Ana Radu: “Acting makes me feel safe. It gives me courage and freedom”

8 July, 2021

Ana Radu is one of the most promising and talented young actresses in Romanian cinema. She has always wanted to be an actress and can’t imagine doing anything else. And the way she lights up when she talks about performing, at which point she puts aside her shyness and gains confidence, confirms her attachment to a profession that she says makes her feel safe and gives her freedom.

Born on April 24, 2000, in Bucharest, Ana Radu attended the “Gheorghe Lazăr” High School, where she was part of the AS theater troupe. But before that, when she was not even ten years old, she made her debut in the short film “Caviar” (2010, dir. Răzvan Săvescu), co-starring with Andi Vasluianu.

She became known for her role in “Meda Or The Not So Bright Side Of Things” (2017, dir, Emanuel Pârvu), on which she worked when she was in the 10th grade and where she stars alongside Şerban Pavlu. In 2018, she started studying Acting at UNATC, which she will graduate from this year.

After an appearance in “Alice T.” (2018, dir. Radu Muntean), she had a role in the feel-good comedy “5Gang: Another Kind Of Christmas” (2019, dir. Matei Dima), starring vlogger and singer Andrei Şelaru (Selly).

In 2021, she was nominated in the “Best Supporting Actress” category at the Gopo Awards, for her role in “5 Minutes Too Late” (2019, dir. Dan Chişu), released last year in cinemas. Here, she plays a teenage girl who rebels against her father (Mihai Călin), the head of a gendarme unit involved in a controversial intervention.

Ana Radu also plays an important supporting role in “Otto the Barbarian” (2020, dir. Ruxandra Ghiţescu), due to have its theatrical release this year – a girl in love with the protagonist (Marc Titieni), who rejects her out of grief for the loss of his girlfriend (Ioana Bugarin) who committed suicide.

 

Ana Radu says that she auditioned for both her parts in 5 Minutes Too Late and Otto the Barbarian: “So far I haven’t been directly offered any role. But since I have some experience and know people, I may have easier access to casting calls, in the sense that I find out about them. But I still have to audition for parts, that’s normal.”

“I’m very relaxed when I go to a casting, and that’s something I appreciate about myself. I simply enjoy the experience, without obsessing on getting the part. Over the years, I’ve realized that there’s also a lot to learn from the casting experience. It’s very useful and you can meet new people”, explains the actress.

“Obviously, I want to take the audition, but I’m not putting pressure on myself, and I think that helps me a lot. I learn the text very well, and so I can play anything and try different approaches, depending on what is asked from me”, she adds.

She remembers that for Otto the Barbarian she went to several auditions with director Ruxandra Ghiţescu: “It was a completely different experience with Ruxandra, I never had a casting like that before. At one point, she really wanted me to cry in a scene. It took me by surprise. I remember that I was very scared because I felt that I wouldn’t get the part. She had a different style of work. It was as if we were already shooting.”

Working on Otto the Barbarian was a completely different experience from what she had done before: “It was very nice. Once the roles were cast, we started to see each other very often, me, Marc Titieni, and Ioana Bugarin. We watched movies together, for example. Ruxandra gave us some titles as references, to see what she was looking for. It was very helpful, we were already a united team before starting shooting. I really liked working on Otto, also because it was the first movie where I was no longer the only child, the only teenager on set. I had a lot of fun, especially since Marc and I have been friends for a long time. But at the same time, it was hard, because I was very afraid I would let Ruxandra down. In the first few days, I went through some difficult moments, I had this constant feeling that I couldn’t give her exactly what she wanted. But I calmed down and talked to her. I realized that this girl, my character, is not far from me, because I went through similar things at that age and still do. The moment I stopped putting pressure on myself, everything got easier: It’s me and Marc, and this is what happens. Just like we’re taught in school – when you lose perspective, you return to point one. It all worked out well in the end. I simply tried to take something from my personal experience.”

