RAVSHANA Kurkova is one of Europe’s most prominent actresses. In a wide-ranging interview, Ravshana spoke openly with Prestridge² about her challenges on stage, how she chooses projects, her favourite characters and much more.
Q: You were born into a family of actors and had one of your first roles at the age of 12. Did you ever feel pressure to get into acting or was it always your passion?
A: I PERFORMED my first leading role when I was 12. I did not like acting at first because it was tough physically and morally. It was cold and I had to repeat every scene several times since it had to be shot from different sides – such a hectic atmosphere on set. I promised myself I would never become an actress.
But it was predestined. Our childhood forms us and while growing up I watched my dad’s theatre rehearsals and my mother’s film shootings. It does not matter what I say, it had a great influence on me. It was destiny.
Q: Last year you received rave reviews for your lead role in Maxim Didenko’s highly acclaimed theatre production Black Russian. Can you talk about the production and how challenging the role was?
A: THREE years ago, before my first theatre play Unbearably Long Hugging – by a famous European play-writer and director Ivan Vyrypaev – I felt crazy nervous. I had a psychological barrier and a fear of stage as I had been working in film since I was 12 and I had never acted in theatre before that production. I managed to overcome my fear only after performing 30 plays per month.
Black Russian by Maxim Didenko helped me with that. It was a unique performance – the first big immersive play made in Russia.
We had two to three performances a day and each was different: it depended on the spectators who were engaged in the play. In such cases actors are in some way like psychologists. Of course, the direction is set by the director, but you also have to navigate by yourself while playing. So although I have performed in Black Russian 92 times, all of them were completely different. It was an outstandingly interesting experience and I suppose it helped me a lot to overcome my ordinary artistic patterns.
Q: You are one of Russia’s most respected actors – in theatre, film and television. How do you pick the projects you work on? Is it dependent on the story or the people you will be working with?
A: RECENTLY I have been feeling more responsible for my characters with whom I am associated and started to choose the roles more attentively. Apart from good scripts and the team, it is important that the role I am playing has a constructive message. It is great when your character gives the right goalpost to the spectator and instils tolerance.
The spectators’ response to our series In Our Yard on the First Russian Channel meant a lot to me as many wrote that the yard-keeper Mavlyuda’s character made them change their opinion on guest workers and immigrants in the country.
I received many messages on social networks, such as: ‘We have started treating people who clean our yards more attentively and better.’ It became obvious that among such workers sometimes are educated people who are obliged to do that job temporarily due to different circumstances. Such reaction to your work is more than great.
Q: How do you deal with the fame and attention that comes with your profession? Do you ever find time to relax?
A: I FIND comfort in my crazy schedule. I am focused on my work now like I have never been before and I am absolutely happy that there is such a variety of roles and demands. My relation to enhanced attention is philosophical. In our profession today you have it and tomorrow you do not, and vice-versa. You should not have to concentrate on it.
Q: Are you interested in doing work behind the camera, whether it be directing or screenwriting?
A: I WOULD like to cooperate with talented script writers and work as a co-producer, but not a filmmaker. Being a director is something too cool, too difficult. It is like being a genius mathematician and a genius painter at the same time.
Q: In 2015, you had a role in American action film Hardcore Henry. How was that experience and are you interested in doing more English-speaking/American acting?
A: I played a very small part in Hardcore Henry – I just passed by my friend’s set and took part in one scene.
My experience in The Brave Ones, a film directed by William Kaufman, was more interesting. It is purely an action film with gunfighting and chasing. I performed the leading female role, my partners were Louis Mandylor and Armand Assante. The premiere will be in 2018.
Almost all the stunts I performed by myself – I practiced with the best stuntmen of Sofia. It is a criminal drama where I played an undercover policewoman in a criminal gang. Drug and human trafficking, good ones against the bad ones. I was the only girl among cool guys and upstaged them all (smiles). It was a very exciting shooting.
Producers of The Brave Ones invited me to take part in their next project in spring 2018 which we are currently negotiating. Of course, playing in another language is an interesting and different experience.
First, challenges only attract me. Secondly, due to flexibility of my appearance I often have to play in different languages. God save the language coaches. Graduating from music school and having an ear for music helps me learn the lines and speak without an accent (laughing).
Q: Speaking of Hollywood, there has been a rally cry for diversity and better roles for women in recent years. Are there similar hurdles facing women in Russian and Eastern European cinema?
A: THE lack of diversity in roles and projects of high quality is a general problem here in Russia – not only for women, but for men as well. We are not pampered with high-quality scripts and even if they are interesting – not stereotyped characters – there is not a diversity in them.
However, the film industry in our country is still developing. From year to year it is becoming better – not as fast as we would like – but still there are some major changes. Female characters are not “serving” male characters any more or living in the shade. They have become independent, sometimes they are even the main line of the story. As, for example, is my character Kira in the TV Series Tough Men’s World.
Q: You have enjoyed an illustrious career so far. Can you pick out a favourite moment or favourite project you have worked on?
A: IT was the adaptation of TV series Scandal where I play the prototype of Kerry Washington’s character in the Russian version the series called Tough Men’s World.
When you live in the character for four months, it becomes your favourite. Also playing Mavlyuda from the In Our Yard TV Series was important to me. Mavlyuda came from Samarkand in search for her lost husband. In order to provide for her three children, being an educated doctor, she works as a yard and house keeper and sometimes as a nurse.
I like Mavlyuda a lot – she is a strong, wise, indifferent, courageous, honest and good woman, who managed to save her personality and dignity despite all the difficulties in her life.
In addition to being a relevant social topic, this series is very kind and bright – about people’s relationships, funny prejudices, differences and similarities in mentality. It is about the importance of helping people and staying human – the fact that we all seek fairness, love, peace and a better life for our children and wish to meet a person that understands us.
Mavlyuda is so dear to me because she has much in common with my grandma. While working on the character I was inspired by her. After a huge success among the spectators this year it was decided to renew for second season – the shooting has already started.
Q: Looking to the future, what are your ambitions? Is there anyone you aspire to?
A: I WANT to continue this path. I feel that I am only at the beginning of my journey. I do not have plans now – I only have questions and a goal. I am going forward. It is very interesting what is waiting for me.
Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
A: A FEW days ago, I joined the team of The White Crow film, directed by Ralph Fiennes. It is a movie about a legendary ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev, a man who had an excitingly tough life and begged for political asylum while touring in Paris at the time of the Soviet Union and stayed abroad. I have a small part, but an important one. I play Farida, Nureyev’s mother.
She had a great influence on his personality and in the post-war period she enrolled little Rudy into a ballet school against her husband’s will. The film has a fantastic crew. The script writer is David Hare, the cameraman Mike Eley, costume artist Madeline Fontaine. And Ralph himself is an incredibly sensible and attentive, meticulous filmmaker. It is pure happiness to work with such people.