21-year-old Nahéma Ricci was born in Montreal to immigrant parents of Franco-Tunisian origin. Nahéma plays the central character of Sophie Deraspe’s film Antigone. She recently completed the 2018-2019 Dance as a profession program at the Danceworks school in Berlin (Germany). Previously, she had a role in the feature film Ailleurs directed by Samuel Matteau (2017, Vélocité productions).
We spoke with the star of Sophie Deraspe's Antigone about the peculiarities of discussing acting and how to deal with outpourings of audience emotion.
There's a first time for everything, however. Antigone is technically Nahéma Ricci's second film - she also appears in Samuel Matteau's Ailleurs alongside Théodore Pellerin - but it's her first lead and the first film she's had to go out and represent. For most actors, that's already a significant amount of work - but Antigone is no ordinary movie. It's played film festivals around the world (including two consecutive ones here in Montreal!), won the Best Canadian Feature prize at TIFF and was selected as Canada's entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars.
That means Ricci has had to talk about acting and Antigone a lot in the last few months.
"I find it difficult because it requires a vivaciousness that isn't always there," she explains. "For example, last night I came home at midnight from Sherbrooke, where we were showing the film, and I've been doing interviews since early this morning. It's hard to concentrate for four hours and offer the kind of spontaneity that's required. Even staying in a café like this one for four hours with the perpetual din is kind of distracting.
"I also don't necessarily know what's of interest within my process, either," she continues. "I try to talk about it, but I don't necessarily know what distinguishes my story, my methods, from anyone else's. Acting is very intimate. Finding what I want to share and what I want to keep for myself - this idea of creating a mythology isn't always obvious. There's things I regret saying, mainly because I don't think I did them justice or didn't lay them out properly."
There's also the fact that performance - a good performance, a bad performance, an alright performance - is excessively hard to describe, both from my end of the interview and Ricci's. There's something about acting that's akin to sleight-of-hand: it works best if you don't notice it at all. The more you talk about it, the more you complicate it.
"Acting is pretending there's no method," says Ricci. "People don't understand how you do it because that's your goal! Demystifing it all... I don't know. I don't know if there's value in it."