With Marc Titieni in “Otto the Barbarian”

“Some things I would discuss with Ruxandra, like personal experiences that I thought might work for my character and the film. Some things I would only tell myself. For example, the scene in which I had to cry but couldn’t do it, because once again I was putting too much pressure on myself. So you need to work a way out, find a trigger. I reached out to something that I, Ana, found upsetting at the time”, explains the actress.

She was very excited when she received the role in 5 Minutes Too Late, because it was a different character from the characters she played before, who were more polite, more grounded: “It felt quite different. I liked that I was getting a new challenge. Still, I soon realized that Anca from 5 Minutes Too Late is not very far from me either, only that I was a little older than her. I found a lot of similarities, things that I went through or was going through. Again, I used my personal experience to bring something of myself into the character.”

She liked working with Mihai Călin and Elvira Deatcu, her character’s parents: “Mihai would always come to me to talk about scenes and ask me things. I felt included, that we could find solutions together. Same with Elvira. Thanks to them, I easily overcame my fears.”

With Mihai Calin and Elvira Deatcu in “5 Minutes Too Late”

About Meda Or The Not So Bright Side Of Things, which she worked on when she was 16, she says it was a decisive moment in her life. “Even though my family knew I wanted to be an actress, they didn’t really want me to go to castings. My father (ie – actor Radu Gabriel) wanted me to focus on school. I wasn’t a film enthusiast at the time, even though I was in the school theater troupe. I started watching movies just a few months before the casting call for this film, but out of a personal reason, as it happens at 16: I fell in love with a boy who was a cinephile. He was a little older than me and had already made some films. I wanted to have something to show for myself, too. This casting came up shortly.”

“With Meda, I had some terrible fears and I was very nervous at first, probably because it was my first film. But I got over them in the process, I gained confidence. The feeling of joy, delight, always prevails. The team was very nice to me and made me feel like I belong”, says Ana Radu.

“It was a difficult and beautiful experience at the same time. I stayed there the whole time, even when I didn’t have any scenes to shoot. I didn’t want to go back to Bucharest. That’s when my passion for film began. I realized that I like it very much and that this is what I want to do, movies”, she adds.

In “Meda”

Ana Radu confesses that she has always wanted to be an actress: “When I am asked when I discovered this passion or when I decided to become an actress, I don’t know what to answer, because I can’t seem to find a moment when I didn’t want to be an actress. It probably also mattered that I grew up in such an environment, since our family friends are also artists. Not to mention that I grew up in the theater world. I wanted to go to rehearsals all the time. I went to all my father’s performances. I was fascinated to go on stage. Ever since then, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

“I knew that my father was a professor (ie – in the master’s program in Acting at UNATC), so I would also spend a lot of time with him at school. My father always tells this story: when I was little, we walked by the school one time and I asked him if it’ll still exist when I grow up and decide to come here (laughs)”, says the actress.

Although Radu Gabriel has a small role both in Meda and 5 Minutes Too Late, they didn’t shoot any scenes together. “Only on the short film Caviar, we had two scenes together. I would really like to perform alongside my father”, confesses the actress.

She was very excited, but also very scared, before her admission exam at UNATC: “I remember that I felt really horrible on the first test, so uncomfortable. But then I realized how happy it makes me. So, after the second test, which was a monologue we had to give in the school-theater room, I didn’t even wonder how it went, because I was so thrilled about those minutes spent on stage. It was such an amazing feeling that I wished I could go back and continue my bit. That’s when I realized that it’s for this exact feeling that I want to pursue acting.”

Her experience as a student at UNATC she says was “very beautiful and difficult at the same time”: “Even if I had been in the high school theater troupe, it had nothing to do with what was happening at UNATC. Back then, in fact, I only knew how to work in film. When I got in at UNATC, it all felt a little overwhelming at first, because it was different to be on stage and do theater. I understood what I had to do, but I couldn’t deliver, I was very uncomfortable. The teachers kept telling me, «It’s OK, but only if there was a camera on you.» It seemed a bit unnatural to me. I understood in the process that theater acting is actually a profession that one needs to learn. And it’s difficult. It wasn’t until the second year that I started to figure it out and really like theater. And I still do today.”

