During her successful career a young Ukrainian actress Maryna Borodina, who is now attending the prestigious New York Film Academy, has worked as a television host, made appearances in a number of TV productions and even done stage work. It seems, though, that now she’s ready to take her career to a whole new level.
In an exclusive interview to Cut Insight, Maryna is opening up about her own success story and what it’s like to study acting in Hollywood. Maryna also explains why every actress, in her opinion, must find her signature acting style.
You have previously appeared in a number of successful Ukrainian films. And now you’re studying acting in Los Angeles. Does it mean that in future you will mostly be looking for roles in Hollywood productions?
All I know is that I’m eager to take on interesting projects. I’ll be happy if I am offered parts in Ukrainian feature films or co-productions. Think of The Nest of the Turtledove, The Line, Ether, Easy, etc. All these films are co-productions between Ukraine and countries like Italy, Poland, France, etc.
You know the Ukrainian world of cinema from inside out. And now you’re tapping into the world of American cinema. These two worlds are (pardon the pun) two worlds apart. What’s the first thing that jumps out at you once you arrive in Hollywood?
Ukrainian cinema is only now getting back on its feet. In Hollywood, on the other hand, every detail has been meticulously thought through. Once a week I come to Universal Studios for practical training, where my future peer filmmakers and I make short films. All the necessary cinema equipment is there for us to use. By the way, some festivals gladly screen films made by students. And since the beginning of my studies in September, I have already appeared in two short films. So life is busier here so to speak.
With regards to Stanislavsky’s system, it is much respected among American and Ukrainian actors and often viewed as a benchmark, but here in Hollywood they use techniques, developed by the greats of American cinema.
Apart from acting, you also get to learn the basics of film appreciation, scriptwriting, producing, cinematography and editing. All students participate in making a single film, so every one of us gets a chance to learn all these skills.
Classes, film shoots… You are such a busy bee!
Yeah, the schedule is so tight that I often have to turn down roles in shorts, whose scripts I like. Whatever I do I care about doing my job well. So, if I don’t have enough time to prepare for the role or work on the film, I simply say “no”.
Why did you decide to become an actress?
When I was a child, I wanted to become a television host. But when it was time to go to university I decided to study international economics. At the time, those who wanted a successful career usually chose either international economics or law. But thanks to my good fortune, in my first year at Donetsk National University I heard about new local channel casting TV hosts. More than one hundred people were auditioned that time, best of us were trained during 3 months and I was the one who opened the first direct online translation of the channel and then hosting the prime time evening show. I was just 17 years old.
Then the channel relocated its offices to Kyiv. At that time, an American actor Barry Primus and producer Larry Kostroff were presenting a training course here in Kyiv. I went, of course, and they convinced me to try my hand in acting. So, I sent out my photos and CV to various film studios. And then I started to receive feedback and eventually got my first role.
At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to pursue education in Los Angeles?
Well, I’ve long dreamt of studying filmmaking abroad. And when I learnt that the New York Film Academy would be running auditions in Kyiv, I decided to act fast. The audition took place in December 2016. I had to prepare two contrasting monologues and compose a couple of essays. I did my job well and won a grant to study in Los Angeles.
You cite Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron, Kate Winslet and Scarlett Johansson as your major influences. You also say that each of these actresses has a unique quality about their acting, which underpins all their work and also strikes a chord in you. Could you please elaborate on this idea?
Every actress must have a unique acting style. We live at the time when character actors get the best parts; when actors have a number of characters “attached” to them. Some actors are better suited to roles in comedy films, others – in dramas or thrillers.
Sometimes, even at a stage of script development, it’s often clear that, let’s say, Kate Winslet is the best choice for the part simply because she has this certain quality about her acting.
And what acting style do you hope do develop?
Well, I’d like to work in various genres. Though, I personally prefer portraying courageous, self-reliant women of many skills. You see, I’m attracted to individuals with a pivot, because I myself am like that. But to achieve this, you must work hard and be willing to grow and change.
I am a fan of superhero flicks or films about people with supernatural powers, whose female characters are bright, intelligent, attractive and powerful. That’s what I’m hoping to achieve.
How do you approach a new character? What does it take to tap into it?
I like to experiment with various techniques. So, it all depends on what my character has to do, also on the film genre and my personal experience. The director’s vision is also very important.
I’m also grateful to all my teachers for entrusting me to play some really challenging characters in the past.
