Close-up: An Interview With Rosa Honkonen

Rosa Honkonen follows in the footsteps of Ellen Page (Juno, 2007) to play a pregnant teen in Selma Vilhunen’s acclaimed drama Stupid Young Heart.

Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with Rosa to talk about this unique role and her bright future in the industry.

Q: You play the lead role of Kiira in ‘Stupid Young Heart’. What was it like putting yourself in the shoes of a pregnant teen? Could you relate to her and her upbringing in any way?

A: When Selma Vilhunen, our director, called and told me that I got the role of Kiira in Stupid Young Heart, I was a bit afraid of how I could manage it because neither I nor those close to me had any experience of teenage pregnancy.

But, after reading the script for the film over and over again, I realised that Kiira and I have something in common: we both have a strong outer shell, but are sensitive and afraid of loneliness on the inside. That helped me relate to her.

Q: You must have felt like Ellen Page in ‘Juno’ wearing a baby bump for parts of the shoot. How did you cope with that physical element of the role? 

A: Hahaha, I was actually supposed to watch Juno the summer before the shoot, but I decided to watch it later.

My pregnancy belly was made by a special effects company in Amsterdam, and it felt and looked very real because of the weight. That belly helped my acting a lot because I didn’t have to act the heaviness of an unborn baby in the latter stages of a pregnancy.

When we filmed at the shopping center and other public places, I got some strange looks and a few comments asking how many months I had left until I was due. It was quite funny.

Rosa Honkonen in ‘Stupid Young Heart’

Q: Jere Ristseppä plays Lenni, the young teen who is the father of Kiira’s child. How did you work together to capture the relationship between Lenni and Kiira? Was it awkward for the two of you given the intimacy of their relationship? 

A: Jere and I met a few times during the casting process. After landing the roles, we had a lot of rehearsals where we got to know each other and practiced some of the scenes to learn how to be comfortable in each other’s company.

Also, our incredible director, Selma Vilhunen made the whole atmosphere on set very safe so it wasn’t that awkward to do the intimate scenes. Jere and I became friends and had fun together, just like we did with all the youngsters that were in the movie.

Q: What is Selma Vilhunen like to work with? How did she approach working with yourself and Jere?

A: Just like I said before, Selma is a dream director for young and inexperienced actors.

I think that in every production the cast and crew becomes a family, but it especially felt like one during this production. We could always talk to Selma before filming the more challenging scenes or about any other doubts we had. And now, almost a year and a half after the shoot, we’re still quite close with each other and keep in touch.

Q: I saw in the trailer that there is a dance studio scene. Did you have fun filming that scene and tapping into your musical theatre background?

A: Yes, after dancing for almost 12 years, I was so excited that Kiira is a dancehall girl. Even though I have a strong background in dance this was my first time trying out dancehall. Sadly, I still don’t know how to twerk properly!

Q: What was the best part of being involved in this project?

A: That’s a tough one because everything about this project has been rewarding. I would probably say the best part is that it confirmed my future plans. I want to be an actress and perhaps even try out screenwriting and directing one day.

Rosa Honkonen in ‘Stupid Young Heart’

Q: Anastasia Lobkovski was the casting director on the film. Can you talk about your relationship and how she has helped you over the last few years?

A: I met Anastasia for the first time back in 2014 when she was casting people in our junior high school for this TV mini-series called Satanen.

At first, I was told by another casting director that the castings were already done and that I was too late. But then this smiling brown-haired casting director, who introduced herself as Anastasia, came over and said that she could still audition me. I landed a little side role for the TV series followed by three other different roles, thanks to Anastasia.

She also invited me for the auditions of Stupid Young Heart, which helped me get the most significant role so far. I couldn’t be more grateful to Anastasia for giving me an opportunity to build a career as a young actress.

Q: ‘Stupid Young Heart’ has screened Tiff and other festivals around the world. How have you enjoyed the experience of seeing the film reach international audiences?

A: Tiff and Berlinale (where we won the Crystal Bear!) were both awesome experiences that I never would have even dared to dream of a few years ago.

The first premiere of Stupid Young Heart, which was in Toronto and with an international audience, felt so unreal that I didn’t even stress about the feedback or reactions we were going to get from the audience. But then I was absolutely stunned by the comments we got from the audience, and we even saw people coming out of the movie theatre with tears running down their cheeks.

All the feedback that I have received, either face-to-face or on social media, has made me feel that I have finally done something meaningful. One encounter at a screening in Toronto has especially made a huge expression on me. After the film was shown, one woman came to me thanking me and saying that the movie helped her to deal with her own teenage pregnancy. She had been almost been in the same position as Kiira is.

Q: I saw you were recently in New York. Do you any plans to move stateside and pursue an acting career over there?

A: Yeah, I visited New York City for the very first time but only for a vacation. I don’t have any plans yet for moving to another side of the world when I graduate high school this Spring – but who knows what’s going to happen in a couple of years.

Q: Kiira must have been an interesting and unique character to tackle. What kind of characters and roles do you hope to get in the future?

A: After playing Kiira, I actually did another teenage pregnancy role for a Finnish TV-production called All the Sins. Even though getting to know the world of young pregnant women has been fun, it would be also interesting to do something different next time.

I’m not sure if I’m just a thriller freak or out of my mind, but I would love to play the role of a psychopath or something else crazy. Making comedy would be also a fresh change from the drama work I’ve done.

Q: What is next for you? Any plans to share?

A: I just finished filming a very interesting and challenging role for a Finnish production, which is going to be shown worldwide by a well-known media service provider. Right now, I’m just waiting for my graduation party and getting ready to enjoy the summer.


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