Updated: Jul 8, 2022
THE GLAMOUR OF HOLLYWOOD
AWARD-WINNING ACTRESS, SCREENWRITER AND PRODUCER
By Natalie Messina
1. How was your experience with Chaarmz Magazine during the photoshoot?
I had a fantastic time working with Chaarmz Magazine. I think they're very professional and they are lovely people. Kal was very nice and friendly with me. I'm grateful for them providing the dress – it just ended up working really well. It brought some old-style glamorous Hollywood look to the shoot because of the style of the dress that they gave me. The second shoot that we did was with more of my style of clothing, but it was an interesting take on how they saw me. I suppose it's always very interesting and unique to be presented with something from the outside world. Some people come and tell you, “Hey, this is how we see you from the pictures and from watching and getting to know you on social media.” Sometimes, I think to myself, “I wouldn't pick a dress like that.” But then I put it on and it creates a different character and opens up a part of me I never knew I had. I enjoyed working with the team a lot. Of course, I'll do more shoots with Chaarmz Magazine.
2. Tell me about yourself. What pushed you to become an actor and how did you get involved?
I was a ballerina for a very long time, since I was three years old. I've been dancing for almost 20 years and practicing ballet. I got a degree in Choreography and I studied at the Royal Ballet School in London. I was on my way to being a Prima Ballerina. I spent many years of my life being a part of the best troupes, performing on the top stages, and dancing all around the world. When I got injured, I thought, what else could I do? I didn’t want to quit being on stage. My plan was still to perform on stage by becoming a theater actor. I thought, “OK, let me take my chances and see how it goes,” and so I moved to Los Angeles. I have wanted to be an actress since I was three years old. I first started watching various movies on TV and I kept pointing to the TV and telling my Mom, “Hey, I want to be an actress!” She used to say, “You can’t be in Hollywood. You are from Ukraine – how are you going to travel to Hollywood and become an actress?” I didn't have a really good memory either. I could not remember history lessons or even memorize a poem. So, how did I become an actress? When I got older, my mom saw an ad in the underground where this acting school was auditioning students in London. By chance, I was the first to audition and I got in. I bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. And with my Mom’s support this time, I came to Los Angeles and went to a few acting schools to study and realized that it's not a bad dream to chase. Like everything else in life, we always want something until we find it. Take a step towards that dream becoming true. Everything is a dream, until one day it is a reality.
3. In what types of films have you performed up until now? Which film is your best film?
I've done a lot of different movies. I've worked on horror movies, comedies, dramas, TV shows, and bigger-budget films. I don't know if I have a favorite. I just see a script, fall in love with the character and then I want to portray that character and film it. I’II give it my best shot with that character and then once we're done, I just try to leave that character behind me and I no longer resonate with it anymore. That's part of the journey. I don't really like to watch my own movies. I don't like to critique myself because if I do, I always end up seeing so many mistakes and problems. I'm always thinking, “If I only had another chance, I would do it way better.” So for me, the best thing is to just let it go, and move on. Then I’ll do better in my next movie, with my next character, and in my next job. I give my 100% effort to everything that I work on. Then I walk away, stand strong and say, “You know what? I gave it my best.” That's all that is required from me at that time because to make a film or TV show, it takes so much more than just an actor's performance. It’s a collaboration of so many people being put together and working to create something that's timeless – a movie that's going to motivate people or make a difference in their lives. I think it's up to the audience to decide. An actor is only a small piece of the puzzle. Since I’m such a harsh critic of myself, I'd say I haven't done my best work yet – the best has yet to come!
4. Are you working on any movies right now? How do you feel about directing or producing a movie?
I do have projects that I’m working on as an actor. I’ll be appearing in Black Adam. I’m also excited to appear in Season 2 of Studio City. Hopefully, we will be nominated for an Emmy later this year. I am also filming a very cool Medieval movie in Italy called, “The Last Redemption,” directed by John Real.
I'd love to direct one day – that's my dream and it’s my next goal. I feel like once I set a goal, I eventually pursue it and achieve it because there's nothing else that I see in front of me. I also don't want to disregard or completely throw away the hard work that other directors put into making a film. I always think that it’s a journey and it's hard work. I would be lying to myself if I said, “Hey, I can direct movies right here, right now.” As an actor, dancer and producer, I think it takes time to acquire something like that. It takes time to study, learn, and understand. It's not easy. It’s not just taking a bunch of crew people around you and saying, “Action and Cut” and that’s what makes me a director. I want to tell some kind of story that will come from my heart. Of course, I want to do tons of research and learn everything that I need to know before directing my first movie. I think the only thing that I'm probably good at right now because of my studying is directing actors – and because I'm an actor myself. I can tell when someone is performing in a fake way or when it's really coming from the depth of their soul. Everything else I have yet to understand. While I'm filming, I try to learn from the directors I work with. As far as producing, it’s a timeless job. I’m glad that I have a passion for it because no matter what happens, I can always rely on producing. I love this industry for better or worse and I want to be a part of it for the rest of my life.
