An Interview with Christian Vit
Christian Vit is an actor known for Game of Thrones, Holby City, and Crossing Lines. I spoke with Christian about pursuing a career in acting, his role in I’m Not in Love, and the best piece of advice he’s received from a director on-set.
Did you always want to pursue a career as an actor, and how did you land your first role?
I realised that you don’t pick acting, acting picks you. That’s my theory so far. In my case I had a few years’ experience like school pantomime when I was very young. I really enjoyed them. Among the class they’d always pick me, you go on the stage and you have to present something. ‘Christian’s going to do that.’ I always felt like I was the one to do these dirty jobs that nobody wanted to do. Being born in Venice there is a great tradition of commedia dell’arte theatre. I don’t come from an artistic heritage kind of family. It’s not very popular to be honest in that environment to become an actor. You really need to start making major choices in order to start to pursue that career. In my case, this has gone hand to hand with my education because I went to university in Milan which is a very dynamic environment for that kind of thing because in Milan there is television and fashion.
To pay my studies I started to do some acting jobs like commercials and some runaway shows. I started to touch base with this kind of environment and work. Then I realised that fashion was not really my cup of tea. I realised the more roles I was given in commercials, which is like a compressed kind of movie, it was a very good school for me. You had to be quick and effective and be sensitive to get the directions that director will teach you. So I felt like a fish in the right water, the right sea. I thought, why don’t I dig more into this acting thing. I accomplished my study and have a master’s degree in public relations. I come from a very traditional family so they wanted me to pursue a corporate kind of career.
I did and was hired on a permanent job in a company which was number two in consumer goods in the world. I was a brand manager for them. It was a very solid career, but I realised something was wrong. Those little experiences I had which were mostly commercial and I had a little role in a little movie called Hijos by Marco Bechis. I went there to be an extra and I was given a role. To make a long story short I quit with the corporate. In Italy at that time it lead me to come to Rome and start my career from scratch, taking some acting workshops and joining classes and things and finding an agent. Acting in Italy is mostly done in Rome. The first role I landed was in a TV series which was called Sottocasa. It was like an every other day kind of TV show with an hour episode. I was playing this guy from an airline company that was delivering bad news to the families of the passengers on the flight, saying that there had been an accident.
Were there any films or performances which really stood out for you as you were pursuing a career in acting?
Point Break, for me represented everything. I always had this American dream of one day going to the States pursuing my career as an actor. The way the whole thing was shot, the action, it was very dynamic. I loved the acting and I think Katheryn Biglow did a great job. I was also fascinated by the fact it was shot by a woman. I think that was one of the benchmarks in my youth. I was also into action movies with Stallone, like Rocky etc.
What was the biggest contrast between working in Rome and London?
I wouldn’t really use the word contrast. There are differences because of the diversity and the fact we are really facing a huge globalisation process with everything being shot everywhere and everything being shown in original languages. Especially now, with the golden age of television and with Netflix and Amazon etc. With all of the platforms you can really go global. The thing is, bringing on the table your own authenticity, especially in a different country to the one you are coming from. It is brave and opens up chances you were never given before. I’m fluent in four languages and since I’ve been in Rome I realised how many times did I act in English? Maybe only once. My agent didn’t even realise I could speak English. Sometimes you have a feeling when a place is exhausted and the kind of chances that are given to you and you need to search for different kinds of fuel. When I arrived in London I was called exotic, of course because I have Mediterranean colours. It made me laugh at the very beginning. This thing can be called a contrast, seeing someone like me in a country, but at the same time it opens up some niches in the marketing industry that are very valuable and good for me, especially being able to speak four languages. If you just go by my face they always go for Spanish, Portuguese, Middle Eastern, Brazilian, Turkish, everything and rarely Italians. Most of the time Spanish and Greek. This contrast is actually a great powerful tool that an actor can use outside his own country to offer diversity, which nowadays is very important to be represented.
Speaking four languages definitely helps as well…
It does because as soon as I arrived in London I had to start working on my accent. Having a twang is always okay. It is okay if you have to play an Italian, then I use my own accent. If the character was born in England then I go to my RP teacher to work on my received pronunciation and try to be as British as I can. If I’m given an audition for a Greek, Spanish, or Italian character I just go very mild and go with a twang. I realise sometimes that is enough and you don’t need too much otherwise they might not understand. That’s what happened when I got a role with BBC on Holby City. My character was Italian, formally he was meant to be French and when I went to the audition they said don’t stress the accent just keep your own. When the first episode was broadcast and to me was the biggest complement ever, some comments made were, ‘are you sure he’s Italian we don’t hear the accent?’ There was a twang, but it was very soft. People thought I was actually English and putting on a sort of Italian accent. It was exactly the other way around. You need to do the best you can with what you are given. I discover languages are good for me because the more you can put on the table when there is a casting session it widens the opportunities for you to be cast.
What’s the best advice you have received from a director on-set?
