The actress from Rijeka who starred in Aladdin and Fantastic Beasts has a role in the new Morbius - interview with Jagoda Kamov
Young Croatian actress that had a chance to star in Disney, Marvel and WB projects
Jagoda Kamov is a writer/director/actress from Croatia who has been living in London for the past 5 years. Her interests lie in dark psychology, dark comedy, and the absurdism of life. In the past several years Jagoda had a chance to star in minor roles in Disney's live-action adaptation of Aladin, in the Warner Brother's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and her latest acting/stunts project Sony's Morbius is out in cinemas right now! Jagoda joined the Duart platform a few weeks ago so we've seen this as a perfect opportunity to interview her regarding her career so far, her latest role as well as her future plans.
They say that every beginning is difficult, but your career started quite well. You are from Rijeka, Croatia but you made a career as an international actress in London, UK. So far you had several minor roles in blockbuster movies such as Aladdin and Fantastic Beasts and now you are adding to your portfolio the first stunt role in the latest Sony/Marvel film "Morbius"... Was everything always so “rosy” for you and your career?
Some may say you need good luck, but I believe hard work is what builds good luck. When I say hard work, I mean by waking up every morning, creating a discipline for self-improvement and treating every day as it is audition day, a lot of patience and being ready to fail. This kind of thing can be recognised the moment an actor enters the room, and let's not forget charisma improves your chances.
From a young age, I was very shy and introverted. I didn’t know what kind of job I wanted to do or what I wanted to be. I remember, after high school, all my friends were thinking about how to fit into the society that had been created by a very closed system at that time. It was very narrow and there was very little room for those who did not fit into the category. I cannot explain it in more words, but I could feel that by accepting this system, I had to change myself in a negative way to keep up with it.
And this is when one of my friends recommended acting because she thought it could help my mental state and help me communicate my feelings. I've suffered from depression since a young age, and in Croatia, being depressed at that time was not considered an illness and it was not easy to talk to people about. So I enrolled on the acting school in Rijeka, and my teacher, Bojan Lakos, made me self aware of myself, my emotions and my low self-esteem at that time. I will always be grateful that I was able to attend his school.
After that, I decided to work on a cruise ship and I have left my soul in New Orleans. It was very hard, but I was able to move to London after.
London is a very demanding city. To adapt you need to change lifestyles, learn to be on the move, have a lot of energy and learn to be independent.
When I say independent, it means that Croatian people are very family-oriented and Londoners are not like that. I learned about individuals and certain loneliness in London. As well, the most challenging thing for me was to learn to communicate, live and work with people from different ethnicities and backgrounds, because everyone had their idea of what ‘true’ for them is.
Acting means devoting yourself to that job. What are the sacrifices that you may have had to accept during your life?
Time goes fast in the film industry. Your life stops for a while. Your relationships with your friends and family suffer. You're never home. You miss a lot of milestones, birthdays and weddings. You get used to the isolation. I have struggled to find, and maintain a balance between my work life and my personal life.
Could you tell us a bit more about how was it to work for big studios like Sony, Disney, Warner Brothers? How does the path look from the preparations/ getting the role, over the scale of sets and filming to finally getting a chance to see yourself on a big screen?
It can be daunting to see how large the sets are. A lot of people are constantly going in and out. You never know who they are and what their job is. People are very friendly, but they all follow strict procedures. There are unwritten rules that nobody tells you and you need to figure them out on your own. Silence is appreciated, mostly because people work long hours and you get tired easily. Everyone is trying to respect each other's peace. I can say that the UK crew is quieter onset than the USA.
I believe that you need to have a good routine every day, which consists of self-improvement, physical exercise, and learning something new. I have become a type of person who believes strongly in the discipline.
Casting; It starts with my agent sending the sides and usually takes 2-3 days for prep. I take one day to do research. For me, it is really important to understand the character before I learn the lines. Some would challenge me on that, but I find this approach most naturalistic and it did score me auditions. For 2 days, I’m learning the lines and practising. And for 3 days, I do a lot of breathing and face exercises. I am avoiding reading lines or practising in any form before that audition because I believe it affects my performance.
