Interview with actress Ada Galeș: ”I believe Romania needs good people”
Ada Galeș was born on 9th of March, 1991. She knew since she was little that she wanted to become an actress and her plans never changed – in 2014, she graduated from the National Academy of Film and Television in Bucharest, Romania. She started her journey as an actress at “Sică Alexandrescu” Theater in Brașov, where she was awarded the UNITER prize for Debut in the year of 2016. Soon after, she was kicked out of the theater because of a protest she initiated against the administration.
She continued acting in Bucharest at the National Theatre, while also collaborating with various other venues in the capital. In 2020, when Covid striked and everything she knew professionally started to crumble, she found time to explore other hobbies she enjoyed but never took seriously. That’s how her brand, wearephoenix (body and home products), was born and with it, her appetite for entrepreneurship. In the meantime, her social media pages started to grow as she kept tackling sensitive topics no other popular Romanian influencers did – bullying, self trust, acceptance and feminism. She also found time to play in two feature films that will appear next year on streaming platforms and in cinemas.
Ada has vision and courage. And a lot of energy to do all the things mentioned above. She is an introspect and a very curious human being, willing to help, to listen and to grow, while discovering new worlds and mentalities. A woman who does everything with an open heart and mind, who learned to never lose herself again into other people’s opinions and who chose to not let herself get lost through Instagram filters.
Even though she hasn’t starred in that many movies yet, next year we will see her in Perfect Strangers (dir. Octavian Strunilă) and Odată pentru totdeauna (dir. Iura Luncașu).
I usually interview at Films in Frame people that have gone a long way into their career as filmmakers or actors, however, Ada spoke to me like only few did. Even though I truly believe she is a very talented actress who will shine one day, I chose to interview her for the person she is, a very honest and brave one, and the fights she chooses as a human being.
Ada, I’ve heard you’re getting married. How has this happened?
I have known my future husband for five years – it is a funny story. Right after the protest in Brașov, he wanted to organize a debate about it in the coffee shop he owned, but without inviting us, nor the ones we were protesting against. So I called him, very angry, and told him I’m coming to the coffee shop for a talk, because… what is this?! I met a very charismatic and warm man and fell in love with him. We were together for a short period of time but it was awful, so we decided to remain friends. Last year we reconnected, working on various projects together, which also brought us closer. And we got together once again.
I think people should know that this time we decided to work on our relationship with a therapist, because we knew we had a complicated and hard to handle one. It helped us a lot, I didn’t have to be the therapist of the couple anymore, I could just be myself, be present in the relationship, be a crazy and jealous woman sometimes, all very new things for me. A few months ago we had a huge fight and right after it, Ionuț popped the question thinking that if I say “yes”, then maybe it is meant to be. We have the same values, dreams and future plans and I don’t know how many people appreciate these things anymore. I truly believe in couples, I think we are much better in monogamous relationships.
You have built a little community on your Instagram page, which is constantly growing. But you haven’t done it following the “rules” written and followed by all the other local influencers. Why is that?
I just couldn’t (laughs). There’s a saying about me at the theater – that I “will die of too much professionalism”. I truly believe the values you have in your daily life should be reflected on the Internet, as well. This is who I am and when I see what a positive impact I have in my friends’ life, and the groups I work with, I believe I could have the same impact in social media. That doesn’t mean I’m not jealous sometimes of other influencers’ feeds that have a chronology and a more beautiful aesthetic. I wish I could have or be that, but it wouldn’t be me anymore and I try to stay true to who I am.
I admire that about you. I think social media can easily be harmful, especially to the younger generations. Your honesty and authenticity are much needed.
And why not be more like that? Who are those people, that are not us and are up there? I truly believe that today – especially since the pandemic hit and we are much more isolated – the internet can really help us find ourselves, not lose who we are.
You are a woman wearing many hats. An actress, an entrepreneur, an influencer and a public speaker on very sensitive topics, such as self-esteem, acceptance, bullying, to name a few. Is there a greater good, at the end of the day? Why do you choose to do all these things?
