An Interview with Vera Graziadei
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Vera Graziadei is an actor and director known for her work on Peep Show, The Book of Vision, and Children of Men. I spoke with Vera about landing her first role, portraying Elena in Peep Show, and her work as a director.
Did you always want to pursue a career in acting, and how did you land your first role?
While still studying at LAMDA, I was contacted by an agent, who told me 'they have an audition for me'. It was for Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men. I went very method with it. Dressed in ripped jeans and a hoodie, I walked the streets of Soho for a few hours before the audition, channelling energy of a leader of a street gang. I had to do some lines and improvise a lot and I remember feeling really in it, so when I got the part I was over the moon. And it was incredible to work with Alfonso, while I was still studying. It gave me a lot of courage to face the real world after graduating.
Is there anyone in the industry who has particularly influenced you?
I'm influenced by everything I watch and read all the time. As an actor, I feel I've always just been myself. As a writer/director, I'm more prone to be captivated by an artist and to re-watch their films and to meditate on their work. At the moment, I'm totally taken by Chloe Zhao. I've been late to the party to watch The Rider, but it struck me with it's simplicity, beauty and profound compassion. And she also grew up in a rural communist country like me (I grew up in the Soviet Union), so I feel a strong resonance and kinship with her work, even if she's working in the US, while I'm mainly based in the UK.
What draws you to a script?
It has to either make me laugh if it's a comedy, move me emotionally if it's drama, or captivate me with some original characteristics, authentic dialogues or some exciting locations.
You portrayed Elena in Peep Show. Could you tell me more about your experience working on the show?
I auditioned for the role two months after giving birth to my first child. I was totally delirious and lacking sleep and spent minimal amount of time on preparing for the audition. I remember being very high on adrenalin at an audition and I think I was more free to push boundaries a bit, although I wouldn't be able to tell you what they were now. I loved meeting Sam Bain at the recall and was just totally in awe of him and his talent. I loved the script and thought he was a genius. The filming was so incredible too, as I got to work with all these amazing actors like Robert Webb, Olivia Coleman, David Mitchell and the wonderful Emily Bruni, who played my girlfriend. Robert just had a baby too, so it's quite ironic that we were portraying a sexed up energetic young couple while being exhausted sleepless parents. I also loved working with Matt King, he was just so hilarious and easy to work with. I'm so grateful to have been in one of the British cult comedy classics, it's something I'm still reminded of on a regular basis as people stop me on the street to tell me that they love the show and my character.
You've also directed several short films. How has a career as an actor informed your work as a director?
I'm really glad I went into writing/directing via the acting route, as I feel acting out a story in my head as I write helps me with the flow and when I direct I know how to approach actors and to get them to achieve the best results in the shortest amount of time. I also love the challenge of working with non-actors and I think it's because I'm a trained actor, I am confident that I'll be able to help them act if they struggle. In the dark comedy I've directed recently, In The Woods With a Dead Dog, I had two non-actors who were good when they came on set, but ended up delivering pitch-perfect brilliant performances after some minor suggestions.
Are you currently working on any projects?
Yes! On several, both short and long. I don't like talking about projects before they are born, but I can just share that all of them are very dear to my heart. Each one is focused on the subject matter that moves me to tears, enrages me and gives me hope. It feels like they are tied into my life as a human being in a much more profound way than my previous work and two of them (long and short) incorporate my concerns and knowledge as a healer/yoga teacher, so I feel like all these different parts of me are finally coming together and cooperating, which is exciting.
What's your mantra/advice for anyone pursuing a career in the industry?
Do not get discouraged by rejections and keep your spirits up. Keep your vision laser-sharp and rooted in your heart. Develop your craft and evolve all the time. Love and appreciate people you work with.