Laia Costa is a Spanish film and television actress best known for starring in the critically acclaimed one-shot German thriller “Victoria” by Sebastian Schipper (2015), for which she received several nominations and won a German Film Award for Best Actress, making her the first foreign actress to win a Lola. She then starred in the romantic dramas “Newness” by Drake Doremus (2017) and “Only You” by Harry Wootliff (2018). She also appeared in the second season of the series “Polseres Vermelles” (2013), in Nicolas Pesce’s horror thriller “Piercing” (2018), and in the first season of the financial drama “Devils” (2020) among many other projects.
At this year’s Evolution! Mallorca International Film Festival, Tara Karajica talks to Laia Costa about being awarded the 2022 Evolutionary New Talent Award at the festival, her role in Alauda Ruiz de Azúa’s first feature, “Lullaby,” that premiered at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, her acting career so far and what she is up to next.
What made you want to become an actress?
Laia Costa: Actually, it’s not something I grew up thinking about. I didn’t know you could be an actor in Spain, actually. I had no references. And, I was in school and I was thinking: “Now, I have to choose a profession,” and that was not on the list that the school gave you. I think it was kind of an accident somehow. My sister told me about an acting studio in a neighborhood we liked a lot and we started doing some acting courses there. I went to University and I started working in an agency where I spent six years as an executive accountant, and then I started this acting course with my sister in the summer. Then, I met an agent and we did some auditions, and I got my first job. So, I asked for a sabbatical at my agency. And then, I remember spending three years working as an actress and when they would ask me what I did for a living, I would still say I was an executive accountant. I think I had some issues with saying I was an actress because I didn’t grow up in a close relationship with this world and I didn’t feel like this was a serious job. After Victoria, I realized the impact that films can have on people. I used to be a reader. I was not into films a lot when I was young, but I was reading a lot of books. And, I felt like some books changed my life and I realized films can do the same. So, I was more safe and confident about being an actress and being vocal about it. And, from that moment on, I realized: “Okay, I have so much to learn about this job, this profession, and I can do it with commitment and professionality.” So, I tried to understand the profession.
Lullaby (Cinco lobitos) is about mothers and children and how we take care of both our children and our parents and how the roles are reversed when we take take care of our parents and how difficult it all is. It’s also about how we judge our parents from different perspectives at different times in our lives. Can you comment on that?
L.C.: Yes, I think it’s very interesting that you’re talking about not judging the characters or our appearance or our friends, because I think this is the main lesson this project has taught me. I think when we talk about motherhood or parenthood or who takes care of who, it’s very easy to talk about something we don’t know anything about. And then, we judge people mistakenly, right? And so, now, thanks to this project, I try to be very cautious when I talk to someone, to ask the right questions or not to ask any questions at all if I don’t think I’m entitled to do so. Or, just let people talk first – you never know what kind of situation the other one is facing in their personal life. I think when you have to take care of someone, even if it’s your parents or someone with special disabilities, or physical disabilities, or babies, you’re quite alone, and I think care-givers like to take care of people. It’s not something that is on the front page of political, social and economical agendas of any government. So, usually, we find people doing it themselves while they are also working, or they need to stop working to take care of someone else. It’s a big, big issue and it’s very complicated to understand how big it is. So, this film has taught me not to judge anyone because of that; because it’s very complicated, and it’s a big, big responsibility. We are not really talking about this in any sphere of public life and I think it’s something we have to start doing.
The film is set in the Basque Country, which is a very matriarchal part of Spain. Can you talk about this aspect of the film about and the women who sacrifice themselves in order to care for someone so selflessly?
L.C.: It’s very interesting because the film talks about two different generations. We have my parents – Koldo and Begoña – who have made this deal. It’s a deal a lot of people have made in the past, but nowadays as well, where it’s like: “Okay, this is us. I am going to be working all day and you’re going to be taking care of the children and the domestic work.” And, my grandparents had this deal. It’s a deal that, even if you don’t agree with it, worked quite well because they were able to match the numbers at the end of the month. On the other hand, we have Amaia and Javi, the new generation, and you can see the different roles in the couple. But these two young people, they both want to work and they both want to be parents. You can feel a difference between Javi and Koldo. Javi wants to be a conscious parent and he wants to be part of his daughter’s life even when she’s a baby. That’s something that didn’t happen with Koldo, Amaia’s father. He was not interested in that part at all when she was a baby. But this young couple, even if they both want to work, they are trying to make that happen. It’s not possible because their job is not enough – not one and not even two. His job is not enough to make the numbers match at the end of the month. Her job is not enough. Even with both jobs, it’s not possible and they cannot afford daycare. So, we have a new deal here, but the numbers are not matching at the end of the month. This young couple is more conscious and they both want to work and they both want to be parents, but they have no tools to make that happen. So, it’s still worse. We haven’t reached a good place for any of those couples. And, this is very clear with the film because Alauda, the director, tries not to judge any decision. She tries not to judge the decision the grandparents made. That’s how they made it. She just shows you what’s going on with these generations after so many years. But then again, she shows you the new generation where we have this young couple of workers and parents and no tools to make it happen in a very respectful way. So, there’s a lot of pain and suffering for them. They need to go to the grandparents for help with childcare and money. It’s very interesting because we used to think we are better now. It still is not good, so that’s why I’m talking about the caregivers in this society. Where are they? Is it a job and how do you manage it? How do you make it work with your own life? It’s a very complicated notion.
