Words: Yrsa Rún Gunnarsdóttir
It’s the golden age of television and that rings true in Iceland, too. A number of made-in-Iceland comedies and dramas have earned significant buzz in recent years, including the thriller Trapped and the nostalgic limited series Blackport. But another series that’s been keeping Icelanders glued to their screens is Venjulegt Fólk (Ordinary People), a dramedy following the trials and tribulations of friends and actresses Vala and Julíana.
With the sixth season in the works and a movie adaptation on the horizon, Krakkaveldi journalist Yrsa sat down with writer, producer and lead actress Vala Kristín Eiríksdóttir to discuss how she got her start in acting, her favourite roles and more.
When did your acting career start?
I went to university and studied acting. I had always wanted to be an actress. I always participated in school productions when I was younger. When the school set up a play, I always raised my hand and said, “Please can I, please can I?”
What was the first production you acted in?
That was a play called Bull by Mike Bartlett. It was just the four of us and it revolved around harassment in the workplace, where I played a woman who was evil and mean.
What is your favourite thing about acting?
Getting people to laugh. I like acting characters who are a bit evil or weird. In the theatre, it’s great to get people to laugh because then you know you’ve made someone happy. Maybe happier than they were before they came in. When people laugh and laugh and then maybe they leave they think, “Wow, this was fun,” Then I feel good in my heart.
Do you need to like people to be an actor?
Yes, I think so. You can’t avoid meeting and getting to know new people. If you’re in a show, you need to spend almost every night of the week with them. What’s most exciting about meeting new people is that each and every person is a whole world and a whole adventure. It’s exhilarating to meet new people and we can learn a lot from each other.
How did you decide on the name of the series Ordinary People?
For a long time, we didn’t have a clue what to name the show or which title might be good. The show follows people who are trying to raise their kids well, people who try their best at work, people who fall in love, people who experience heartbreak, people who lie and make mistakes and try to make things right. We’re just writing about life and what it’s like to exist and be normal. So why not call it Ordinary People?
What was the best thing about making Ordinary People?
It takes a long time to write each show. So the first time we were on set to act out a scene, I heard an actor say the lines we wrote and I went like, “Woah!” Just seeing it come to life was incredible.
How do you remember scripts?
When I need to memorise a lot of text, I read it into my phone and listen to it while I’m doing the dishes or walking my dog. Like when you hear a song over and over again, suddenly you know the lyrics. I just listen to myself for hours until I can remember the lines.
Which of your characters did you really enjoy playing?
The mom from Matilda. She was a bit mean but she didn’t think she was, and she was a bit strange and had big, very loud, great hair and a lot of make-up. It’s nice to play someone who isn’t completely normal. Although, maybe nobody is normal.
What do you find most entertaining about the industry?
You have some sort of a life and routine and it’s very fun to be somebody completely different. You see somebody in society and think, “what’s it like to be that person?” Just like when I was little, playing in the lava field or in the yard imagining, “Now I’m a dragon or a princess or I’m the horse” — sort of trying to be in an adventure. Every kid does that, but when we get older we stop playing and think it’s silly.
What’s your favourite colour?
Why yellow? I’ve heard your favourite colours says a lot about your personality.
It’s bright and open like the sun. It reminds me of summer. It’s happy, bright, open, and cheery. I would very much like to be yellow and to know that people are happy to see me.
The young journalist found it very fun and interesting to talk to Vala Kristín and get to know her and her dog, Ólíver, who’s a very good boy.
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