She admits that she also enjoyed the experience of working on a commercial film for children and teenagers like 5Gang, but also that she was a little upset by some reactions, including from people in the guild, after the movie was released.

“I agreed to go to the casting because I was going through a rather difficult period, during which I had no other projects. I had finished my first year of college, it was summer and I had nothing else to do. I went to the casting and got the part. I accepted because, from the first meetings and rehearsals, I really liked it. It was a nice atmosphere. It was a very interesting experience. It didn’t feel so different from other projects I had worked on. It didn’t feel like I shouldn’t be there. Everything was just as professional. There were people in the crew I had worked with on other projects and I knew them. I was just a bit of a stranger in that world (ie – the vloggers’ world)”, recalls Ana Radu.

“The experience after the film was released also proved to be quite interesting. I gained more visibility, including on social media, which I was not used to. I received messages from children and people my age. It was very nice. How could I not be happy? Of course, I was happy. But I didn’t like that there were negative, hateful comments about this «awful» movie at the time, even from people in the field. I was a little upset for a while, but I didn’t react to them. On the one hand, I can understand. On the other hand, it upset me, but only because I worked so hard, everyone worked very hard on this film. After all, there also needs to be room for these types of movies. It’s definitely a movie for a certain category of audience: children, fans (ie – Selly’s fans). It was never meant as something different than that”, adds the actress.

Ana Radu confesses that she “stole” a little something from all the actors she has worked with so far, but she has two actors that she looks up to and sees as models: Vlad Logigan, a professor at UNATC, and her father. “Not because he’s my father, but because, first of all, he is an extraordinary teacher. When I finally got over the fact that he is my father and that I was a little embarrassed to work with him, I learned a lot of things.”

“When I was preparing for admission, he offered to hear me recite a poem. But I felt embarrassed, it took him a while to convince me to do it. Still, it was the best thing because at that moment I realized that I have a lot to learn from my father and should use this advantage to its fullest. He only helped me a couple of times more after that and then he let me be. I did exactly as I wanted”, says the actress.

She says she feels very relaxed in front of the camera: “I don’t remember ever feeling uncomfortable, not even when I worked on Meda. When the camera starts rolling and they call «action», the team simply disappears. As long as I learned the things I needed to learn, shooting is simply an enjoyable experience. I’m very relaxed. The camera never intimidated me.”

She admits that, for a long time, she couldn’t come up with a straight answer to the question of why she likes acting so much: “I didn’t know how to explain why it makes me so happy and why it’s such a great passion. I don’t know if I’d ever want to do anything else. I never wanted to do anything else. But during college, I understood some things. What I always found interesting about me and my relationship with acting is that I’m an extremely shy person. I’m more relaxed now, but when I was younger, I was terribly shy, until I would get on a stage or be on a set. Then I would suddenly overcome all these fears. When I auditioned for the high school theater troupe, I didn’t want to go on stage at first. My turn was coming, so I lied that I was feeling sick. But I really wanted to do it. After all, that’s why I went. At some point, I couldn’t stall anymore. I will never forget that the moment I stepped on stage and began to recite the poem or whatever bit I prepared for the audition, every ounce of shyness and discomfort melted away. I don’t like being so shy and these contexts help me overcome it, they give me the courage and freedom to do anything. I don’t feel embarrassed at all, whatever I need to do. I think acting is a kind of safe space where I don’t feel judged.”

On stage and on set, “I feel very safe and I can have different approaches. Thanks to the roles I played, I discovered other personal dimensions. They existed, only I hadn’t had the opportunity to access them. That helped me in both my personal and professional development. It’s a very interesting exchange. As I grow up, I bring personal experiences into my work, but also vice versa”, concludes the actress.

Journalist and film critic. Curator for some film festivals in Romania. At "Films in Frame" publishes interviews with both young and established filmmakers.