If I'm filming, I have friends help me with reading the lines, and if I'm going to audition, I'm trying to show my personality in front of the casting director. They love to see who you are as a person and how you embody your personality into the character you're auditioning for.
After the audition, there is usually a waiting time. Recall takes 2-3 days. If you pass recall, then you know that it's between you and other people. Mind that for independent films, retakes are only one time, but for bigger productions, they can go up to six times.
After you get the role, the agent will let you know. Then you get booked for the table reading and this is where I ask a lot of questions to the director. Some directors love to leave creative freedom to the actors and work together to create a particular vision. But some directors, you must follow their vision very tightly and it can be very challenging. I have worked with both of these types of directors.
When you are on set, the most challenging thing is keeping the energy for the camera. It always depends on the role and what the scene is. And, again, waiting time for the movie to come out.
This can be very frustrating because I can’t talk about it, it takes about 2-3 years to come out and by the time it is out I easily forget that I was part of it. When I saw myself for the first time on the big screen it was terrifying and I realized that I was one of those actors who can’t watch themselves on the screen. As well, people often say I have a very versatile face so with the right costume I can’t even recognize myself. I give myself a few shocks by looking at myself. These days I am avoiding watching things with myself because it makes me uncomfortable.
Besides acting in movies you are a writer and director. You are also working in the theatre. Is there such a thing as being committed to only one "skill" or does diversity bring more value to your work?
I try not to be committed to one thing because I think that's limiting. I think to truly develop as an artist, you need to be in a position of being able to try new things and not be attached to something you've done before. It's just a matter of having the discipline to focus on one thing or the other.
Diversity brings more value to my work because it allows me to see different perspectives and how they apply to a specific project. It also helps me see different ways of translating a similar topic or idea and allows me to think of different outcomes. And I’m free to explore and play!
How did it come to be that in "Morbius" you are doing stunts?
My agent called me and told me a producer from Morbius would love to see me and a few other girls in Pinewood Studio. I travelled there, had an interview, had a very long waiting time and the next day they took me to work. ( I trained with a twirling baton for 10 years and from there moved on to the long staff.) So I bragged about that in front of the producer and gave him a few swings with a broom because these were the only things I found in the room.)
When and how did your collaboration with the agent start? How much did it help you in your career, especially in the roles in blockbusters? Are you focused only on big films or do you cast for independent films as well?
I have two agents. One is a commercial agent and the other is an acting agent since this year I have become part of the Young Vic Director program which I am very happy and proud of.
I got my agent 5 years ago. I was performing in the play Life of Oscar Wilde as Lord Alfred Douglas and the owner of the agency was in the audience. He approached me after the show and since then I've got a lot of commercial and movie roles.
I've been offered a lot of roles in independent movies, but many of them refused because I am the type of person who aims for quality over quantity. If I can't see the passion behind that director's eyes, and the emotional ability to guide me as an actor, I won't take on the offer. I've been in the past in situations when the director wasn't there for me and other actors, and I've become very careful since then.
I have noticed that a lot of independent directors and scriptwriters have become more technical about their approach to the craft of filmmaking, but in the process, filmmakers have lost their sense of aesthetics and ability to direct actors. Mind that I don't know how it is in Croatian when it comes to film directors.
But yes, I would be happy to work on an independent film, but I need a good script and a director who cares. And yes, I'll jump on that project right away.
Can you compare how much and how different the acting opportunities and the industry are associated with them in Croatia and Worldwide (UK/ USA)?
I think it would be difficult to compare acting opportunities and the industry in Croatia and Worldwide due to the differences in each country. While Croatia is a small country, acting opportunities in Croatia are much less. However, I do think the industry in Croatia is still growing and it's not impossible for our country to have more opportunities. In Croatia, it's harder to get work in commercials or film because there simply aren't as many directors and producers from which to choose. There is no really big production company in Croatia, and it's more difficult to make a relatively large name for yourself. That being said, I think Croatian actors have the ability to produce quality work just as well as any other actors.
