«We allow ourselves very little to be lost, to make mistakes»

She entered the world of acting almost by chance, as if it were a game, but in recent years Laia Costa (Barcelona, ​​38 years old) has shown that she takes her profession very seriously. Awarded the Goya for best actress for getting into the shoes of a new mother in ‘Cinco wolves’, she returns to the theater this Friday with ‘Un amor’, an adaptation of Sara Mesa’s novel by Isabel Coixet, where she gives life to Natalia, a young translator for an NGO who is going to live in the countryside, disgusted by the distressing and bloody realities that she is experiencing in the performance of her work. With a bright look and a reflective and calm tone, the actress reveals that she had “never” experienced a shoot so “beautiful and fluid.”

-How did you come to the project and what attracted you to it?

-Well, Isabel told me that she had read Sara’s novel and that she was thinking about buying the rights, to see if she could read it to me and give me some feedback. That was in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. I joined the project because the novel seemed like something very different to what I had in mind at the time. Isabel is a genius and it is very difficult to say no to her. I had worked with her on ‘Foodie Love’ and I had really enjoyed that shoot, so it seemed like a perfect plan to reunite with her and with something so different from ‘Foodie Love’. I had it very clear.

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-Plays Natalia, a translator who goes to live in a town in emptied Spain. Has she ever thought about leaving town?

-I have the feeling that, especially as a result of the pandemic, it is an idea that has been more in everyone’s collective imagination, there is a certain idealization of that getaway. In fact, geographically it has happened in a real way, many people have left the urban centers and gone outside, to the more rural areas. I think it’s a very human defense mechanism: thinking that going to that beach is going to cure our grief, that taking that trip is going to fix our mood. It’s something like wanting to escape, from something that squeezes you and you need to get away. In the case of ‘Un amor’, it is true that she goes to a place that is not hers and that the landscape has a very important weight, with that claustrophobic atmosphere that changes depending on her mood. If she is happy, the rain is welcome and if she is not happy, everything seems to fall. For me it is more the house, which is like a kind of metaphor to explain how Natalia is inside. But I feel that the fact that she goes to the countryside is not the central weight of this story.

-It is painted, however, as a refuge that is neither idyllic nor bucolic. Was the filming very hard?

-The filming has been very beautiful. I have never experienced something so beautiful and so fluid, because the story is very raw, it is very bitter. In Logroño, in February and March, it is so cold that you die. I mean, it snowed on us, a wall of the house fell down while we were filming, they spent a weekend rebuilding it… And then it was very windy, the trees were bare, then it was hot and they started to bloom. There were the vultures, which sometimes gathered up to 70 at the top of the mountain. The landscape was very vivid and it was very raw to film like that, because we are outdoors practically all the time. That house cannot be considered an interior, it was colder inside the house than on the street and to get a little warmth we went outside, so imagine (laughs). So, it was very hard because the scenes were very emotionally raw. And, on the other hand, in the team there was a very great connection, a care between us. And the harder it was, the more love we made. We got together and gave each other more affection and more pampering. There were no screams, no rush. It was all very fluid. I believe that Isabel has a lot to do with it, because she is a great generator of alchemies and energies. And I don’t know, there was something very beautiful about the team, that we were all very united and it was very noticeable. Even with the locals, suddenly you would arrive in the morning and some men would be there making some mushrooms or broth or bringing us croquettes. On a couple of occasions women came who had made some preserves and gave them to us. They were very grateful that we were there.

Three moments from the film, along with Luis Bermejo, Hugo Silva and Hovik Keuchkerian.

Alfredo Tobía and Zoe Sala

Main image - Three moments from the film, along with Luis Bermejo, Hugo Silva and Hovik Keuchkerian.

Secondary image 1 - Three moments from the film, along with Luis Bermejo, Hugo Silva and Hovik Keuchkerian.

Secondary image 2 - Three moments from the film, along with Luis Bermejo, Hugo Silva and Hovik Keuchkerian.

-How do you feel about giving life, as Sara Mesa says, to one of the most hated characters in recent literature? Do you see it that way?

-No, I don’t see it that way at this point, obviously. I have gone through a very important process of empathy with the character and the story. I think that’s the crux of the issue, empathy. Empathizing with something that is a mirror to us is very easy, empathizing with something that we do not understand is very difficult. So with this character I have done a brutal empathy exercise in which I have gotten into his skin and I have done some processes to perfectly understand how he reacts. If I had not had these encounters with people who have explained to me, at a clinical and health diagnostic level, this type of worker that Nat is, I would not have understood that they have all these types of real, mental problems derived from work. Knowing them, you understand their escape, their acceptance of the barter (Natalia even has sex with a local so he can fix her roof)… And if you do that exercise, no matter how minimal, you already begin to notice the emotional anesthesia in your own self. body. It is very easy to judge other people’s realities when our own body has not experienced them, but suddenly you think: “If I were in that situation, it is very likely that I would be on those steps, on those paths.”

