Q: You play a lead role in Kirill Mikhanovsky’s film Coming To You – out in cinemas in 2018. Can you tell us about the project and the character you play?
A: YES. I am very excited to be part of this movie, and it is a special project for me for many reasons. Coming To You is an indie movie directed by super-talented director Kirill Mikhanovsky. I would say it is a mystical thriller of re-birth and re-invention: it is a story about an assassin and the choices he makes until he finds his soulmate, played by me – a caregiver to an elderly man.
I loved working on this role because my character (as well as the male lead) constantly revolves around key questions: Where do you begin? Whom do you trust? What is the right thing to do?
It was fascinating for me to see how critical these are at every level and moment of our lives – no matter what stage you are going through. For this reason I think the film and my character will resonate well with audiences.
Q: This year you acted in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s widely-acclaimed film Loveless. What were your experiences working on the film and with Andrey?
A: I THINK for any actor it is a blessing to work with a director such as Andrey Zvyagintsev – no matter how big or small the part is.
Andrey has a background as an actor, which makes him a delicate and sympathetic director. He knows exactly what you can or cannot do – more than you yourself. He knows how to steer you in a way that you can deliver your best. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to do exactly what the director is looking for from you without constantly questioning yourself.
By working with him and seeing him work, I realized that all he cares about is to speak the truth about the world that surrounds us – in great detail. He believes that it is his artistic duty and he has this incredible capacity to convince all people on set to deliver.
Andrey once said that “if we stopped fighting for the truth, we only fight for ourselves”.
He fights for the truth with every frame, every movement, every detail, every single spoken word on camera – and it gives an actor an incredible freedom to create.
Q: I believe you have a background in ballet and dance. How did these disciplines help prepare you for acting?
A: YES. I trained as a ballet dancer for a long time and what it gave me is a sense of dedication and tenacity I think you need in order to achieve anything – especially in the world of physical movement.
You just get this strong work ethic and stamina which I find translates very well to acting: doing preparation work for a character; being able to take directions and make adjustments; and being able to do a scene over and over again until it is good enough.
Q: Theatre is also a huge passion of yours. Where does your love for the stage come from?
A: SINCE an early age I was used to being on stage in my ballet performances, but at some point I realized that physical movement was not enough for me and I wanted to do more with my thoughts and emotions. Using a writer’s world allowed these thoughts and emotions to get released and for the lines of the text to flourish.
When you are on stage, the real world just drops away for a while and it is pretty intense – so much like life.
In Russia, as well as in England, historically there was no separation between theatre- and film-actors. Here, actors say that they may work on a movie but they “forever serve” the theatre, and that is how I feel as well.
Q: Is there a stage character you dream of playing in the future? Or a play you would love to act in on the stage?
A: OH, there are so many characters I dream to play: Anna Karenina, Grushenka (from Brothers Karamazov), Lady Macbeth. My big dream is to portray Marlene Dietrich one day – the woman fascinates me. Basically, at the moment I am down to play strong female characters who have something for which they are willing to fight.
In the near future, I would love to play the lead in Therese Raquin by Zola. Her story is often judged as one of lust, madness and destruction – but what interests me most in this character is that it gives us the window into the process of the honest examination of human nature.
Also this novel for me has a strong feminine angle, and talks about such themes that are particularly poignant in today’s environment: from betrayal to suicide and psychological torture in women’s world.
Q: On your website you are described as ‘mysterious and charming and also slightly volatile and dangerous.’ How do you feel these qualities, particularly the last two, affect your approach to acting? Are you always open to speak your mind?
A: I THINK it actually helps me in my acting. It helps by allowing me to be open to anything new and not judge anything or anyone: to be free, to dive into a story or personality.
Volatile and dangerous? I think that comes from the stereotype of my Russian background – the reality is somewhat different. Though I would say that I am comfortable speaking my mind in rehearsals and on set, which so far have apparently been constructive for the productions in which I have been involved.
Q: What draws you to a character and what kind of stories are you interested in?
A: WHEN I work on a character I am mostly interested in her motivation, what drives her, why is she doing what she is doing. I love strong characters, who are able and willing to make choices and decisions and are not afraid to lose.
Women are strong and brave in their essence and I feel the need to bring this idea through the characters I portray. I feel it is my responsibility as a young woman actor and a creative person.
Acting is not about dressing up, it is about stripping away artefacts to find the essence of the narrative. The answer in the stories that interest me is always the same. And every single time I am surprised – love.
We do not know what it is and we cannot explain it – we can only feel it. However, when love appears, obstacles appear as well – and sometimes the most frightening and challenging ones.
I perform different characters – simple, complex, intelligent, flighty – but every single one of them I try to fill with this essence which is the most powerful thing in life.
Q: What are your ambitions for the future? Is there anyone in particular that you would love to work with?
A: I HAVE never worked with a female director and I would love to have the opportunity to do so one day. It is so wonderful there are so many new female faces now. I just have a sense that it will feel both different and liberating.
As for the big names that I admire, the list is very long. Yorgos Lanthimos, Cristian Mungiu, Xavier Dolan, Kathryn Bigelow and Andrea Arnold. I just hope that I will do good work and therefore one day lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with one of these visionaries.