There are two important directions here – the purpose, which I was able to define for myself during a workshop with some teenagers who kept asking me what is the purpose of life, and in life. I realized mine is the spiritual, emotional and psychological development of myself and sharing everything I learn. And since I have become an entrepreneur, I realized we have the capacity to find better financial solutions for ourselves that could also help the communities around us. I wear many hats because I believe we are polymaths and we were taught wrong to do only one thing; curiosity helps, so do hobbies – to discover what you like, to grow and realize everything you learn can be applied in other fields you’re interested in. The respect I have for my acting career grew once I started doing something different – in film and theater, you have to understand the importance of teamwork and this is such a valuable thing to understand when you’re also building a business around a product – the final product is much more important than a fight you might have one day with your colleague, for example.
And why do you choose to do everything you do in Romania? There is much need for people like you, but I’m quite sure it is difficult, too. You often deal with injustice and obsolete or corrupt mentalities.
Acting is my refuge and many times it has been the salvation – I decided to remain here because I grew up (wrongly) thinking that acting is better performed in your own language and everywhere I go, it will be harder. I also had a lot of work and never felt the need to leave. Deep down, I consider myself a nomad whose only home is her family, which I travel with everywhere. I don’t exclude leaving the country, nor staying – I believe Romania needs good people.
What are the things Romania is lacking, in your opinion? And what about you?
I think I’m living in a sinister bubble (laughs).
I think Romanians lack culture, education, and health – these are the main ones. Sometimes humor, although we make up in irony and cynicism. Also confidence and support. I think the West relies upon education and a higher standard of living, which is why they do not feel the burden of survival. As for me, I would need more time for work! (laughs)
Let’s talk about Ada – the actress. How have you been so far, what are the most important lessons you’ve learned and from whom?
I learned a lot from my colleague (in Brașov) Marius Cordoș – also from Claudiu Goga and the colleagues I had there; I learned the importance of dignity, speaking of the protest I was involved in. Since working at the National Theater (in Bucharest), I have learned the respect for dignity, which Mr. Caramitru granted me – I felt seen, at home. I was really affected by his passing. I didn’t agree with many of his decisions, but I was never afraid, and I knew that his only interest was the theater – the decisions he made were for the theater. We don’t always agree with our parents either, but you know that all they do, they do for you.
I’ve learned a lot from Yuri Kordonsky, whom I worked with on a play that turned out to be a total bust, and I think that’s great, learning what it’s like not to pull it off.
Another important lessons I’ve learned from Kordonsky was to throw myself into any situation, and that “wait, let’s see how we deal with it first” is nonsense. I’ve learned a lot from my co-stars, and in the pandemic – from the two movies I starred in: from Octavian Strunilă, the power of desire, as for Smiley – I asked him why he took the part in the movie we made, and he told me he understood a very important thing about creativity, that it’s a muscle and working his creativity in a field other than music helps him to develop this side and bring something new in his music. I think it’s super true and honest, I was grateful for this insight.
From Radu Afrim, I’ve learned some extremely important things about aesthetics, for me personally – working with him on my monolog from Forest of the Hanged confirmed to me that it’s okay how I approach things; I like to divide my characters into three – the character, the character’s opinion of themselves and my opinion of what’s going on there. I think I could go on and on on all the lessons I learned.
I found it admirable what you did in Brașov – when you spoke openly about the poor management of the theater and fought for change. What was the industry’s reaction to this episode?
There were two sides. I should mention that not much has changed after the protest – which is a tragedy. We all stayed after that because we wanted to witness the first real contest, but I wouldn’t know what to say to a young person who asks me “what should I do?”
Now there is another mayor and a different theater director and we hope that there will be a fair contest once he finishes his term, but the quality of the plays has declined. There are people who want to do things in Brașov, but unfortunately, they are scattered and attacked; there should be a framework where they could collaborate.
But the industry had mixed reactions. I got a lot of backlash, but also a lot of support. I think it was one of the best things that ever happened to me, even though it was painful.
Didn’t you feel like you’re not in the centre of things, during your time in Brasov?
When I got there, there were five of us who got hired and we were on a roll – we were doing shows one after another, I soon won an award from UNITER, and then we were fired. But until that moment, we felt that we were revolutionizing that theater, that it’s going to grow and be among the bests – like the one in Piatra-Neamț, which is amazing – that we were also going to achieve greatness. I was proud and I had a lot of trust in Goga and the team, I felt that things were happening.
