Actress Natasha Kalimada joins us on Close-Up Culture to chat about her exciting role in Damien Chazelle’s new film, Babylon.
Hi Natasha, welcome to Close-Up Culture. What excited you about this project and the role of Princess of Isabella of Castille?
What excited me most about this project was the opportunity to work with Damien Chazelle, Olivia Hamilton, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Justin Hurwitz, Linus Sandgren, my dear colleagues from a past production, Heba Thorisdottir, Jamie Leigh and Mandy Artusato, and Mandy Moore and literally, everyone involved, cast and crew alike. It was a dream. Yet, it was a dream I’d been preparing for my whole life.
Damien and Olivia made the entire production feel like a family. I cry happy tears just thinking of the incredible experience I had on set. This experience — the scope of it — has been something I’ve been preparing for my whole life and the moment Olivia called me to offer me the role, I was ready. In essence, I was tossed in, but every experience, every dance training opportunity, every performance, every job, every setback, most importantly, had prepared me for this moment to be Princess Isabella with Jack Conrad. Brad Pitt is an incredible human being and artist, with the most amazing work ethic, and I will always be thankful for the warm welcome I received on set and for the freedom to artistically create with him.
I heard your character shares a passionate moment with Jack, played by Brad Pitt. Can you tell us about filming this scene?
Filming this scene was a very spiritual moment and a ‘movie magic’ experience. We filmed this scene for a week — nothing was CGI-ed — we had a cast of 900 soldiers fighting beneath us, canon balls going off, Justin Hurwitz’s incredible orchestra playing ‘Gold Coast Sunset,’ which provided Brad and I this incredible emotional backbone for us to play off of, butterflies flying around us, the most beautiful sunset in our background, the whole cast and crew cheering us on and crying with us — it was sensory overload in the most magnificent way possible. It was a Moment.
As well as Babylon, you recently starred in Don’t Worry Darling. What will be your standout memory or feeling from that project?
The raw, underbelly, howling and animalistic dance sequences that, unfortunately, never made the final cut. To this day, I would still love to see a short film made entirely from those special dance scenes of ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ that were left on the cutting room floor. Dancers are never given a voice in TV/film, and there needs to be a change. There needs to be recognition.
You’ve had an inspiring journey to get where you are now, which speaks to the importance of hard work and dedication. Can you pick out a defining moment for you – perhaps a really tough moment or a decision you had to make – along the way?
The decision I’ve had to make along the way is to keep on going, no matter what. Yes, that involves rejection, sacrifices (both personally and professionally), compromises, loneliness, and extreme gratitude for family and friends, but yes, this job can be an incredibly lonely experience.
Growing up, my parents always took us to ballet and Broadway shows. I would collect all of the posters and my parents would frame them — still to this day, they hang in my bedroom. I decided I wanted to be a performer when I was four years old. My parents took me to the Segerstrom in Orange County, where I grew up, and we sat in the second row of CATS on Broadway. I remember listening to ‘Mr. Bojangles’ and then during the next scene, a cat crawled up towards me on the proscenium, and that’s when I knew that I wanted to be up on that stage performing for the rest of my life.
What impact do you hope your story and your work will have on younger generations?
As a first-generation child of the States, I guess you would say, I strive to make the Arts attainable and a real career path for other first-generation and now, second-generation, children. I have the utmost respect for my parent’s generation. They came to the States to make something of themselves from nothing, and to create a family — a family that is unbreakable so it can grow and sustain generations of growth in the States.
And naturally, that career path has always been something very high-level achieving and steady, such as in medicine, finance and engineering, and so on. I have my parents to thank for, for allowing me to be different and to excel in the arts. I hope to inspire the younger generation to take chances because we only have one life.
I understand you have a passion for yoga. What does it bring to your life and to your work?
To me, yoga is the dance warm-up I’ve been experiencing my whole life. Yoga is dance. It centers you, humbles you, calms you, and makes you feel a part of something bigger.
I also heard you had a life-changing experience, which led you to have to relearn how to bend your leg from a 90-degree angle. Can you tell us more about this?
I fell down a canyon once and had to be helicoptered out. First of all, I’m an adventurer and a dare-devil at heart. Unfortunately, this was a bad accident in which I was not trying to have an adventure, and which left me with a broken foot, arm, knee cap exposed, and torn waist due to rock slashes. And that was it. It was a turning point in my life. Once I recovered — and I did my own physical therapy, because I couldn’t afford PT — I was a new person. I quit my agency job and became a full-fledged performer.
What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
I don’t know where you go from here, film-wise, other than working with Damien and Brad again! In all seriousness, I hope to work on beautiful and touching film projects. I hope to have a family. I hope to create and bring into fruition my own projects one day. I hope to bring happiness to people around the world.
Photography credits: Navneet Arakony & Atmadeep Sen