Mimosa Willamo made her breakthrough performance in Antti Heikki Pesonen’s “Headfirst.” The film’s success brought Mimosa to the attention of the mainstream audience and also delivered her first Jussi Award for Best Supporting Actress in the Finnish Film Academy Awards. Since then, Mimosa has been considered as one of the most exceptional young talents of Finland and has worked consistently in numerous film and TV productions. In 2016, Mimosa was nominated for another Jussi Award for her role in Taneli Mustonen’s “Bodom,” and won the Best Actress Award at the Screamfest Film Festival in LA for that film. Earlier this year, Mimosa played the lead role in “Aurora,” Miia Tervo’s debut feature film. Mimosa’s astonishing performance as Aurora, the young troubled party girl from Lapland, has garnered her widespread attention from the international film industry. The film was the opening film for the Göteborg Film Festival, and has been screened at several film festivals this year, including SXSW and the Seattle International Film Festival and has received multiple awards and nominations around the globe. Mimosa has won the Best Actress Award for this role at the Satisfied Eye International Film Festival in London. More recently, she was cast as one of the leads in the Swedish crime/drama series “Box 21” where Mimosa plays the role of the young criminal inspector, Mariana Hermansson.
Tara Karajica caught up with her at this year’s Black Nights Film Festival, where she is one of the six Black Nights Stars.
What made you want to become an actress?
Mimosa Willamo: I never wanted to be an actor. My career is a wonderful mistake, made possible by good timing and luck.
You have starred on TV and in film. Which medium do you prefer? Why?
M.W.: Both have their pros and even some cons. Film is where it all started and I feel that when filming a movie, you might sometimes have more time and a story that is allowed to be complete. In TV, there is always the possibility for more seasons, so you have to make choices that you might be unhappy with later. Then again, TV allows you to go deeper, be slower, break more boundaries and take chances.
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.W.: It depends so much on the character. Some characters are me with a twist, some are a different person who mostly just borrows my body and voice. I feel like I work better when I find something that links me to the character, that there’s a steadier basis to start building on. Also, I have found something major in common in every character I’ve found specially interesting. That might be because every character you have more time with – to prepare and play – I’ve found more interesting than the “quick ones.”
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.W.: Aurora is and probably will always be a special one for me. I don’t have a particular character I’d dreamed of – although if I’d ever got to do “Ronja Rövardotter” I’d immediately say yes! But, of course, there are types of roles that interest me. If there’s something “off” in a character and you can’t name it right away, it makes work more interesting.
How do you prepare for your roles? What is the most interesting skill you have had to learn for a role?
M.W.: Mostly, I get to know my colleagues and the director. If possible, also the screenwriter. There haven’t been that many special skills that have taken time, but obviously I get trained how to hold a gun before I hold a gun. Or, how to speak a dialect that isn’t my own. I had a lot of fun when I got to learn walking in high heels and slack rope walking. I still know my way around in heels, but wouldn’t probably be especially great slacklining.
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.W.: I learnt a lot from Aurora. Not only about addiction and denial, but also about different kinds of showing and feeling love. My first role, Takku, a troubled teen, will always be important. Everything was new and overwhelming, but luckily the character was beautifully and precisely written and I didn’t have to stress about anything. The beginning changed my view on my future life quite a bit. Also making the student film Elvis & Onerva taught me innovative and new ways of preparation.
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.W.: Well, I just hope we have a great time and meet people we can learn from. I bet I will, at least. I don’t have any precise goals. I just enjoy this crazy ride and learn more and more every day.
What does it take to be a star, according to you?
M.W.: Honestly, I don’t know. I think and hope that people would not aspire to become stars just to be famous. If you don’t have anything to say or do, there’s no reason to take space. Stars change the world for a better place in different ways. Some do it with art, some with humor, some with politics… There are endless possibilities…
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 Finland?
M.W.: It is getting better in Finland. Obviously, we are not close to 50/50 in directors, leading parts or scriptwriters, etc. But we have acknowledged the problem, so now we can only make it better. I was lucky enough to start my career just a couple of years before #metoo, so it didn’t have time to crush me; it’s a better time to be an actress in Finland now. We are taken seriously and the everyday harassment doesn’t happen at work so much anymore. I also know I’ve been lucky. I don’t know how the women that have been around longer feel. I feel safe knowing that if something happens, it isn’t underestimated or hidden.
On that note, who is your favorite female filmmaker? Is there one you would love to work with?
M.W.: We have many amazing female filmmakers in Finland, but if I dared to dream outside of Finland, I’d just like to take Phoebe Waller-Bridge to lunch and ask how she manages to be such a brilliant actress, screenwriter and producer.
What are your next projects?
M.W.: Not sure what I can talk about, but next year, the Swedish TV series Box 21 will have its premiere at the beginning of 2020. There’s also a Finnish comedy under the working title Potato coming out next fall. Otherwise, I’ll be busy filming next year.
This interview was conducted at the 2019 Black Nights Film Festival.
Photo credits: Pietari Purovaara