Hey Sasha, So excited to be chatting with you!
Thank you! Me too!
Where did your love of acting come from?
Well, you know, somehow I’ve ALWAYS considered myself an actress – ever since I was a little girl. I performed literally all the time, at every corner, for anyone who was willing to be the audience. I just couldn’t get enough of it. But I suppose that it was because of the environment I grew up in: my dad was a celebrated artist, and our home was constantly a gathering place for all kinds of creative talents. Also, my parents loved theatre, classical music, ballet, and opera, so they took my sisters and I to see the plays, concerts, and performances at least twice a week, if not more. The Bolshoi Theatre was like a second home to me. After seeing another theatre play, or a ballet, or a concert, I got very inspired every time, and as soon as we’d get home, I immediately started reproducing what I had just seen, playing all the roles. Everyone who knows me since my childhood will tell you that acting was the only profession I ever wanted to devote myself to.
Do you have any rituals before filming a show?
Yes! For instance, I prefer to read the script for the first time, and then to start working on it – breaking it down and analyzing it – in a coffee shop or sometimes in a park. Also, the day before filming I eat very little, and avoid caffeine. On every single day of shooting I arrive on set as early as possible and walk around…I need this time for my character and for myself. I need to let go of anything and everything that doesn’t belong to my character, to take a breath, to switch realms.
What goals have you set out for yourself in your career?
To work with some of the brightest actors and outstanding directors in the industry. To be constantly working. To be a part of movies and shows that really change people’s minds, that are meaningful and eye-opening.
Overall, how has this whole acting career experience been for you so far?
It has had its ups and downs, but that is the nature of show business, so I’m not complaining. The highs are super fun, and the lows can be difficult for a short time. Sometimes you desperately want to get onboard a certain film or show, but there is no way to do so. However, there are a lot of opportunities for actors here in LA, and there are many projects I am invited to participate in. I am constantly moving. Sometimes with big leaps, sometimes with baby steps, but I am constantly moving forward, and that’s the most important thing to do.
What’s your favorite part about being an actor?
The chance to inhabit the skins of personalities that are very different from my own. I do a lot of research when I prepare for a role, so I see it as a learning experience, a chance to understand another type of person, to see life from their perspective. It is deeply enriching and, of course, so much fun!
What is one movie that has greatly influenced your life?
When I was a kid, there was an old Soviet movie called “Scarecrow,” made by an absolutely genius director, Roman Bykov. It is about a classroom of sixth grade students who end up bullying one of their classmates, a young girl, accusing her of something that she did not actually do. It is heavy and heartbreaking and difficult to watch because it shows in detail – through some extraordinary acting and cinematography – how cruel we can be to one another, particularly when we are in a group and a mob mentality takes over. I was a kid when I saw this movie for the first time, and it had a tremendous impact on me because I began to look at the people around me as individuals, regardless of their reputation or whatever someone else might have said about them. I would analyze the behavior of a group of people wherever there was an underdog concerned before rushing to judgment. And sure enough, something very similar to the movie actually happened one year later in my seventh grade class: a new transfer student joined us, and immediately the other students began spreading rumors about her. She quickly became a target that everyone enjoyed gossiping about and teasing endlessly. Nobody wanted to be her friend or help her, and they treated her very cruelly, making her cry. My sister and I made it our mission to befriend this girl and protect her. We also confronted our classmates about their incessant bullying, and encouraged them to get to know her instead. Over time, it worked: most of them came to accept and even like her. From this, I learned how important it is to make decisions regardless of how “the group” thinks, and to give everyone a chance, even if it means falling out of favor. What’s more, I realized that if you approach members of a group individually and discuss their reasons for feeling this way, they often will admit that they’re just following the others – which is actually encouraging because it means that they may be willing to change their behavior. “Scarecrow” taught me that opting not to speak up for someone else is a choice that can have serious repercussions and may destroy that person’s life.
What would be your dream acting role?
One of the roles I would love to play is Camille Claudel, an extraordinary French sculptress born in 1864 who rose to great heights in the art world. At the same time, she had a very turbulent personal life and ended up being locked away in a mental institution in her early forties. I adore her work because there is so much pain in her art, and her sculptures are so dynamic and so expressive. She had incredible talent, fought her way to the top as a woman in a man’s world, despite being dismissed by many as “August Rodin’s lover”. The fact that she was locked away for decades and was never allowed to create again is a tragedy. The questions about her mental health, and whether she should have been committed to an institution is a large part of what makes her story so relevant to contemporary society.
Do you have any projects in the works you can tell us about?
For the last few months, there has not been much casting going on because of the pandemic, obviously, but I *can* reveal that there is a psychological thriller called THE CHATEAU in which I have been cast to play a spirit that haunts the people living in a large house in the French countryside…I’m very excited about that one! There will be a lot of special effects work, which I am really looking forward to!
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)
My message would be that Every Choice Matters. We need to live consciously and make each choice with intention.
What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
I can demolish an entire chocolate cake in a day!!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in acting? What advice should they ignore?
My advice is to prepare for a substantial amount of rejection, but to also remember that such rejection has nothing to do with you as a person or your talents as an actor. You can be the best actor in the world for a role, but if you are too tall, too short, or too whatever, you might not get the part. That’s just the way it works, and you just move on to the next audition and do your best. The important thing to remember is that it’s your dream, and to never ever give up on it!! That’s the advice I would give. As for the advice that should be ignored, it is anything along the lines of “You are not good enough to do this job, so don’t even try. Choose something more practical instead.” Again, ignore that any time you hear it. Never give up.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
I sit quietly at home and try to analyze why I feel overwhelmed, and which steps I can take to – slowly, methodically – calm down and conquer whatever obstacles lie in front of me. In such moments I need a lot of “me” time. I listen to music (classical really helps), and there is often a lot of chocolate involved, too.
Do you have any other talents other than acting?
I spent several years as a journalist and a television & radio host in Moscow. I’ve been told that I’m “punny” and have a talent for making people laugh. I am also an artist (I’ve sold a few paintings), a singer, and a pretty good chef – everybody at home loves my vegetarian lasagna, my braised prawns with mango chutney, and my Olivier salad, which is the Russian version of potato salad. As for my superpowers, I would say that those are compassion, empathy and being a good communicator. I try to use these talents to advocate for change, help others, and be a force for good.
Any last things you’d like to tell your supporters?
As a Russian emigre to the USA, I want to say that your country is so wonderful in so many ways, most of all because anyone really CAN make a difference. I love the United States, yet at the same time, I feel that a few fundamental changes must occur in American culture, particularly when it comes to the way people of color and other minorities are treated. Please, don’t ever live with your eyes closed. Open your eyes, open your ears, open your heart, and use your voice.
What social media platform do you use most? Where can people find out what projects you have going on?
Mostly I am on Instagram: @realsashakerbel, and also on Facebook: Sasha Kerbel artist page. On Twitter it’s @KerbelSasha.