Can you talk about Amaia, your character? How do you see her?
L.C.: At the beginning of the film, we see this new mom with a newborn baby who is just two days old, in the street, a little bit lost, with the cars passing by. Her family is at the back, taking stuff out of the car, getting into the apartment. And, she’s looking at the road with a baby. She’s happy, but at the same time, she’s just lost. She’s like: “Who am I now? I’m a new mom. I don’t know how to deal with this postpartum time. I don’t know when I’m going to be able to work. I don’t know how to deal with my family. I don’t know how to live with the baby.” I think it’s a very common place and then we follow her through her first year as a mom, where life and death join for her, where she has an identity crisis. First, when she’s a mom for the first time, and then, when she’s her mom’s mom and that happens in the same year. So, it’s a big crash for her and I think it’s very interesting to follow her on this journey.
How have you prepared for this role? How was it to work with Alauda on this film?
L.C.: I didn’t prepare for this role because I was over-prepared. I mean, I was a first-time mom myself. I got the script when I was three months pregnant and then the pandemic hit. So, we were all stuck in our apartments. I was stuck with a newborn. And then, when my daughter was one year old, I started shooting. So, I have this feeling that for the first part, I was over-prepared. I read the script when I was pregnant and then I read the script and when my baby was born, and I was laughing because I read two different angles of the same script. The impact on me was so different, right? For the second part of the film, which is the main part actually, where you have to be your parent’s mom, that’s something I didn’t want to prepare for. I had the feeling that Amaia has no idea how to deal with that. I have no idea how to deal with that. I’ve never been in this situation. So I trusted Alauda because she said that she wanted to find this process on set. She didn’t want to overthink it. She wanted to find the answers while shooting. So, we just did a summary of what was not the script, imagining situations like how Amaia and Javi met when they were you teenagers, for example, or some of her memories with her parents. How did she look at her mom when she was a teenager? Things that were not really in the film. We trusted Alauda’s process. It’s very interesting to see her work. It’s her first film, but she’s shot advertisements before, so she was like a pro on steroids. She really knows how to deal with a big team and with situations. And, she knew perfectly what kind of film she wanted. She knew the tone she wanted – this very special tone between comedy and dramedy, which I find really difficult to get, and she didn’t want to over-explain anything. Everything is very subtle. She didn’t want to judge. So, it was very special to witness Alauda’s work on set.
You have acted in TV and film. Which one do you prefer? Why?
L.C.: Both of them. I don’t see so much difference between one or the other. The production defines the project. I’ve seen really good stories in both of those medias.
How do you pick a role? Which one is your favorite, if any?
L.C.: I choose projects for different reasons. Sometimes, there is one main element and sometimes that element changes. I won’t say I have a favorite because I don’t. Each project I’ve done has taught me something and I keep them all very close to my heart for one reason or another.
Has any character that you have played, any role completely, radically changed you or your worldview, has done something to you that has stayed with you?
L.C.: Victoria by Sebastian Schipper taught me about the creative filming process in a way I didn’t know before and it changed my perspective and the meaning of making films from a personal point of view. Then, I did films like Only You by Harry Wootliff, where I found out that I had no idea about the real emotional process behind infertility. Then, I watched films like The Tribe by Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi and it was mind-blowing. That’s another example of a story I have never seen before. I think films force you to understand other realities, therefore they make you more empathic and that’s precious nowadays.
Is there any character, person, anyone, that you would love to play? Your dream character?
L.C.: I haven’t really thought about it. I think it is funnier to find out what pops up.
You have just received the Evolutionary New Talent Award at this year’s Evolution! Mallorca International Film Festival. What does it mean for you and your career?
L.C.: I love this film festival because you can see the global and local talent merge into the same room. You can see old films and new ones in its program. I feel it like a very raw and authentic film festival. I think Sandra [Seeling Lipski] and her team are doing an amazing job trying to bridge people and cultures, which is always good for all kinds of creative processes. It speaks to me and it’s an absolute honor to be awarded with the Evolution New Talent Award 2022.
There has been a lot of talk about women in film for the past few years. What is your opinion on the matter? Where do you see yourself in this discussion?
L.C.: I celebrate women everywhere. We all know where we come from, how much has already been done to address it and how much more we can do to keep improving it. It’s a work-in-progress and it needs to be kept very much alive.
Is there any female filmmaker that you would love to work with who inspires you?
L.C.: So many! Just in Spain there’s been a delightful explosion of female directors who have been also the main representatives of our current cinema across the world throughout international film festivals. It’s a wonderful moment to be alive and being part of these new bold voices is a gift.
What are your next projects?
L.C.: I just shot two Spanish indie films, Els Encantats by Elena Trape and El maestro que prometió el mar by Patricia Font, and Diplomat, a British TV series. Next year, I will be shooting with Isabel Coixet, one of my favorite filmmakers ever, and I will be part of an American epic fantasy streaming TV series. It will be so much fun!
This interview was conducted remotely at the 2022 Evolution! Mallorca International Film Festival.