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Mădălina Constantin, actress: “In Paris I learned to wash away all preconceptions.”

foto: Bogdan Iordache, Cultura la dubă

We met Mădălina Constantin in the foyer of the La Colline Theater in Paris, one of the 5 national theaters in France. She was greeting the people working in the theater and she led us through the back rooms of the theater as if it was her home.

She is an actress and is playing in the most recent project put together by one of the most appreciated directors in France and the director of the La Colline Theater, Wajdi Mouawad. The show “Racine carrée du verbe ȇtre” has a 6 hour duration and is inspired by the originally Lebanese director, who is known for writing the screenplay for Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve.

For Mădălina it has been a challenge and an overcoming of her own limits, but especially fulfillment. 

“Life is in motion, it is important to listen, to see where you feel good, where life blossoms in you.

When I’m up here, on stage, I feel it blossoming and that I am where I belong.”

Born in Câmpina, a town of 28.000 inhabitants, she has always been attracted to acting and only now, at a mature age, has she understood why.

Mădălina Constantin, The La Colline Theater, Paris/ photo: Bogdan Iordache, Cultura la dubă

“I have wanted to do this as a child. I would watch many old films, with divas, I wanted to be like those characters, I found them much more interesting than the women I knew. It all started with this fascination.

”And I was stunned that my parents knew actors from the television.

It is obvious now that it was a vital need of expression for me.

I was a pretty introverted child, perhaps even slightly shy, I carried something of a burden, a sadness, I notice it now when I see photos of myself as a child.

I think that acting has helped me , because it is easier for me to express myself when I’m on stage or working on a part.” 

At 17 she left to Bucharest, despite her parents’ opposition, and went with the flow.

Mădălina Constantin, The La Colline Theater, Paris/ photo: Bogdan Iordache, Cultura la dubă

“My parents thought that I could follow any profession I wanted. My desire was to study acting, and my father didn’t agree. In the 11th grade, I moved to Bucharest to go to the theater, to the cinema. Those days, Câmpina had only one cinema and now even that one is closed. There wasn’t a theater.”

She was admitted to UNATC, in Ion Cojar’s class, and in her fourth year she made her stage debut in Cătălina Buzoianu show, “2001 Odyssey”, at the Bulandra Theater. She was cast again by the great Romanian director in “Lolita” at the Small Theater. 

Two years after graduating, Mădălina was accepted to a one year stage at the Paris Conservatory, taking one of the 5 spots for 2000 candidates. 

“When I arrived at the Conservatory, I had a culture shock. It is very different from UNATC. 20 years ago, Romania was even further away from France than she is now. It was very hard to adapt, but I learned a lot and managed to keep up with them.”

I learned to appreciate Romanian education even more after that.

Mădălina Constantin, The La Colline Theater, Paris/ photo: Bogdan Iordache, Cultura la dubă

At first I felt from a different picture, a foreigner. I kept some of that, I don’t know if it’s because I wanted to or that I could not have done it differently.”

In Paris she has worked with many young directors, and a certain meeting would leave a mark on her career – with the Romanian playwright and director, Alexandra Badea.

“Alexandra’s freedom inspired me. She is someone I admire greatly. It was love at first sight with her, we were compatible in many aspects, we were unseparated for a few years, we made a theater company together, and I acted in her first shows.”

Her role in Solitude, the short film written by Alexandra Badea, has brought Mădălina an award for acting in the Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival.

She then started having more important collaborations, acting in Fanny Ardant’s first feature film, Cendres et Sang. Although she was initially more drawn toward cinema, she started to love the theater just as much. An important role in this sense was played by the Russian director Anatoly Vasiliev.

Mădălina Constantin, The La Colline Theater, Paris/ photo: Bogdan Iordache, Cultura la dubă

“I have seen this man do miracles. I met him while working with one of his students, then I went to Rome for a month and worked on Chekhov plays with him. To work with a Russian director on Chekhov is amazing.”

I saw actors decomposing and recomposing themselves in front of me. Then I understood a lot about acting and identified with working with him.”

