Among the Polish actresses of the young generation, Magdalena Berus is one of the most interesting personalities. She was born in 1993 in Ruda Śląska, where she lived until the age of eighteen. She combined her high school education with modelling. Magdalena played her first film role at the beginning of 2011. Then came the next ones. After her first successes, she went to the United States, where she studied acting at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York. At the age of twenty-four, she has already had impressive film roles that have been noticed by audiences and critics alike and awarded by juries at international film festivals. Her second passion is music and she composes, writes and sings. Magdalena has been nominated for her many roles, including her turn as Karolina in “Satan Said Dance” by Katarzyna Roslaniec for which she won the Best Actress Award at the 2019 Valencia Film Festival. In 2017, she won the Prix d’Interpretation in the European Film Competition at the Nice Film Festival and three years before that, she received the Zbyszek Cybulski Award as well as the Award for Professional Acting Debut for her role in “Baby Blues” by Katarzyne Roslaniec.
Tara Karajica caught up with her at this year’s Black Nights Film Festival, where she was one of the six Black Nights Stars.
What made you want to become an actress?
Magdalena Berus: I started my acting career at the age of seventeen. Before that , I wasn’t interested in being an actress; I was a model and was very much involved in it – I felt that this was my thing. But it all changed when Kasia Rosłanic, the director of my first film, chose me among many young girls for the leading role in her film Baby Blues. It was then, during our rehearsals and after reading Directing Actors by Judith Weston, that I found acting to be something amazing. I became very passionate about it. Before, I hadn’t realized how much you can find out about yourself through the process of acting. I was really amazed, I felt this is what I wanted to do! Then, I quit modelling and dedicated myself to acting.
You have starred on TV and in film. Which medium do you prefer? Why?
M.B.: There is no medium I like more. It really depends on the project and your own attitude. I had the chance to work on TV series and I have amazing memories of it; I learnt a lot trough it. Nowadays, TV series are on a very high level, and I am therefore open to both mediums in the same way.
How much of you is there in every character you play? Do you manage to dissociate yourself completely from your persona in order to play someone else?
M.B.: Well, when I wasn’t an actress I thought that playing a role meant going totally into someone else’s mind, distancing yourself from yourself, but when I started doing it, I found out that acting was to become yourself even more, with no masks and no pretending. It’s about being authentic in given circumstances, digging deep into your emotions and feelings.
Which of your numerous roles is your favorite? Is there a particular role that you would like to play, someone you would like to be?
M.B.: My favorite role was Sandra in a short student film called Hot and Cold by Marta Prus. I’m not sure if it’s the character that amazed me or more the way we shot the film. I played a girl who has a small child and is not able to pay the rent. She, therefore, decides to rob a random woman on the street and it is the beginning of an important relationship between these two women. But what was really special about this project was that all the film was shot in one shot.
How do you prepare for your roles? What is the most interesting skill you have had to learn for a role?
M.B.: At the moment, I am in the middle of a very interesting process of preparing a role. I’ve been training boxing for the last seven months. I’m getting better and better at it. Before that, I’ve had the experience of training ballet for another role. My director suggested it because she wanted me to become more feminine for the character. Every time, my process of preparing is different and I am inspired by many things – sometimes it is a song, sometimes a picture and other times, a real person…
Has there been a role that has had such an impact on you that it has completely and deeply changed you and the way you perceive the world? If so, which one and why?
M.B.: The role that had a deep impact on me was definitely my first one – Natalia from Baby Blues. At the beginning, it was difficult for me to like her and understand her choices; she is not a character that you easily like. But, in the process of preparing for the role, I understood that her main goal in life was to be loved and accepted. That made me think of her differently. Also, in this role I could express all my hidden emotions and feelings and transform them into something good and creative. For me, that was a huge discovery; that’s why I fell in love with this profession.
You are now a Black Nights Star. What do you think this initiative means for your career and how do you think it will impact it?
M.B.: I didn’t really have any expectations. I was very happy to be chosen for this program, but I didn’t really know what it’s all about until yesterday when I got an email with the program of the festival. I understood then that it’s a really well-prepared event and it can have a real impact on our careers.
What does it take to be a star, according to you?
M.B.: I don’t consider myself to be star. Nevertheless, there are people who recognize me, for example, in the street or on the bus. Because of that, I cannot work in some public places like bars, restaurants, shops… This is the biggest inconvenience because sometimes I have some free periods and I would like to work in some other areas.
There has been a lot of talk about women in film these past two years. What do you make of the situation of women in film today? How is the situation in Poland?
M.B.: There are many talented women in the Polish film industry. I very appreciate working with them. I am not sure what exactly is the difference between working with a male and a female director – maybe, it’s about a deeper connection and comfort in working with female directors.
On that note, who is your favorite female filmmaker? Is there one you would love to work with?
M.B.: I love Polish female filmmakers. I had the opportunity to work with the very talented Kasia Roslaniec twice. She is actually responsible for me being an actress and she taught me so much about this profession. For example, I’d love to work with Agnieszka Smoczyńska.
What are your next projects?
M.B.: At the moment, I am finishing a biographical film about a famous Polish musician. I am playing a gypsy girl. For the last seven months, I’ve also been preparing for the role of female boxer. I cannot say much more about it, but it’s a really exciting project!
This interview was conducted at the 2019 Black Nights Film Festival.
Photo credits: Magdalena Berus