Joana Ribeiro

Illustration by: Vanessa Santos

Interview by: João Miguel Fernandes

joana ribeiro actriz

Occupation: Actress

Click here to read the interview in Portuguese


1 – Tell me about a moment in your childhood that was particularly important to you.

I remember being at my grandfather’s house and my cousins from Poland being in Lisbon. And my grandfather bringing a glass of Vodka and bragging about how strong that Vodka was and that you had to have “balls” to drink with one sip. And my aunt took the glass and drank it like water. And at the end she said: “Is that all? Weak.” I don’t know why, but I remember this a lot. I thought it was super badass from my Aunt.

2 – The digital evolution, namely of social media, has mixed talent and popular media. How do you limit yourself so that the viewers/followers of your work focus only on your art and not so much on Joana as a media figure or celebrity?

I am, by nature, a private person and I don’t share my life with a large number of people, so it seems natural that my social network is an extension of that. I never liked when people wanted to know a lot about my life, even before I was an actress. I am aware that nowadays the concept of celebrity is important and often determinative in the choice of an actor and I’m not speaking only in Portugal, in Hollywood, for example, there are many actors that are chosen for the reach they have on social media. But I also think that when you don’t have social media or when you don’t expose yourself it also creates mystery and curiosity. It never made sense for me to talk about my private life or show it. It’s natural to me, I don’t put any limits, at least consciously.

 

 

“There’s always better series being made. I think that in this aspect, television has evolved a lot. The quality is getting better. There are actors who have always done cinema making series and the same with directors. I find it very interesting what is happening as it allows for greater production and rotation of work. “

3 – In an increasingly digital and online world, how do you see the evolution of soap operas in a TV format? Do you think that the future will go exclusively through digital series or will TV continue to have its own place?

I think TV will continue to have its place, but it will have to adapt. Just as cinema is adapting to platforms such as Netflix, HBO, Amazon etc. There is room for everything. And people will always want to see fictional products to entertain themselves and get out of their own world. There’s always better series being made. I think that in this aspect, television has evolved a lot. The quality is getting better. There are actors who have always done cinema making series and the same with directors. I find it very interesting what is happening as it allows for greater production and rotation of work. And also, because there are stories that are told much better in a series with 6 episodes rather than in a 2-hour film. There is time to tell things. For example, in the case of the series that will be adapted from the book “100 years of solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, the family only sold the rights because they felt that the only fair way to tell that story was in a series. The world is changing and so is the way we consume fiction. We just have to adapt to that.

4 – You have recently worked with many actors and directors with huge careers, such as Harvey Keitel, Terry Gilliam, Marco Pontecorvo, Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce. The big question is: which Portuguese words have you taught them? And what have you learned with some of them?

During the shoot, they asked me for certain expressions, especially when we were in Tomar, but the biggest difficulty was saying my name, they never really managed to say it correctly… I learned a lot from Terry, I learned not to think so much, I tend to think too much when I work, but with him it was impossible, it was different every day and things changed at the last minute, so I couldn’t make plans. With Marco I learned to work the text to exhaustion. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a text and how to say it as much as with Marco. In fact, it was the work I did with Marco and Marcella (our dialect coach) that helped me find the Virgin Mary. I think I learned a lot just from watching each of them working, the way each works. This is the most interesting part of our work, being able to work with all these different people and let ourselves be shaped by them.

5 – I know you don’t like to talk about your private life, but I’m sure you can share some of the movies that have been important for you throughout your life.

 

Oh… so many! All the movies from Cassavetes, Godard, “Paris Texas” from Wim Wenders, “Les 400 Coups” from François Truffaut, “Red Shoes” from Michael Powell, “The apartment” from Billy Wilder, “Vale Abrãao” from Manoel de Oliveira, “The Dreamers” from Bertolucci, “Late Spring” from Yasujirô Ozu, “The Leopard” from Luchino Visconti, “Pulp Fiction” from Tarantino, “Sex Lies and Videotapes” from Soderbergh, “Holy motors” from Leo Carax and more, many more, every year there is a different film. It’s funny to understand that some of the movies that were more importante to you when you were 16 years old don’t really matter anymore.

6 – I know that you are a versatile actress capable of playing any role, but from a more personal point of view do you identify more with a model of natural and more contained acting or with a more theatrical and exaggerated aspect?

 

I think it depends on the type of project and character. For example, Terry Gilliam in his films undoubtedly uses a more exaggerated type of representation whereas certain directors prefer to work with non-actors, so it always depends on the project and the type of character I have. I like everything and working with different people who look for different things in me. I’m still looking for my type of acting, I need to work harder and with different people to understand that, I think.

“I feel that the theater belongs more to the actor and everything that involves a camera ends up belonging more to the director and editor. I have seen great performances get lost in editing and the opposite, performances saved by editing.”

7 – What motivates you to do theater and what motivates you to do TV? From a perspective of acting and preparation, what is the biggest difference between the two? Obviously excluding the fact that one happens “live” and the other has pauses.

 

In Theater there is a constant change, every day you can do something different and learn something new about the character and what we are doing. If there is something we didn’t like one night, we can always improve the night after, it’s a constant improvement of our work. In TV and Cinema, once it is done, it’s done and it no longer belongs to us, it belongs to the director and the editor. I have heard stories where actors’ mouths changed in post-production or replaced reactions from different scenes. I feel that the theater belongs more to the actor and everything that involves a camera ends up belonging more to the director and editor. I have seen great performances get lost in editing and the opposite, performances saved by editing. I think we often have no idea, but a film is made in the editing room.

8 – What are the things that bring us closer and what are the things that most distance us as human beings?

 

Compassion is the common denominator in this question, when exists it does bring us closer, but the lack of it drives us away. Unfortunately, it seems that we have less and less compassion for others.

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