SWEDISH-BORN actor Malin Barr joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about her upcoming role in Skyscraper, life in New York City and her short film Hedda Needs Help.
Q: Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Skyscraper looks set to be one of the biggest films of the summer. What was it like working on this huge project?
A: WORKING on big sets is always really exciting. I got the call from my manager that I was booked for the film while on an airplane from Sweden to New York – and had to fly to LA the next day.
With a quick turnaround, I received the finished dialogue for the scene upon my arrival in LA . I have never played a news anchor before and working with a teleprompter and long, wordy dialogue was a bit of a challenge. It was also my first time filming at Warner Brothers Studios in front of a giant green-screen. I had such a great time. Believe it or not I only actually got to do two takes. Being prepared is everything. And having fun.
Q: You were born in Stockholm, Sweden and now reside in the hectic hustle and bustle of New York. Can you tell us about the circumstances that led you to New York and how you have adapted to the lifestyle change?
A: I MOVED to New York after going to college to do musical theatre and dance in London. At that time I was more focused on a dance career and my dream was to be on Broadway. I worked with a contemporary dance company for a while and did some off Broadway shows but got more passionate about film and TV. I mostly now work in film, TV as well as theatre. But I am still passionate about dance and regularly take classes.
Oh, Sometimes when I go back I forget how calm and clean Stockholm is.
I love the hustle and energy of New York and honestly believe it drives me to be a better actress. I constantly have multiple balls in the air – pending projects and auditions and castings as well as writing my own projects of course when there is time.
I think this pace fits me better, I was hungry to jump into work and the business is not as developed in Sweden as in New York. There is so much going on in New York whether it is bigger or indie projects and this is originally why I wanted to move to the city – to be surrounded by other inspiring, hustling actors and people in a city that never sleeps.
I love New York and would not leave but I also miss Stockholm, my family and friends. I hope that in the future I can work in both countries.
Q: There is a great history of Swedish actors finding success in America. How have you found the experience of being a foreign-born actor forging a path abroad?
A: YEY, go Swedes! Especially in the past few years we have had a lot of talented Swedish actors and actresses succeed in the US.
I am really glad for them and I think it generally brings up the interest in the search for other foreign actors, so it is good for us all. The industry is going the right way in terms of integrating projects from different countries and cultures and I hope that it will get to a point where it does not matter where anyone is from. I strongly believe it benefits everyone and will create better and more interesting stories.
I do not believe it has been easier for me as a Swedish actress choosing to live and work in New York. For one, the process of getting papers and visas to stay and work is not an easy process. For me, it was also a must to learn an American accent as well as other regional accents to not limit myself to Swedish roles.
However, I love going in for Swedish roles here and it has given me some great chances to meet with big casting offices and pitch for bigger roles. There is a limited amount of Swedish actors in New York and I am thankful for that.
Q: You recently co-wrote, produced and starred in a short film titled Hedda Needs Help. The clip I have seen is hilarious – and I look forward to seeing the whole project. What can you tell us about the film and your experience of putting it together?
A: THANK you. I am glad you liked it. It was an experience and I am so glad I decided to write something and create my own work. It truly pushes you to be a more creative actor and I recommend every actor to do the same.
I started writing Hedda Needs Help while on vacation in Amsterdam visiting my sister in 2016. I decided to not come back to New York after the summer without a script and so I wrote it.
I wrote so many drafts before showing it to anyone else, feeling self-conscious about whether it was good enough. But as I shared it with friends I got some great responses. I also picked my co-creator Lisa Baron and that was the best thing that could have happened to me. We had so much fun writing, creating and filming this quirky comedy.
I am so thankful to have had a partner in crime during the process and the support of family and friends. It is a lot of work and we were so lucky to have had an amazing crew and cast.
We had a good festival run including Hollywood Comedy Shorts, Cannes Court Metrage, Broad Humor FF and Laughlin FF. We also had some nice nominations and prizes, including Best Film at Female Feedback FF Toronto, Nominated for Best Comedy at Story International FF and Honorable Mention at New Renaissance FF UK. We are also excited to share with you that Hedda Needs Help has been picked up for distribution by SHORTS TV.
With this, we would like to say goodbye to the festival run of the film and send it off to online distribution. How better to do this than with a screening in New York. If you are in New York this weekend, please come hang out with us and watch the film.
Q: Do you want to continue to work behind the camera – as well as in front of it – and have an active role in creating your own work?
A: MY main focus is in front of the camera. That is what I am truly passionate about – taking on different interesting roles and putting myself into, exploring, learning and understanding the situations these characters are in. As for writing, I will absolutely keep doing this, I think it is a great tool not just to stay active and creative as a filmmaker and actor but also to create stories and roles that are important to me – and roles I might not typically get casted in. It is an amazing gift to be able to create stories and share with the world.
Also, believe or not, but I do not get brought in for many comedic, goofy roles. So this was also the idea when creating Hedda Needs Help. I have a few short and a number of feature projects in the works and I hope to have something in pre-production soon.
Q: Summer is upon us and many people will be thinking about their beach bodies. I know dance and fitness play a big role in your life. Can you talk about your routine and how it (if it does) helps you as a performer?
A: I THINK the most important thing is feeling comfortable with yourself. So whatever you need to do that, that is my advice.
I understand this sounds simple and I know the crazy ideals and pressure this world puts on all of us to look a specific way.
I have danced my entire life and have had extreme pressure on me to look a specific way and keep slim and think about what I eat. I dealt with eating disorders for a few years of my life. I think this is a common problem and believe it is something we need to get better at talking about. We need to keep creating a world where we focus on the benefit of being healthy and actively fit – not unhealthy or obsessively fit.
I believe staying active is the best medicine to keep a healthy mind and body. Even though I do not dance every day now, I keep active and work out more or less every day – all sorts of fitness, sports and dance. Recently my favourite thing is kickboxing.
Q: Where do you want to take your career and what is next for you?
A: I WANT to keep working in film and TV but I would also love to work with some of my favourite theatres in New York – The Public, Playwrights Horizons and Roundabout Theatre. I hope to get to work on some exciting projects this coming year.
Next up for me are a few short film projects shooting over the summer, a TV pilot. Later, in the fall, a horror feature film, Box, by talented writer and director Devereux Milburn. We are shooting in New England and I play the lead against another fantastic actor whom I am not sure I can mention by name yet.
I am also working on a new play, ‘Two Sides‘ at Planet Connections Theatre Festival this summer. It is by the fantastic Alexandra Siladi. I am so thankful to be constantly busy. Getting to work, learn and explore new roles with inspiring, fantastic people.