Close-up: An Interview With Maja Laskowska

Rising star Maja Laskowska drops by on Close-up Culture to chat about her recent projects and her acting journey so far.

Q: Bernard Kordieh’s short film, ‘Melody’, has enjoyed a successful festival run. Can you give us a taste of the story and what attracted you to it?

A: Melody tells a story of Leah who after a stressful and traumatizing event, ends up on a rampage with her best friend Melody who, as always, pushes Leah out of her comfort zone. They are like polar opposites, one struggles to exist without the other, but they often get in trouble, which is what the film captures. 

What really drew me to the project at first was the director of the film, Bernard, and other people involved who I met during the casting. The way that Bernard spoke about Melody gave the project a certain aura, and I must say that later on, I have been blessed with meeting more directors like him.

In terms of the story, I loved the fact that the main part of it happens between two female characters and that the film allows for so much intensity and feeling between them. I also really enjoyed the urban setting of the film and Bernard’s courage to not censor the scenes. 

Q: There has been high praise for the chemistry between yourself and Maisie Richardson-Sellers (who plays Melody). How did the two of you work to create that chemistry within the tight confides of making short film?

A: I was really anticipating meeting Maisie because I simply knew we will have a great time and we really did! I think that the companionship that I found in her was a big part of the chemistry we achieved. We also hung out before and in between rehearsals, talking Melody, but also talking absolutely everything else. Maisie is one of a kind and she really made me feel like I can fall, enjoy the fall and she’ll catch me. 

Maja in ‘Melody’

Q: UK Film Review called the short film ‘visually intoxicating’. How was the shoot and working with this talented crew? 

A: It was freeing, safe and mad. All the best levels of those words. Working on a short film can also be challenging at times, as everyone ends up doing everything. With the right team, such as the Melody team was, that can be a great personal and professional experience.  

Q: You’ve worked on a number of short film projects over the last year or so. What do you look for in the projects you choose and the people you decide to collaborate with?

A: I’m drawn to scripts that I struggle to understand and those with a tinge of something weird. At the same time, I always ask myself what it is about the themes or characters that makes it vital for the story to be told. I love asking that question because I never know where the answer will come from. It could be the director, other actors or it could be an immediate guttural response.

I enjoy collaborating with people who are open to conversations. I’m as much of a doer as I am a talker and I love those sets where no one is afraid to laugh and speak to each other. I think it’s loving and makes you want to do a good job not just for yourself but also for everyone else.  

Q: What are your earliest memories of performing and falling in love with acting?

A: I started acting in musicals in Poland. I remember one season, I must have been twelve maybe, we were doing a musical about cats (not exactly Cats!), and I was the big cat, in the middle of the stage and all of a sudden I found myself just under the spotlight and I couldn’t see anything around me. That was the most soothing and empowering second I have ever experienced even though I actually forgot what I had to do next. It felt great to forget. I think that was the moment when I fell in love with acting. 

Q: I understand you were born and raised in Poland before moving to London at the age of 16. What led to that decision and how have you adjusted to life here?

A: That’s right! I’m so happy that my parents share my madness because I know it must have been hard letting go off their only child at the age of sixteen. 

I’m not gonna lie I wasn’t doing too well at school during my teens. I always felt super confused and in my own head. I went to a really good school, but that was mostly due to my achievements in sports. The only subject that I enjoyed was English and then when I started to think about acting I just couldn’t get London out of my head. One summer holiday I came here to audition, got a scholarship and begged my parents to let me go. 

At first it was really hard, I failed AS, it was really stressful. Assimilating to the exchange from Polish zloty to pounds was horrific. Having said that though, from day one it was also intensely fun. I’ve made friends for life that year, dyed my hair black for an AS drama piece and roamed through north London estates at nights. I think I got addicted to freedom that year and I am so grateful to all the support I got from my college tutors who didn’t see it as a problem. 

Q: What is the London creative scene like for a young actor like yourself? What are the biggest advantages and the biggest drawbacks?

A: That’s such a dense question. Thinking of my closest friends, we are all going a bit crazy, no matter what our chosen creative field is but we all just turn it on its head and make it work day by day. Sometimes money is tight and sometimes you feel like you don’t get a say but then a project always comes through and it’s all worth it again.

I think the best and the worst things are actually two sides of the same coin. I’m obviously very annoyed by the current political status and I am mostly annoyed because I hate to see all my British friends feeling hopeless and embarrassed for what’s going on. I also think that with that, comes the huge problem of mental health and a feeling of there not being a future worth working for. At the same time, the best thing about the creative scene, the way I know it, is the fact that we are working through it, we are supporting each other and we continue on talking it out. 

Q: What has been your most important or rewarding moment as an actor so far?

A: I was so lucky to be a part of a new BBC show called Trigonometry, which will be coming out sometime this year. Working Duncan Macmillan’s story, under the eye of Athina Tsangari and next to the most supportive cast and crew was one of the most rewarding and fun experiences in my career so far.

Q: What would be a dream project or role for you at this point in your career?

A: My dream role would be a role that needs to be new everyday, that surprises me everyday and changes. An absolute dream would be a part that is as seamless as a daily routine and as intense as an hour on stage. 

Q: You’ve worked with a number of talented emerging directors. Do you have any desire to direct in future?

A: Oh yes, haha. I think that one day I will try directing but for now I’m really enjoying focusing on acting. And as you say, I have been blessed by being given the opportunity to work with such great people and I want to continue on learning for a little longer.

Q: What are your hopes and plans for the future?

A: I want to be able to carry on participating in interesting, fun and challenging projects and I would love to see the industry grow around characters, themes and voices previously unheard. I would hope that we can continue to challenge the narrative of boarders and divisions by expanding on the stories we can tell through film.

Title photo by Nadia Khivrych

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