5. What kind of roles do you prefer?
As an actor, I love working on something that's based on a true story or event. I am very interested to work on any TV series, or movie where I'm portraying a real-life person – that's going to challenge me as an actor. I’m drawn to action movies nowadays. I try to stay in shape and I’ve transitioned from being a ballerina to doing martial arts. Due to my background as a dancer, I have the upper hand to perform well in action movies. So, that is what I’m focusing on right now and trying to get myself into some really good high-quality TV shows and blockbuster movies.
6. How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a theater play? What do you prefer – theater acting or movie acting?
From what I've studied about theatre acting, film acting, and TV acting – these are three different performances altogether.
Theatre is very big and you have to be a lot bigger with your movements, gestures, and your whole performance. Whatever happens on stage (within those 2 hours), stays on stage – and you don’t get a second take.
In film, you get lots of takes and you have to live that character for a much longer period of time. Sometimes, it can take weeks or months – depending on how big the production is – and you have to constantly live through that character (by remembering the way they walk and talk).
TV acting is a lot different. Sometimes, it takes years to be on a TV show, depending on which one it is. The filming is different because it’s a lot faster and the body language is a lot closer. There are more close-ups and medium shots and you can't move as much. Your character has to be more internal and you have to live everything through your eyes.
Some actors are really good on TV, but they're not as good on stage. I really like theatre because my background is in theatre and I love the stage. Luckily, I’ve never had stage fright. But right now, I’m more focused on films and TV. There are endless possibilities for what I can do and create – and I’m really looking forward to my future.
7. Who are your favorite actors?
I have always been a huge fan of Meryl Streep. I think she's got an amazing depth to create all these characters and I’ve always been fascinated with her work. I also love Gary Oldman. I love Tom Cruise, I think he is a superstar. I also love Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Sylvester Stallone. I admire their perseverance and how they have guided their careers. They’ve known their value from the beginning and they didn’t take “no” for an answer! From the younger actors, I’m a big fan of Miles Teller and I think he is going to be a huge star.
8. Give me a few tips to be a successful actor.
People are drawn to become somebody and they have this vision of themselves. I think it's just a matter of saying, “I'm going to try all kinds of ways to get where I see myself in 10 or 20 years.” There's so much information available to us through social media and the web. If you believe from the depth of your heart that you have talent, you see yourself doing it and you know that you're good at it – all it takes is hard work and dedication to move forward towards that goal. One day, no doubt about it, you will achieve it.
9. Is there truth in the saying, “If you set your mind to it, you can do it”?
Yes, I think so. There are lots of obstacles and problems that can transpire. Obviously, we're seeing even more of them in this world that can stop you from achieving your goal sooner, but it doesn't mean you can't achieve it later. The pandemic lockdown forced everybody to pause from moving forward. The whole world stopped working and moving forwards with their dreams. Everybody realized that it's not just hard work that matters, there are all kinds of different things in this world that can postpone your success. Anything can put you on hold but I don't think it’s forever. It is just a test that we are thrown and that we can all overcome. The more tests you overcome, the more you can appreciate your winnings. There is no easy journey to success; every successful person had obstacles they had to overcome. Every success story develops and matures over a long period of time.
10. Do you think that you have matured as an actor?
Yes, I'd like to think that I've matured as an actor. Acting is an art and it evolves on a daily basis. It’s an endless journey. We become better as we grow as human beings. We become better actors because of those experiences. My teacher, Martin Landau, told us that older actors are better than younger ones because they are more relaxed, they’ve lived their full lives – it resonates on screen and people can feel it. Older actors have this, “I don't give a damn,” attitude and it makes the audience trust them more. The more I live, the more I learn that I don't need to be anxious. Whatever happens, happens for a reason. Trust your journey, be proud of your achievements and give it 100% every day. I've grown a lot but I also have a lot more to learn.
11. From where have you learned acting? What have you learned from your senior actors? What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?
I always learn a lot from everybody that I work with. I like seeing how other people portray their characters, and sometimes I take things from them and see how I can apply that to my next role. The directors, producers, and actors that I surround myself with are always so interesting because they all have their own takes and paths in life. Sometimes, I think that it's so easy for them to do this – but it's not. It's just their journey and they get there in a different way than I would get there. At the same time, don't judge a book by its cover. You don't know what's going on with other people, or what they had to sacrifice to be where they are today. I have to accept my own journey. I try not to be jealous of other people or judge them or their work. If I find they do something that I like, of course, I'm going to try it myself – that’s how you get inspiration. That’s how you get better.
12. What are some of the difficulties of the acting business? How long on average does it take for an actor to land a job? Is it true that you have to change yourself in order to be accepted into the entertainment business?
I’ve won several awards but my goal is to win an Emmy or an Oscar – but this is every actor’s dream and hopefully, it will come true one day for me. In terms of acting and how hard it is, it is extremely hard. Hopefully, when I have kids I will tell them the truth about how difficult it is. It is the only business in the world where hard work doesn’t matter to anyone else – only to you. You get rejected 90% percent of the time. I always mentally prepare myself for rejection and give my 100% effort. You have to be so strong as a person to know your value. When you do get rejected, just move on to the next one. Otherwise, it can break you mentally and physically. Then one day, when you do get a call that you booked something, it’s a feeling like no other. You finally feel worthy and appreciated – and because of that ‘high’, you can never quit.
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