For instance, in an experimental play Cinderellas-Jailbirds by Maksim Mikhaylichenko I portrayed a deputy governor of a high-security prison for adolescent girls. Until then, I couldn’t even imagine I’d be able to play such a complicated, power-hungry and wild woman. And I was surprised that I could be quite bossy.
In any case, whenever you’re challenged to play a particularly nasty character (a rapist or a killer) your job is not to judge them but try to understand why they did what they did.
Because of my participation in that particular production, I was soon offered a part in Children of Victory (premiered earlier this year). In this documentary movie I portrayed an overseer at Auschwitz concentration camp. And in order to understand why she displayed such inhuman cruelty towards the inmates, I had to dissect how much of a patriot she was, how devoted she was to Hitler’s cause.
Not only did those two characters help me expand my actor diapason, but also made me aware that I’m still in the process of exploring my own emotional palette, so this is all very exciting!
What’s your way of dealing with failed auditions?
If you want something, let it go. I’ve made it my personal rule. So, if you do an audition just for the fun of it and not for other reasons (like landing a coveted role), then you’d have more chances to succeed.
La La Land, one of the most talked-about movies of the past few years, is (among other things) about a girl who pursues a career in Hollywood and after a number of failed auditions finally fulfills her dream. La La Land offers viewers a truthful depiction of the film industry, while also exploring its romantic side. So, is L.A. really a place where miracles happen and dreams come true?
Los Angeles is home to people of various backgrounds. On one hand, everyone here is really friendly, passers-by smile at you, and it certainly lifts your mood. It’s a place of endless opportunities, a place filled with an atmosphere of creativity. For example, drinking coffee in a café between NYFA campus and Warner Bros.Studio, you may find yourself sitting next to a famous director or producer, someone really important. But you’d never know to look at them, because they dress and behave very simply. And yet, an encounter like this could change your life forever! On the other hand, competition among actors is so fierce, that they would go to great lengths to secure a role. However, even with this in mind, winning can be a fun and joyous experience.
Reputation is another important factor to consider when moving forward in a filmmaking career. Even though Hollywood is the largest film industry in the world, it’s a place where everyone seems to know each other. So it’s important to start building a solid reputation from day one.
Also, it’s hard to imagine a Hollywood actors turning up on the set without knowing their lines, as it might hinder the filming process, resulting in a loss of time and money. And sometimes, one small mistake is enough to have you replaced with someone else. As I’ve said before, the competition here is huge.
Over the past month, there has been massive media coverage of the sex scandals involving Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Steven Seagal, Charlie Sheen, Dustin Hoffman and other Hollywood heavyweights, who were accused of sexual harassment and assault. What are your views on this subject?
Unfortunately, such cases are not uncommon in film industries around the world. And if you happen to be working with a person like this, then it’s time to alter your course. Los Angeles is home to many studios and independent filmmakers, who are always on the lookout for new talent – actors and actresses who are willing to work hard. So to me, creative expression and self-esteem is more important than engaging in reckless behavior.
What style of clothes do you prefer?
I don’t like baggy or flamboyant clothes. I prefer wearing stylish, more subdued outfits, which flatter my figure. I regularly do sports and yoga, and also practice meditation. Yoga in particular helps me feel more grounded when dealing with unforeseen obstacles. Some yoga poses are quite challenging but they help me increase my self-awareness and remain calm and secure. With each passing session I feel like practicing yoga has changed my consciousness and restored a healthy energy flow in my body.
Tell us about your other influences and where you draw your inspiration from?
I’m greatly inspired by strong-willed, self-made people. I draw inspiration from women who know how to balance their time and energy between career and family. I’m also driven by a desire to constantly reinvent myself. Whenever I am faced with a challenge, I always take it an opportunity for personal growth.
Ukrainian actress who has appeared on film, television and stage. Born in Makiivka (Donetsk Oblast) in 1985, Borodina made her acting debut in 2006. Since then she has appeared in a dozen of films and TV productions. She has recently starred in The City of Lovers (directed by Anton Goyda) and East-West (directed by Denis Eleonskiy) set to premiere in early 2018.
In 2006, she attended the Hollywood School in Ukraine, where she participated in a master class in acting taught by Barry Primus. In 2015, she studied theatre at “Black Square” – an Improvisation Studio School (a class taught by Mikhail Kostrov). In 2016, she attended an acting course at Ukrainian Film School, taught by Maksim Mikhaylichenko. In 2017 she became the heroine of the art project “Brexit» by artist Igor Galan.
Maryna Borodina is currently living in Los Angeles and studying acting at the New York Film Academy.