-Was the process very painful?

-It was a very beautiful process of discovery. Furthermore, I feel that there is an issue and it is that we very little allow ourselves to be lost, to make mistakes, especially with respect to toxic relationships, which may be sentimental or of another type. There is an ease in blaming people who do not take the correct steps, and even more so when we do not understand why they do not do them, and perhaps hence the judgment of others. The film also talks about that vital journey that Nat makes, with which many people can feel identified because I believe that living and growing older involves going through these processes as well, of making peace with something that, perhaps after years, you wonder about. Why, how and when did I get into that well?

-Do you try not to judge the characters you bring to life?

-I think it is essential not to judge them because if not, how are you going to understand them or not understand them in the end. I don’t think Nat has many answers and I was finding questions as we were also filming and the creative process was developing, but it is useless to judge, not only for interpretation, but for anything in general (laughs). I think judging has never added up to anything.

-A creepy character is Píter, who Hugo Silva brings to life. Throughout his life, have you faced many micro-machismos like those posed by the character?

-I find it funny that you talk about him because he is terrible (laughs). Do you know what is interesting about these micromachismos and microaggressions? Which are normally dressed in cordiality. And you don’t have to go to a town to experience what the protagonist experiences, you live it every day, in any city, within your own family and your friends, with that thing of overprotection, paternalism and, even, to infantilize. In the end it is all a matter of the person who is exercising it, but I think it is very difficult to see that this is not right even for the one who receives it, because in the end we are all in this microcosm of this society that has these dynamics. And the funny thing is that when you start seeing them, you hallucinate because you don’t stop seeing them. I think that first step is the most complicated and complex, realizing that it is not okay to be told this.

Laia Costa with the director, Isabel Coixet.

Laia Costa with the director, Isabel Coixet.

Zoe Sala.

-How were the sequences with him?

-Hugo Silva is incredible in the movie. I was amazed at how easy it was to create and play with that character in certain situations. I remember Nat and Píter’s dinner scene, where the monster clearly comes out, and the scene was very easy, although it is very complex because there is a lot of violence even though they don’t move from their chairs. That comment of “it was a joke, don’t give it importance”… That’s what we women have constantly told ourselves so as not to dramatize and not to bother and in the end it is an attack that is in every norm and you realize how many friends you have You’ve had them talk like that and you wonder how you haven’t been able to see it before. I think that society has its ways to make things work in a way that does not work in favor of uncovering these microaggressions and that is one of the central points of the film.

-Do you think those dynamics are changing?

-If I think about Madrid, I will tell you that they are changing, depending on which societies, of course. But if you look at the world as a whole, we are taking baby steps, very, very slowly. If we leave our navel and leave Spain, for example, you realize that the world is huge and that reality is usually the other side. On a personal level, the most interesting thing is that one of the first steps is for you, in your daily life, to become aware of these attacks and to realize that they are not done by a guy who followed you on the street one night at 3 in the morning, but they are within your own family and friends, which is your circle of love and that is why you have normalized all of that. No, no, they are within your own family and friends, which is the circle of love close to you. And that’s why you have normalized all of that. Right now we are starting to see voices in films and literature that talk about this and that is a start.

-You graduated in Marketing and Public Relations. How did the office change because of interpretation?

-Well, by chance and coincidence and various accidents. I remember perfectly that one Sunday, which is when we go to eat at my parents’ house and we all see each other, my sister said: “There is a theater school, I’m going to sign up.” “They do a two-week course.” And I thought, well, I’ll sign up, these two weeks I’m not doing anything. And so it began. I never thought growing up that this was a profession I could pursue. If you look at a city like Los Angeles, which lives off of industry, well there all the children are aware that they can be musicians, sculptors or screenwriters. Here in Spain, at my school there was not even an artistic high school, so acting was never an option. And nothing, I started taking those courses with my sister and then they told us to stay in the regular course and I did a year there. By chance I met people and began to have the option of auditioning, and in one of these they gave me a role for a year. I took a leave of absence to try it, but I was dying of laughter, like an exotic thing that I was going to do for a year and then return to my reality, and until now.

-You have been in the profession for more than ten years, do you see yourself turning around again and dedicating yourself to something else?

-Yeah. Nowadays, and I see it not only in my case, but in my friends, people end up practicing professions that are not the career they have studied. And I also see privileged people, at 40 years old, who start studying another career, with the intention of making a change of direction. I have fewer and fewer references of people who know that they wanted to be a doctor, study medicine and practice all their lives. These cases are the ones that surround me the least, and I do see more and more hybrids of people who seek a life according to their profession. The professional world is so unstable in all aspects and in all sectors, that the new generations are obliged to do something that I believe is not biologically in our favor, which is constant reinvention and adaptability to new realities. Maybe that’s why we’re all so stressed (laughs).

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