Close-up: An Interview With Karina Kolokolchykova

Actress Karina Kolokolchykova spoke to Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge about her upcoming role in Abdellatif Kechiche’s Mektoub, My Love, her identity, working with Alice Waddington, and more.

Q: You play Anastasia in Abdellatif Kechiche’s ‘Mektoub, My Love’ – which arrives in UK cinemas early next year. How was your experience working on the film and with Abdellatif?

A: It was a very special experience for me because I fell in love with his work after Blue Is The Warmest Colour. I was very honoured when he chose me to participate in his movie.

I first had a small appearance on the beach of Sitges. I remember he asked me if I liked Tarkovsky and watching him take his long walks next to the water, with his head down, thinking, and getting inspired.

After a couple of weeks, I got a call from his assistant. She told me that he would like me to travel to Portugal to film more scenes. I was really excited. I flew to Porto the next day and we filmed the scenes in the hotel. In a way, it was very chaotic. There wasn’t a fixated script or anything. Most of the time, he invited us to improvise, though he always guided us during the process. So, many of the reactions you see on screen are genuine.

I learnt a lot from him. Looking back I feel like there is no “right” way of working on set. I read a book some time ago that had about 20 interviews with the most famous and successful directors, and none of them worked the same way. And the fact that so many moments in the movie were improvised and created right there, adds it a lot of authenticity and magic.

The morning I was flying home, Abdellatif sat with me next to the piano in the reception of the hotel and thanked me for working with him and hugged me. I think I will never forget that generous moment.

Q: I believe you were born in Ukraine and later moved to Spain. Can you tell us more about your background and how you became interested in acting?

A: I acted since I was little. I participated in many plays in my country. In Spain, I graduated in Journalism because my dad asked me to study something more “serious and stable”. I felt that I had to fulfill that task to be able to do what I really wanted to do later on. I worked at the EFE agency, had some other jobs and at the same time studied acting in Madrid with actor and director Iñaki Aierra.

Later on, I was lucky enough to get into a very good agency in Madrid that represents many artists that I admire. From that point, I started to work on serious projects.


Q: You have a role in Daniel Horvath’s short film ‘Mama Who Am I’, which I believe explores a person’s cultural plurality. Tell us about it and whether it made you think about your own identity?

A: Daniel and I met on set while filming a teaser for an action movie. We connected instantly. I told him about a short story that I wrote and I remember he listened to me very carefully and seemed to understand everything that I wanted to express with that love story. Without even knowing me, he was so supportive about this project and asked me to send it to him. We became best friends after that.

He is an amazing actor and I trusted him to film my castings and even direct me during the process. He never lets me go without getting the perfect performance. One day, he asked to meet and told me about this script he written himself thinking about our lives as eternal immigrants. About our adventures, the pain of leaving your country, mixing languages and not even knowing where you are really from… where you belong…

I cried in the bar while reading it because it basically described, in a way, my own life. And it seemed weird that actually, he was just writing about himself. I think it connected us even more. He wiped my tears and said that he wanted me to give it life and that he would direct me during the process. We filmed everything in one day.

As always, Daniel made it very easy for me and I feel so grateful to be a part of something that he poured his soul into. I hope people will see it soon and be as touched as I was when I read it.

Q: I have really enjoyed your work with Laura Martinova on shorts such as ‘Tinder Stories’, ‘Clubz – Popscuro’, and ‘Casual Days’. Can you tell us more about your relationship with Laura and why you love to collaborate?

A: I met Laura thanks to Angie Lopez, an amazing photographer and friend. She took pictures of me in Madrid and told me that I would love working with this super talented director from Barcelona. We friended each other on Facebook and started chatting. I found her very charming and funny. One day, she invited me to come to Barcelona and film a little short fashion film. She picked me up at the station and that’s when it all begun.

Now she is also a very close and special friend. We’ve been through everything and I love her so much. She counted on me for very personal projects and always believed in me and pushed me. I learned a lot from her and how to work on set. We’ve filmed many things together and just a couple of months ago we filmed a very intimate short – titled Lena Y Elena.

I think we have never worked on something so serious, tense and sexual. We rehearsed a lot and spoke about it. Actually, Daniel Horvath produced it!

Q: Do you see yourself working with Laura on a feature film in the future?

A: Oh yes, totally. We connect so easily and know each other so well. Laura says that I know how to express exactly what she needs and I enjoy the freedom that she gives me to add anything from my own imagination to the story. I think she is very generous because she always works with her friends and tries to gang us up for her crazy, crazy projects. We end up stressed and tired, but we laugh a lot. She’s very easy going on set and has tons of cool ideas.


Q: I enjoyed your role in Erika Lust’s ‘XConfessions web series’. The episode explored the issue slut shaming before drifting into a sexual fantasy. What interested you about the project and working with Erika?

