatre and Music to study acting for 4 years.

I think my path has just grown in that direction. Recently I found out that when I was 11 years old I wrote in my diary that I would love to be an actress one day.

I had forgotten this thought for many years. I was too shy and back in that time dancing and sport was more of my style. But now I feel that it all had to go this way and I appreciate it.

Q: You are currently acting in a production of Macbeth at the Tallinn City Theatre. How are you finding that role?

A: I AM one of the witches. Lady is played by our beautiful and talented Hele Kõrve. It is directed by Finnish director Anti Mikkola and this time he puts the story into one Finnish-like swimming and sauna union and the style is 1990s.

Maiken Schmidt in Of Mice and Men (Image by Siim Vahur)

We use a mix of verse and simple text and it shows that in big or small communities the problems of human nature – enviousness, the lust for power and madness – are always the same.

Q: You have had a long association with Tallinn City Theatre. How important has the theatre been to your career? Do you have a favourite character or production from your time there?

A: I HAVE been in that theatre almost six years now. Still a short time I would say. I really love my job and the theatre family there. It is quite unique nowadays that we still have repertoire theatres – the system where actors can grow old together, with their own dressing room and familiar stuff.

In some ways it is complicated and some say it is not constructive, but on the other hand you can have magical things happening between people you know so well and who you trust. So I think it suits me.

About my favourite character, I really enjoyed playing in Three Days of Rain with two of my colleagues. We saw it many years ago in London with James McAvoy and we really liked it. I was honoured to play both female characters – Nan and Lina – in it. But it was just after school so I think if I could see my presentation now, I would change it a lot.

But actually my favourite play in our theatre is Karin. Indrek. Tõde ja Õigus. 4 (Karin. Indrek. Truth and Justice.4) based on a novel of our big national author A.H Tammsaare and directed by Elmo Nüganen. It is so big and a moving story about human relationships. In my opinion, very well played and directed. I recommend it.

Q: What are your motivations as an actor? Why do you love performing?

A: I REALLY enjoy the analytical part of the job – why we behave the way we do. What is human nature? What shapes us? It helps us to be more emphatic in our real lives also, to understand. And as in theatre we have to be lawyers of our characters, it helps not to judge so quickly in everyday life.

Image by Renee Altrov

I also enjoy the technical skills and how to develop them in me. I love movies and theatre plays where actors are really alive and organic. How they think and what they use to accomplice that.

Playing in movies is interesting but can also be lonely and a technical job. Playing in theatre with partners with whom you can start every evening all over again and move to the direction where the wind blows and find new things, is also exciting.

Q: We recently spoke to Rainer Sarnet and have an interview coming up with Kadri Kõusaar. With streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, there will be more global eyes on such talented Estonian filmmakers and actors as yourself. Do you feel this is an exciting time for Estonian cinema?

A: OF course. In our little Estonia we are trying harder every time and things are getting better every year. I mean everything – technical equipment, actors and crews professionalism and story-telling skills. And we also have such beautiful land and nature here. This has been hidden from world movie makers so far. We have the potential.

Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

A: MY biggest project right now is to have a child in the spring and become a good mother.

But in my professional life, soon we will finish one big movie Truth and Justice (this is the first part of the novel of A.H Tammsaare). It is coming up in the beginning of 2019 and the story is about Estonians back in 19th century – the time and people – both different and the same as we are nowadays.

It is a beautifully written story. Our director is one of our great young filmmakers – Tanel Toom, – who studied in London and some years ago won the Student Academy Award for honorary foreign film for his movie The Confession.

Title image by Anu Hammer

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