Maryam, you were born in Tehran and moved to the Netherlands with your parents. When did this happen, and how did this affect you ?
MT- Hello Joseph! First of all, thank you for having me. It is a pleasure to appear in your magazine.
Yes, my parents moved about 20 years ago to the Netherlands. I guess from one day I was surrounded by a big family and the other day the only family members I had around were my parents and sister. As a little girl I was very much focused on having fun though, due which the relocation did not affect me that much –other than I missed certain family members. Over the years I obtained a better understanding of the situation.
Being raised in the Netherlands, I seem to have developed certain Dutch characteristics. For instance, I like to eat fries with mayonnaise which they tend to find awkward in the United States. I also have to stress that I am very much used to bread and cheese of Dutch quality. I think the Netherlands has excellent bread and cheese. So, when I am outside the Netherlands, these are two things I really miss.
TAEM- With many college students following our publication as a learning tool, please tell us about your early education and how it has prepared you for your career.
MT- I guess I got my very first acting education at a theatre group I joined as a teenager. The director of the theatre group was also our drama teacher. I think of one the most relevant things I learned during my early acting education is that discipline is an element that should not be taken for granted. Being disciplined means for instance, turn up to rehearsals on time, treat the work seriously and do your home work.
By being disciplined you can not only obtain respect, but also be nice acting company. Especially when you get to work with people who are serious about their job (e.g. serious actors, directors, producers) lack of discipline is a big fit fall. I personally find it hard to take an undisciplined person serious and do not like to work with them.
MT- I started with classes in the Netherlands and followed up in the United States. I believe the acting industry in Netherlands is more theatre orientated. Under this umbrella, I have experienced that the acting classes in the Netherlands were more focused on how to give an interesting stage performance, which has been a great basis for me.
In the United States, I started to focus on more details like how to suck the audience to a scene. I have to say that the great thing about the United States is that there are a lot of great actors –from all around the world– and people are very serious about acting due which it is a great environment to work on your craft. It may be said that my acting classes in the United States were great to refine my actor’s instrument.
TAEM- We understand that as a teenager you joined a theater group and appeared in several stage productions. Please recall for us what these were and the roles that you had in them.
MT- I remember we performed in both small and lager stage productions. A couple times a year, we performed several small stage performances of 30 minutes maximum. Here we played different scenes from classis (e.g. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet) to modern plays. In addition, we prepared a bigger show of I think 2 hours once a year such as the musical ‘Pinocchio’ which we performed several times at the local theater ‘Schouwburg Arnhem’. In the musical Pinocchio, I played the bad cat –from the fox and the cat– which was a fun part to perform.
TAEM- How nervous were you for your first performance, and what confidence did you gain from it ?
MT- I was very nervous for my first performance. I hate to regard that I was very shy in my younger years and preferred to stay on the background. My mom really disliked this behavior and asked me several times to change it. But of course I did not know better. I believe my shyness was and is due to my high sensitivity which is something I was just born with. So, my mom looked for something to help me overcome my shyness. This is when she suggested me to join a theatre group.
At one hand the idea sounded very nice, because I loved to play different characters. I remember one of my favorite games was to play and direct scenes and characters from different cartoons, which could keep me busy for hours. Only I preferred to do this in my room -with my sister or friends who came to play- instead of performing in front of other people. So, I was not sure. Then my mom said “ok if you are not sure we can just go and have a look and then you can decide what you want to do” to which I agreed.
When we arrived at the theatre school, I suddenly got informed that I would have to audition the same day. I guess they could only accept new students after an audition, which I accepted –I guess I was too shy to decline. I remember I felt very awkward and uncomfortable during my preparation time – I had a couple of minutes to prepare the scene. My heart was pounding and I felt like I was at the dentist.
But when I had to perform I felt comfortable and just played my scene. My audition went well and I got many credits from the other kids and the drama teacher. I guess the credits made me feel unique and accomplished which of course was good for my self confidence. This is when I decided to continue acting.
MT- Shame was the first film I appeared in that got actually sent to Film Festivals. Prior to Shame I had appeared in a few smaller projects with only limited distribution.
Shame tells the story of a young boy –Johan– who is afraid to and due to that does not express his love interest. This is because his love interest has the same sex and homosexuality is not supported by Johan’s direct environment. As a consequence, Johan denies his true feelings and grows old with his wife Dora. Then one day he meets a young boy who reminds him of his love interest when he was young and this is when Johan realizes that he may only have little time to make a change in his life.
I enjoyed working on Shame because it is a love story and regards the importance to express ones feelings. I would like to stress that I think love is one of the most beautiful things in life and we are blessed to experience it. How many times do you meet someone you really love –or feel crazy about? Maybe one or two or maybe three times if you are really lucky? Such beautiful rare thing should not be taken for granted and people should feel free to express themselves. And let us not underestimate that the more you deny your feelings the more they grow and the more you hide your feelings the more they show.