As well, I do think that the opportunities for Croatian actors are more limited worldwide, due to the small population of the country and its cultural and language barriers and closed down system for the industry.
When I left six years ago, Croatia didn’t offer much to people who didn't go the traditional way to acting or filmmaking. Croatia doesn't have a steady film industry on a midsize scale. You have a movie or two a year, but they're not big productions. They're mostly independent films. Often, what was available to people who went to the Academy was theatre and some small-scale film work. If you're going to be an actor in Croatia, you need to go the traditional way--the Academy route--and then you have a decent chance for success in terms of getting your face seen. But the chances of getting into film school or making it as a performer without going the Academy route are pretty slim. There aren't that many opportunities for people to make a career in Croatia. And they also had an old way of doing things that I didn’t want to be part of. I thought that it moved creativity backwards and when I left for London I confirmed that.
Honestly, it made me sad to see that we have young talent, and they have to adapt to an old system that was thrown away a long time ago everywhere in the world but Croatia is stubbornly using it. The industry was closed down, casting was private, and if you went to the Academy, you would end up working in theatre, and that was even maybe.
The system just works differently and the economy comes from tourism so it's very hard for Croatia to carry a high-budget film. In The UK, the main income comes from the film industry. Four years ago, the UK took over the SFX department to the point that even now Hollywood needs to come to the UK to film. If Croatia wants to keep up, they have to invest in an appropriate camera and crew. That costs money, but the benefits are more. If Croatia wants to make movies that have an international audience and that has a certain level of quality, then they need to invest in production. They need to open up more opportunities for young people outside of the Academy, so you can meet people from a wide range of backgrounds. This way, you'll be able to work with diverse people who will bring different insights, and you'll learn a lot from them. I would say that the film industry has to think about what society needs, but they also need to understand what society wants.
London is more diverse and open-minded than Croatia when it comes to the creative industry. When you break through the doors, the system will offer you many acting opportunities. The system wants you to achieve your goals. That’s what I love about London a lot. They recognise and celebrate talent a lot more there, and they have a lot more opportunities for that talent to flourish.
I feel like in Croatia, the system doesn’t want you to a breakthrough which is why it is harder for people from areas like mine who want to breakthrough. The system wants you to stay around but it doesn’t provide the opportunities necessary for them to do so. I'm not saying that it's easier to do acting in London. Yes, it provides you with lots of casting opportunities. But let's not forget that you're competing with a lot of actors from different ethnicity and they're all super talented, young and beautiful.
What do platforms like Spotlight, Duart and others bring to the table for younger non-American/non-British actresses and actors?
I have recently joined Duart so I can’t go into the details but I see that you are trying to help actors to breach outside countries and that sounds great.
I am part of the Spotlight. It's really hard to get on the Spotlight, and even when you do, you still need an agent to submit you to casting. Most of the casting calls I've done have gone through the Spotlight. Spotlight offers jobs to everyone, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. You just need to have a good agent.
Do you have any favourite Daniel Espinosa films or do you have any favourite characters from Spiderman/ Marvel Universe?
Yes, it is Child 44. When it comes to Marvel, I like Guardians of the Galaxy.
In the end, can you tell us a bit more regarding your latest projects "The Long Trail" and "The Dumb man"? When can we expect them? What are your hopes/anticipations for them?
I can’t say much. The Long Trail pilot TV show I have written and will direct probably in 2024.
The Dumb Man is the play I wrote and am currently working on as director. The opening will be in August 2022 for the Camden Festival, and then it will go into a long run.
The Dumb Man is a play about acceptance and death and the existential questions that each of them evokes. It's also a play about fear of difference, fear of loss, and the persistent impulse to rationalize and deny reality. The dumb man is a man who has been stuck in the past for years, not living the present and fearing everything new. The play is about how this man makes peace with his inability to run away from reality and accept what has happened in the past.