She played in the Avignon Theater Festival and in one of Arnaud Despleshin’s films, Deception, with Léa Seydoux. But she doesn’t think that she has reached a peak in her career, she is reaching for more.

Mădălina Constantin, The La Colline Theater, Paris/ photo: Bogdan Iordache, Cultura la dubă

“I have never seen the limits of this profession. I never set a certain goal, to be an actress at Bulandra or anywhere else. I just believed that I have to do my job at the highest level. I’m still on my way, I don’t feel that I’ve reached a peak, I’m still evolving.”

I try to go through life without consciously and rationally deciding what I want and what I will do. I believe that we are connected to things on another level, not just rationally.

My life would have been different if I had stayed in Romania. My life here would have been different if I had met other people.”

Mădălina Constantin, The La Colline Theater, Paris/ photo: Bogdan Iordache, Cultura la dubă

Settled in Paris for 20 years, Mădălina Constantin has done more acting on the stages and film sets of France than Romania, not because she wanted it this way, but because that is how it turned out. She would love to have more work in her home country, but many times, she is dealing with labels that limit her activity.

“Today I like saying that I’m a Romanian, I’m not French. My husband says “You’re French, that is what it says on your id card.” I say “no, I’m Romanian.” Maybe I like playing with this. But there is a painful part about it, when I go to Romania, many people I know call me French. Or if I go to an audition, they say “oh, you’re too French.” Still, I don’t have an accent in Romanian, my soul is Romanian.” 

She became a French citizen, but she visits Romania as often as possible. In Bucharest she meets her colleagues, and in her hometown she takes her daughter, who is 8 years old, to see her grandparents. 

“It is important for me that she speaks Romanian and she is very attached to holydays in Romania, our food, our culture, but, I have to admit that here she has other opportunities, she hears things, we see museums, she is much more stimulated intellectual and artistically because we are living here. Even the street itself is so diverse in Paris.”

Ever since she has become a mother, Mădălina’s perspective on life has completely changed. And her struggle for her career has been harder.

“I hit a dimension of life that I didn’t have before. To be a mother is something completely special, for which you are, actually, never prepared and you can’t imagine it before it happens.”

Mădălina Constantin, The La Colline Theater, Paris/ photo: Bogdan Iordache, Cultura la dubă

When I was pregnant I almost didn’t get any work, there were physically demanding projects, and when they found out that I was pregnant, They didn’t cast me.

Then, her first year, I took my daughter with me everywhere, on the set, with her nanny. For four years, I have dedicated myself to her.

Then I started to make order in my thoughts and say “now I am 100% an actress and I am fully here”, when I am with my daughter I am 100% mother. A harder thing is to be divided at home, between being a woman, a wife and a mother, it’s been hard for me to separate things.”

She is married to the French actor and director Frédéric Fisbach, but she didn’t get a citizenship for her marriage, she only got it later, for professional reasons.

“I was proud to get my citizenship based on my work, not the fact that I was married. The file was based on my career here.”

When she is not with her child or working on a part, Mădălina commits to her writing and she dreams of the day when her screenplays will become film projects. SHe is especially dedicated to psychology and the woman’s condition in society. She is inspired by Paris life and she enjoys it every time she can.

“I love taking walks in Paris, observing people or just sitting at a terrace and observing behaviors, imagining what is beyond them. Everything about human nature interests me, it is fascinating.

Alexandra Tănăsescu and Mădălina Constantin/ photo: Bogdan Iordache, Cultura la dubă

Here I learned to wash away my preconceptions, I try not to judge, I think that judging is the first thing that can block your mind. I believe that it is a part of our work as actors, to try to understand human nature as much as possible and see where a reaction or decision can start.

Acting is a life profession, you can’t separate it.”

  • Do your thoughts come in Romanian or in French?
  • In my mind, the things concerning the soul are expressed in Romanian and everything else in French.
Mădălina Constantin/ photo: Bogdan Iordache, Cultura la dubă

  • Do you ever miss Romania?
  • All the time.
  • What do you miss?
  • I miss specific things that you cannot find here, no matter what. In the air that you breathe, the humour. There are things that are funny only to us. That is what I miss. I feel Romanian. I’m a Romanian in Paris.”

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