TAEM- The next year you appeared in the production Amsterdam Heavy. What was your character in this film?
MT- In Amsterdam Heavy I played the character of Lindy. Lindy is a young lady who works in a love bar, in Amsterdam, where a lot of crime is taking place. She loves her job, but is not a big fan of her boss. This is because her boss comes with new rules that do not work for her. It was fun being part of Amsterdam Heavy because it was a movie about Amsterdam. This is also the main reason why I attached myself to this project. I have to say that I also met a few nice people with who I still keep in touch.
TAEM- In 2012 you starred in the film A Broken Code. You also appeared in several shorts : De Witte Weduwe, Michelle, Summertime, and Hands of the Butterfly. Tell us about your roles in these, and how you were able to separate the characters that you played.
MT- In 2012 I appeared and starred in a couple of short films –except A Broken Code which is a full length feature. In De Witte Weduwe –The White Widow–I played a young college student who escaped the big city together with one of her male friends and boyfriend to discover the nature and discuss utopia.
In Michelle, I played a young women who arrives in a foreign city to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an actress. Confronted with the unbearable tuition fee of a prestigious acting school she wants to enroll to, and being rejected multiple times after she tries to find a job, Michelle takes desperate measures of selling her body to earn money.
In Summertime, I played a young Jewish women who is on the run for the Nazi Germans. This story was based a real life story –I guess we know what happened during the world war II. What made Summertime even more interesting for me is that the scenario was based on the experiences of the director’s grandmother, which she had explained to her grandchild, the director.
In Hands of the Butterfly I played a foreigner from Yugoslavia who tries to adapt to the Dutch culture. While discussing the difficulties of a foreigner in the Netherlands she comes to realize that her best friend Andrea has a love interest of the same sex. Soon has to cope with another challenge which is convincing her best friend to express her love interest.
I had the fortune to play very different characters which has not only been a lot of fun to do, but also great to build my acting instrument. I think the best way to work on your craft as an actor is to gain acting experience, especially on set. At the end of the day it may be said that acting is something very practical. So, working on these shorts and very different characters was a great chance for me to refine my actor’s instrument. Also, the great thing of working on shorts is that you have to spend less time on a project –less than a full length project– due which you have more time to work on different projects.
I try to start every project very Blanco. This means that I try to develop a new character which I think would be good for the project, from the scratch and based on each scenario. Then, when a project ends, I forget about the character I played. When a new projects starts, I start Blanco again. I guess in this way it has been easy to separate the characters I play.
TAEM- We understand that you not only starred in, but produced the film De Verdwaalde Jager. How did it feel to work both sides of the camera ?
MT- First of all, I did not star in ‘De Verdwaalde Jager’ –The Lost Hunter– but only appeared in it. The Lost Hunter is tells the story about a Kenyan boy, Diallo, who illegally moves in with his sister in The Netherlands, hoping for a better future. Then he comes to realize that the Dutch society doesn’t welcome strangers with open arms. The production of The Lost Hunter was a great learning experience. I always wanted to produce as well as act –in order to be able to influence what is being produced– and The Lost Hunter was a great debut.
Having worked behind de camera has definitely enriched me as an actress. This is because I have obtained a better understanding of a full production process. As an actor you are only involved at a small part of a production process –the filming part. And when you are on set, you are very much focused on your role. However, when you are involved at the production side you can not only experience the full production process, but also experience many other things that actually happen on set. I think a better understanding of a production process can give you more insight on the quality of a project. This can help you for instance decide whether or not to attach yourself to certain projects.
TAEM- How did all your past acting experiences aid you in making this production, and what are your plans for the future ?
MT- My past acting experiences where very helpful in getting involved at the production side. I never went to film school to study film production so I guess my acting experiences were all I had prepare myself for film production. By being on set several times I got the chance to obtain insight on productional aspects such who the key people are and what they do. However, I do have to admit that I also studied a book on film production to prepare myself for this film production. This is because my acting experiences were not enough to obtain sufficient insight on film production.
Actually I am currently working on my second film production, which we plan to shoot in July 2013. The film is about an Iranian women who came to the Netherlands with great plans, which to her big regret turned out very differently. With this film we aim to shed light on the world on minorities. In contrast to The Lost Hunter, I will not pull this project logistically but only help put the key people together. This means that another colleague, a delegated producer will be attached to pull the project logistically. In this way I can invest my time on my core job, which is acting, as I will also portray the lead character in this film.
TAEM- Maryam, you are a beautiful and talented woman, and I know that we will certainly hear more about you in the future. We want to thank you for your time with our interview and wish you much luck in all that you do.
MT-Thank you for having me!