Tuesday 18 June 2019

"It's been the adventure of my life": Łódź Film School Actor Interviews (vi): Mateusz Grodecki

Mateusz Grodecki (Photo: Aleksandra Pawłowska)

Mateusz Grodecki plays multiple roles in the Diploma show Fever (Pomysłowe Mebelki z Gąbki), directed by Mariusz Grzegorzek, and the character of Louis Ironson in Angels in America, directed by Małgorzata BogajewskaHe also features in the Diploma film Nic Nie Ginie (Nothing is Lost), directed by Kalina Alabrudzińska.

Alex Ramon: Tell me a bit about your background.

Mateusz Grodecki:  Music came first for me. I was born in Przemyśl, a town close to the Ukranian border, and my favourite hobby, one of the things I loved most, was playing the guitar. I was in two bands playing rock and metal music. So my biggest dream when I was growing up was playing guitar on a huge stage to a big crowd. When I graduated high school I felt like the band was over, but I wanted to continue performing. I had performed in local theatre, and I found I was drawn to acting more and more. I didn't have professional lessons; I prepared alone, working with different texts. I auditioned for the Film School here in Łódź and got in.

AR: What are your feelings about the training, which I understand concentrates more on theatre than screen acting?

MG: Personally, I'm very happy with the training here. Theatre for me is the magical place where actors feel most at home and where the greatest actors are found. It's because of the connection with the audience and the fact that it's happening in the present moment. Film is great too, but in the end it's more the director's medium. Whereas in theatre the actor has more control over their performance and the telling of the story from beginning to end. At least, that's how I see it.

AR: So how was working on the two Diploma theatre shows you perform in, Fever and Angels in America?

MG: It was tiring and demanding, but great. Fever was the first of the Diploma shows and we were all very excited about it. Mariusz Grzegorzek, our director, is the wizard of theatre: a good man, and so creative. He encouraged our collaboration in the show, inviting us to bring in things we were interested in. For example, Ksenia [Tchórzko], Franek [Nowiński] and I created the tap dancing scene together.

Filip Warot, Karol Nowiński and Mateusz Grodecki in Fever
(Photo: Filip Szkopiński)

AR: It's such a lovely moment. Which other scenes do you most enjoy performing in the show?

MG: One of my favourites is when we all perform the Czesław Niemen song "Pieśń wojów" ("Warrior Song"). I hadn't heard the piece before and when Mariusz played it, I thought: "Oh my God!" It's a primal, Viking, warrior song. When I sing it with all my friends on the stage, I feel the emotions very, very strongly. I think about Poland - about the history of the country and what's happening now.

AR: How is it to perform the end sequence, "Four Miles From Warsaw", which is so daring in its staging?

MG: It's scary, to be honest! But exciting too. The text is an old ballad but it feels timeless. I see it as a warning from history.

Mateusz Grodecki and Piotr Pacek in Fever
(Photo: Filip Szkopiński)

AR: Piotr Pacek also mentioned the quiet scene that you play together as father and son.

MG: Oh yes, it's very special. We play it naturalistically. I try to focus on the real feelings of the character. When I'm waiting before we start the scene I take a big breath and cut out everything else for this moment. I feel very responsible for showing to the audience the feelings of this boy.

AR: How did working on Angels in America with Małgorzata Bogajewska compare?

MG: It's hard to compare because the experiences were so different. They both challenged and excited me, and made me use and develop totally different skills. I feel very happy because I'm a young actor and I already got the chance to play with different methods. That's what's exciting about this job.

In Fever, for example, the close contact with the audience is very important. We talk to them directly in some moments, acknowledging their presence. In Angels we're playing to each other. And playing one character, you have to create a whole history for them, and really get inside them. We had classes with Małgorzata  Bogajewska from our second year in School, and she decided to do the Diploma show with us, and chose the Tony Kushner text. I'd heard about it because of the series with Al Pacino and Meryl Streep, and the famous Warlikowski production. Of course our production has some very challenging scenes, like the sexual encounter in the park, and the wrestling scene where Kamil [Rodek] and I are naked.

Sebastian Śmigielski and Mateusz Grodecki
 in Angels in America (Photo:
 Filip Szkopiński)
AR: Did you do a lot of research into the period?

MG: Yes, we studied a lot about America in the 1980s, about Reagan, about AIDS. I enjoy this kind of research very much.

AR: Louis is a character who people often criticise, for his idealistic chatter and his abandoning of Prior. How do you feel about him?

MG: The fact is that in reality people don't always do the perfect thing. Louis loves Prior but he's a young man who can't deal with the situation and isn't prepared to sacrifice himself. With my performance, I try to encourage the audience to understand his conflicts and his desires, and maybe not to judge him so harshly.

AR: How was making the Diploma film, Nic Nie Ginie?

MG: I liked it a lot. I have one scene, playing the guitar in the forest, and singing a song created for the film. It's not a lot of screen time, but it's an important scene, quite controversial.

AR: Do you like Łódź as a city?

MG: Many people say it's horrible but I always reply that you need to live here for a few years to really discover it. It's a mysterious city with many surprises. And thinking about the film history is very important too.

Mateusz Grodecki (Photo: Aleksandra Pawłowska)

AR:  What are your future plans? Who are some directors you'd like to work with?

MG: I feel like I'm a free man! There are a few theatres I would really like to work in - here, in Warsaw, in Gdańsk  and Krakow. As for international directors - well, Quentino Tarantino! Of course we all feel quite encouraged that Rafał Zawierucha is playing Polański  in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood! In terms of Polish filmmakers, I admire Smarzowski for making intelligent films that address problems in society. And I would love to work with Jagoda Szelc who I think will have a great career. With Tower. A Bright Day and Monument it feels like she really started something new in Polish cinema.

AR: Are you interested in Shakespeare? You'd make a great Hamlet.

MG: Wow, thank you! Yes, I love Shakespeare: he's a God! He writes about human nature in all its aspects and with the most amazing language.

AR: It seems like you're very positive about your time here and what the future holds.

MG: Yes, like I said, coming here to Łódź was great for me. It's been the adventure of my life. I met some very good people: some of my professors taught me... not only acting skills -  but they opened my mind up to so many new things. I'm very grateful to the School for that.

Angels in America is performed for a final time at Teatr Studyjny tonight, 18 June. 

Other interviewees: 

Piotr Pacek
Anna Paliga
Paweł Głowaty
Ksenia Tchórzko
Karol Franek Nowiński

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