A: I heard and read many things about Erika before meeting her. Many years before, I had done nude photography and considered that very feminist and empowering. After reflecting a lot on it, I changed my mind. I mean, I consider that anyone should do whatever they want with their own body. But just personally, in my own experience, I found it hard to find the “art” in it, or the “feminism”. So, I couldn’t defend it for myself.

I have some followers on Instagram and I feel responsible for what I post on social media. I wouldn’t like for teenage girls that follow me to consider that kind of photography empowering, so I remember deleting all of it and feeling kind of better – you know? I don’t want to show my body to prove a point.

Though, I completely respect women that want to post other type of pictures expressing themselves and their sexuality. I get that. I just have my own issues with the hyper-sexuality in this society and how, as a women, if you show your body you will have more attention. In art and in politics.

So I wanted to speak with Erika about pornography. I remember that I was quite honest with my personal views and actually, taking in account the kind of violent and degrading content that you find nowadays on the internet, I am grateful for Erika’s work. The kind of bodies that she portrays, the sex that you see is real and there is no acting, humiliation or pain. She respects the actors and tries to tell a story. I remember she also told me that she and her husband wanted to create a site where parents could get info on how to speak about pornography to their kids. That sounded kinda awesome.

What we filmed with co-star Melina Matthews had nothing to do with pornography, though. It was a pilot for a series, that they were presenting to some US channels and platforms, about two girls that have a podcast that explores sexuality. I look back now and I see how I have actually very little in common with my character and her oversexual view on life and social media. It was an acting experiment for me and I tried not to judge her, but to understand her and see what we have in common.

I understand how she got to think that way. As an actor, it’s usual to portray someone and think: “Oh, my. I would never think/say/do that!”. And there is so beauty in putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Q: With modelling and acting, I am sure you have spent a lot of your life in front of a camera. What do you like to do when a camera is not pointed in your direction?

A: I love writing. It’s what I mostly do in my free time. I’m studying right now in Barcelona and I have just the best teacher. I’m really lucky; she’s so uplifting! And I’m learning a lot. I write short stories and poetry.

I wrote my first story for a script this summer. My boyfriend, Tomás Peña, is a director and he wanted me to write something on vampires and love. So he guided me during the writing process and we turned it into a script within a couple of months. We’re working on finding the financing now. I hope to film it soon!

Q: 2019 is fast-approaching and it looks like you have some exciting projects ahead. What can you reveal about your time working on Martín Rosete’s ‘Remember Me’?

A: When I finished the casting and got out, I thought to myself that I didn’t get it. I had to recite Shakespeare with a British accent and it had a couple of complicated old words that I mispronounced and made me really nervous. But in the end, I got a little role. I found Martín very kind and polite. I can’t disclose much about the movie, just the fact that I am a poorly moraled assistant to a politician that would step on anyone to get her way!

Q: You also have a role in Alice Waddington’s ‘Paradise Hills’ – a film I have keeping an eye on for a while. You worked with Alice before on the short film ‘Disco Inferno’, what was it like reuniting with her on this project and what is she like to work with as a director?

A: Both experiences were very special to me. I find Alice very sensitive and creative. She is so young and talented! I am very proud of what she’s already achieved and she will probably delight us all with more creations in the future. She has this thing about her where just by entering the set you think, “Oh, this has been done by Alice…” It’s like she has her own world inside her mind that she can express so uniquely with exquisite art direction. She generates very beautiful atmospheres.

I was very happy to see her again so many years after shooting Disco Inferno and grateful that she took me in for another project.


Q: The film has a tremendous cast including yourself, Emma Roberts and Eiza González. What was the atmosphere like on set? 

A: It was very exciting to meet Emma. After watching her in American Horror Story, it was kinda crazy to be able to chat with her on set. Awkwafina was super cool too.

Obviously, it was an honour to watch Milla Jovovich in action. She was very professional. She had this special aura around her just by walking on set. I loved everything that she’s been in. Huge fan.

Q: What kind of projects excite and motivate you as a performer?

A: I think the one’s where I can explore the human condition. Where I can move many emotions and get to be someone completely different from who I actually am. Also, I enjoy when I can contribute something personal or improvise a bit on the script. It depends on who you’re working with, I guess.

Q: Do you have any other upcoming projects or ambitions to share with us?

A: Well, Tomas and I want to film something ourselves. Something low-cost and a tiny cast. We’re drafting some ideas that we could achieve by filming with a cheaper camera. I’m super excited to work with him because I admire him a lot as a director. He has a very special style and aesthetic.

On the other hand, I’m filming a short film in this month for a week or so. It’s a bit Black Mirror-ish. I’m super excited. The director is very young, as are the whole crew. It’s their first project, but they are very excited to work with me and it has been a treat to prepare everything. There’s gonna be a lot of special effects and the wardrobe is coming from South Korea. Super excited!

At last, in January I’m also filming a medium length film directed by Juan Ross with Maarten Dannenberg. A bit of an Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind style romance movie. Right now, we’re at the phase of Skyping and working on the characters. Let’s see how it goes!

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