The opening days of the Berlinale usually includes the EFP Shooting Stars conference, where the best and brightest of European cinema’s newcomers are celebrated. But instead of being situated up in the Audi lounge in Germany sipping coffee together, this year’s featured performers were part of an online conference with host Edith Bowman.
Alba Baptista is a Portugese-Brazilian actress who received the Festival Ibérico de Ciné’s Best Actress award for her lead performance in Simão Cayatte’s 2014 short film Miami. After appearing in the Portuguese TV series Jardins Proibidos and A Impostora, she appeared in Gonçalo Waddington’s 2019 film Patrick, which premiered at the San Sebastián Film Festival. Baptista then landed a starring role as Ava in the Netflix series Warrior Nun, and was recently announced as one of IMDb’s Top 10 Breakout Stars of 2020.
I spoke with Baptista about her current projects, the honour of being part of Shooting Stars 2021 and her ambitions for the future.
Elle Haywood: Congratulations on being selected for the Shooting Stars group this year! Are you still feeling excited to be a part of this despite COVID-19?
Alba Baptista: It’s unfortunate but still quite fantastic to meet these incredible artists that are so, so, so interesting. We’ve been sharing the links of our movies and series. So, it’s been fantastic to see that.
EH: What are you most looking forward to this week in working with the cohort?
AB: I’m most looking forward to just meeting them in person and hugging them! Because this is such an achievement for all of us, we all feel like we are imposters in this year’s selection. So, it’s quite amazing to have this sensation of community and camaraderie. And hopefully working with one of them would just be fantastic — but with all of them… that would be amazing.
EH: The Warrior Nun showrunner Simon Barry mentioned last year that he wanted you to “impact every scene” you were in, and to give you autonomy in the role while building the character of Ava. Did you feel you were able to get that involved, and is this something you want to pursue further in season 2?
AB: Absolutely. The thing is, as soon as I got this role, I said to myself that I will choose to be as involved as possible in all the departments. And so I got in one month earlier, and I was part of the production, photography, and my creative freedom was off the charts! I mean, they truly put their trust in me — especially in that first episode where you are building the arc for the character to introduce her. They gave me a lot of improvisation. I could do a lot of inputs on the script, and I learned so much about photography and directing. I was always shadowing the director or the DOP because I’m fascinated by behind-the-camera work. I have never had work where they would just give me all of this freedom and trust that I would do a good job. They did, and I’m so grateful.
EH: Your latest project is Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, which is an adaptation of Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel. Has this always been something you’ve wanted to do, and are you enjoying it?
AB: Yes, of course, it’s such an honour to do an adaptation of a novel — that’s been on my bucket list for a while. It’s fantastic to read the description of character, and then [see how they] transform it for the script, and [how] I transform it [for the] character. It’s just an honour to work alongside Lesley Manville and Isabelle Huppert, and to just observe these legends on set is all a learning process. The entire set of the show is the glamorous 50s, and there’s original Dior dresses. It’s so unique, and it’s like the dream of every little girl I think to put those dresses on and pretend to be a model of the 50s. It’s been great fun to play dolls!
Warrior Nun is available on Netflix US, Mrs. Harries Goes to Paris is currently in production and The Child is set to commence shooting in 2021.
Elle Haywood (@ellekhaywood) is a freelance film/culture writer, festival juror and submissions reviewer. She is currently an Associate Editor at Take One and studying a Masters at the National Film & Television School. Her work specialises in international festivals focusing on Scandinavia and Western Europe, sociopolitical events and independent filmmaking.