It was during Holby City. I’m not naming names, but there was this director. The reputation of this director followed him way before. When I heard my colleagues say this episode is going to be shot by this director it is going to be a nightmare because he is very good, but impossible to deal with he’s a perfectionist. I was the only one who wasn’t British. I was going to my acting coach to repeat the lines in order to make it nice. This director saw all the effort I was putting in and he came to me and said, ‘trust your instrument.’ When you don’t remember as the pace is very fast and there are a lot of lines, sometimes you have to be quick and effective. You don’t have time to mess around and say sorry I don’t know the lines. To change the lines is a matter of practice, but especially if you are not dealing with your mother tongue it can trigger some insecurities. We are all human beings. So he just said, ‘trust your instrument and it well come flawless.’ So those kind of words said in that way, from that man, it just clicked. We need to sometimes stop for a moment, take a deep breath and say listen, I just need to trust myself and the process. That’s it.
You’ve worked on a number of TV series. How long do you typically have to learn the lines when working on a show?
Of course it depends on the project. In normal conditions you are given a week to learn the thing. If it’s a movie you are even given a couple of months before. Then there are bits that change a bit and get cut and things, but you have the overall sense of the thing. Holby City was the best experience for me to be honest. The pace was really quick. We would sometimes receive the script the weekend before starting the shooting and the shooting was starting on the Monday. Of course I didn’t have to learn the whole script, but it was according to the storyline of my character.
Sometimes my character had just a few lines in a few scenes. Sometimes, especially when my character was introduced I had a lot of lines and a lot of scenes and the script arrived on the Saturday. So I knew that my Saturday afternoon was going to be for a few hours with my RP coach. I was recording the session and the scenes on the Monday morning repeating and repeating. It was a lot of work, but nowadays you need to find your own recipe. Things are moving so quickly. You are trusting your own instrument even if you would have loved to have been more prepared. Sometimes I say I could have done better, but we all could have done better. You have to do with what you have. If you want to be perfectionist it doesn’t work. If you are given the time then yes, but I don’t like to get obsessed. I take the challenge, but it is in these imperfections in which you are unique and that makes you cast-able because of that.
You also play a role in Game of Thrones. How did that come about?
That was actually something that really healed my heart. It was right after I decided to relocate to London. When I moved from Rome, everyone was saying that everyone moves to London, but they come back because their English isn’t good enough, they can’t find an agent and they can’t work, so be prepared. I arrived in London and found an agent through a lucky sequence of events which I experienced. He submitted me for Game of Thrones and I went to the audition. I hadn’t had any acting job in London at that point, I had just arrived. He asked me if I could horseback ride and I said yes I can. So I went to the audition. When I went to the casting studio there were three pages of people, I don’t know if it was for the same role. The first thing I thought was how can I possibly get this role if there are so many people? I went there and did the audition. The casting director was amazing.
After a week the phone rang and when they told me I got the role I was over the moon. It was my first job in the UK. It was a big confirmation and it puts you on the right path. It was the right decision to go to this country otherwise I wouldn’t be working in Northern Ireland on Game of Thrones, which is one of the biggest productions in the world. When I arrived in the UK I barely knew what Game of Thrones was. I was with a colleague and he said, ‘hey what are you up to?’ I said I’d booked Game of Thrones and he said, ‘wow Game of Thrones is huge!’ It was such a great set, nice people and a great working experience.
Could you tell me more about your role in the film I’m Not in Love?
I’m Not in Love is a British romantic comedy. I met Col Spector, the director at the birthday party of a friend of mine and she is also in the movie. We filmed in the summer of 2019, but because of Covid, post-production and release had been postponed. It was released this April. Col called me after we met and said, ‘Christian there is a role in this movie and I’d like to give you a lot of improvisation moments because I want people to think who is this guy? Is he a conspirator? A serial killer? Who is this guy?’ We all go through moments where you have a lot of work going on and then things are a bit calm and quiet. It was unexpected, but came to me in a moment where I had a few things lined up. The cast was amazing and even if the role was not massive, sometimes you see movies and you see characters in only three or four scenes, but they lead their own life. I always like to take the challenge because a teacher, here in Rome, told me, ‘there are no small roles, just small actors.’ It keeps the craft going. Also I enjoyed the fact I was the only Italian in the movie.
What I do when a project comes along, I stop for a moment and breath and see what my tummy is saying. When my tummy is fine it is okay, when it hurts it’s not okay. It was in a nice location in London, in a beautiful design hotel and we had a lot of fun. Now I recently filmed in Florence with a director, Tosca Musk. It’s a while since I filmed in Italy. It was a movie called Gabriel’s Rapture. It was another very good experience. They nearly always let me play the baddy. I played this professor who is a little bit nasty. We had Uffizi galleries just for us as it was closed to the public. It should come out by the end of this year, probably.
Is there anything else you are currently working on?
The pandemic has been a very weird time, especially for creatives. I shot a short movie called The Bench, which is actually in post-production and around twenty minutes. It’s directed and written by Rawaa Barnes. I love the story. I don’t want to spoil it. I’m still working with the guys on the post-production because there is some voice work to be done. It’s the story of an Italian actor coming to London, on the day everything shut for the pandemic. I can’t wait for this little thing to circle festivals and be released. I could see the passion on all the people working on it.