What is the actress’ status in Romania, do you think that she is on a par with the actor, or that the situation has improved in the last ten years? Are there enough roles for her, is she treated and paid correctly, what does all this look like from your perspective?
I think we are still poorly paid – I had roles where I knew how much my co-star was getting so I negotiated my fee. Clearly, there are fewer roles for women, and those that exist seem to be written for a stereotype that is no longer accurate – and in the case of film directors, they often write their stories with someone in mind. I think we are in need of a new approach.
When it comes to film, I never turned down a role. I wish I could get more parts, but I don’t get worked up about it. I think it’s absurd that good actresses who migrate to television are avoided – for example, Anca Dumitra, who also stars in Perfect Strangers and who is wonderful, she has been playing for years in Las Fierbinți (ie. a popular TV series in Romania), where she doesn’t have an easy role, and I also know her from the plays we do together. It’s very difficult.
Going back to your film career, how did you prepare for the role of Laura in A Decent Man?
The meeting I had with Hadrian Marcu and Boogie (ie. Bogdan Dumitrache) was very cool. Bogdan is amazing, speaking of how much you can learn from a person. I wish I could have gained more weight but decided not to after a discussion I had with Hadrian. We rehearsed a lot, worked a lot on the script. I always look for tics and habits in a character, which I could then adopt into my act – in Odată pentru totdeauna (dir. Iura Luncașu), I play a somewhat tense character, who pinches her shoulder as a behavioral tic. Usually, I build my character on set, in rehearsals I discover things, but the truth happens at “action”. And I like being on set and watch everything that happens. We shot out of town for Iura’s movie, and I was on set all the time, even when I didn’t have a scene to shoot – I wanted to see everything.
While watching A Decent Man, I kept waiting for a close-up, to get a better look at you, to get a better feel of the acting, but Hadrian Marcu only went with medium or wide shots. Sometimes it feels like the director doesn’t give enough importance to the actors. What is your view on that, did you know what his vision was from the start?
I knew he wanted distance, a detached observer, not taking sides, and that was his direction in terms of aesthetics. When it comes to concept or aesthetics, I have no comment, nothing to complain about. We, along with this way of telling the story, deliver a final product. And I liked that Boogie didn’t have a problem with that either, even though he is seen from behind a lot in this movie.
Whereas Perfect Strangers is the complete opposite. A different type of film – rather mainstream, a different directing style – Octavian himself is an actor – and a different vision. What can you tell me about this movie?
I got along very well with Octavian, he has good taste and doesn’t go too far. He wanted to make a commercial film, a clever comedy – and he has a great sense of humor, he doesn’t go with inappropriate jokes. He wanted me to undergo a major change, so that’s how we got to the haircut I have in the movie, which is not just a look, there are some psychological layers that trigger all this madness – in the last scene, where my character Andreea comes as respectable and brave, you understand why a girl, who in the rest of the movie seems nice and sweet and who surely could have had curls, has such a haircut – speaking of stereotypes.
Have you ever considered directing, would that be something you’d like to try?
I wanted to stage a performance – Bucharest, Human Installation, at ARCUB – which was very critical of Bucharest and which was practically censored. It was coming out at a time when Bucharest was competing for the position of European capital and we condemned that, but also discredited Gabriela Firea and Liviu Dragnea and picked on everything else that was happening at the time. There was no show after all.
I would love to stage a performance that talks about the artist and the way they see themselves vs. how the world sees them, as well as their stance on their profession, at the present moment.
What about film directing?
I’m not very familiar with the editing process – I think I would need a female DoP with whom I could work very closely. I would love to do production instead. My mother writes crime novels – I think they would be very successful as film adaptations or TV series. It’s a very popular genre right now – thriller, cop, true crime, speaking of the article in your print issue. Because it’s a puzzle and it’s captivating, it keeps you engaged.
Aren’t you afraid you do too many things and that you won’t be able to fully dedicate yourself to any of them?
True, but I ask myself if it’s not actually a form of conditioning and I try to allow myself to say “yes” to opportunities, and especially to myself. I can’t imagine doing just one thing.
But what do you want most, what is your biggest dream?
Have lots of children, so I can ask them to help me with stuff (laughs). I want people around me to be okay, and for me to have a positive impact on them, and to be creative enough to reach people through all the projects I develop.