How and when did you first get into performing?
Why does anyone want to become an actor? That’s a hard question to answer to! As a kid, I knew I couldn’t do something in life unless I felt passionate about it. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to experience life, to observe it, to understand it, I’ve always dreamt of living more than just one life. And what other work than acting gives you the chance of being whoever you want to be?
At the age of 15, encouraged by one of my teachers, I started performing Shakespeare monologues in English at my high school. I then became a member of my school’s theatre company. It was a fantastic moment to finally have the right and opportunity to really express myself, to free myself from other people’s opinions, and to enter a new world where the only limit is your imagination. It’s also at that age that I began playing the guitar and singing.
Who were some of your biggest inspirations?
I was very inspired by the whole artistic revolution which the Group Theatre (led by Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, and Cheryl Crawford) created in New York in the 30’s and how it initiated a profound change in movie acting in the 50’s. Marlon Brando was a great exponent of this new way of truly expressing real emotions. In acting, I was deeply moved by Marlon Brando in many of his performances (in Last Tango in Paris among other movies) and Robert De Niro (in Raging Bull). I would watch their movies over and over again and try to understand their choices, how they would act out a scene. They became my examples, and they are probably the reason why I went to New York to study acting.
What kind of training have you done?
After training briefly at the Cours Florent (a famous French acting school), I moved to New York at the age of 19 and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute with great teachers. Paul Calderon, a very accomplished movie actor, showed me how to work on set, and helped me feel at home in front of the camera. Irma Sandrey taught me how to dig deep within myself to find truth in my acting. They are both members of The Actors Studio.
During my first year in New York and while studying at the Lee Strasberg Institute, I was lucky to find a small bedroom to rent in an actor’s apartment in the East Village. That man, Marc Seran, became a sort of uncle/mentor to me. It was a marvelous time, his apartment was filled with hundreds of plays, as well as books about theatre, training, actors, directors… And almost every day, after coming back from acting school, he would give me advice, suggest exercises to work on my imagination, my voice, my technique… He probably is the person who taught me the most about acting.
I then auditioned and was accepted at the prestigious Stella Adler Studio of Acting. I studied there with master teacher Ron Burrus, former assistant of Stella Adler. A strong emphasis was put on character work, on creating a biography for the character, on learning how to move differently, on studying their social background, on adapting your own voice to the character. It was an eye-opener.
What has been your favorite role to play so far?
I’ve loved playing opposite Jean Reno in the TV show Jo. The part was that of a cook, and that whole world was foreign to me. So the preparation was very interesting, I went into a restaurant’s kitchen to observe, I learned how to cook, how to prepare food, how to cut meat. I am now proud to be able to make something other than pasta! It was the first time I was on a set with such a big star. And I have to say he was a very nice and humble man, I had a very good time acting with him, and he cracked jokes between takes. It was very funny!
What projects do you have coming up?
United Passions, the movie with Depardieu, Tim Roth and Sam Neill was at the 2014 Cannes film festival in May and was released July 3rd. This week, I just shot a commercial for Netbet, an online casino and sports betting website. It was all shot in a green screen studio. Acting in front of the green screen is always very interesting, because it forces you to really work on your imagination and visualize exactly what’s going on. It’s very gratifying when it works. And it’s also always very surprising to see the end result. Next, I’ve been offered a part in an independent movie (titled Un Fil at the moment), starring Jean-Claude Dreyfus, a famous French actor. It’s a very interesting part and a pivotal character in the plot.
Who would be your ideal co-star and why?
Cate Blanchett, because she has a very feminine side to her, but also a very commending, almost masculine side. I feel like she has two opposite, contradictory forces within her that makes her unique and so interesting to watch. She has an ambivalence which is pretty rare.
What are your plans for the future?
In an ideal world, I would work with great directors, such as the Cohen Brothers, Wes Anderson and Jacques Audiard.
What is your advice to aspiring performers?
It is not easy giving advice because it involves a great deal of responsibility. I was taught that an actor constantly needs to work on his observation, to scrutinize every person they meet in order to understand human behavior, but I’ve always felt uncomfortable with that idea because I respect the privacy of a person. With time, I came to realize that empathy is way better. It involves an affection, a genuine care for a person, and with that there’s no judgment and thus it gives you the capacity to recognize emotions experienced by another being a lot more. With empathy, you become one with another person, with his pains, his feelings, his dreams, but not in a forceful way. And it also helps you in every aspect of acting, when you do a scene, when you listen to your co-star, when you imagine your character’s past, and so on…