Nina Kiri for FCS online: “My Serbian origins and roots are really important to me, they define me.”
Dark-haired Nina Kiri, a Serbian-born actress, has been building a successful career in Canada and the USA for a decade now. Recently we had a chance to see her in the acclaimed TV series The Handmaid’s Tale which was a great reason to chat with this young rising star.
To begin, I’d like to ask you to introduce yourself, who is Nina Kiri and what is she doing in the film world?
Nina Kiri was born in Belgrade, Serbia, and grew up in Vancouver, Canada. She began acting in school theatre performances and has been working professionally as an actor for ten years.
You are living and paving out your career in Toronto, Canada. How hard is it for a young actor to come across meaningful roles, especially when the competition is so steep?
Yes, the competition is steep for a young actor, which can make it hard to pave out a career. All careers take work and like anything, if you’re consistently working hard on your skills, something has to give after a certain amount of time. What makes this area of work difficult is that so much of it can be about chance, being right there for the right role, or knowing someone at the right time, so for me its about working hard for yourself as an actor, which allows you to be content even when chance isn’t necessarily on your side. I mean, what does it mean to be a “good actor” anyway? This can change based on the role and the audience, someone thinks you did fantastic and someone hates your performance. The most important thing then becomes staying in the work and focusing on the work, if you get the part great, if not, there will be others. There are always other roles, and there are always roles for everyone, your fellow actors don’t have to be seen as negative competition, I truly think everyone will get their moment that is right for them.
I noticed that so far you have acted in quite a few horror films, do you enjoy this genre or was it circumstantial?
It was a matter of what was available for me. I was never a huge horror fan, though I appreciate and admire the genre much more now than I did before working on those horror films. For me as a budding actor, they were excellent opportunities to play lead roles, to discover my characters, to develop and build them, and to take chances in the safety of an small indie film crew. I have had some of the most incredible moments working on low budget films; every single person is there because they want to be there, and they believe so fully in the project, that kind of teamwork feels incredible.
How did you come to have a role in “The Handmaids Tale”? How important is the role of Alma for your career, and will you be in the second season?
Like any role, I auditioned for it, and, as you know, the audition went well! I think that my role in Handmaids tale is of course very important for my career, it has opened up doors for me in ways my other projects could not. Since I thought I would only be in the first or second episode, it was really interesting and special for me to continue to be written into the show. I knew it would be successful- there was no way so many talented people coming together and making something with an important message WOULDN’T be well received- but I wasn’t expecting the amount of publicity it got. It is really incredible and inspiring, and I am so proud that I got to be a part of it. Alma will be in the second season but to what extent we have yet to find out.
How important are your Serbian roots?
Where I come from is important to me, since it has and always will make up who I am. I have never seen myself as fully “Canadian” or fully “Serbian,” and occupying an in-between space is very familiar to me (as I think it is to many young Canadians who are first or second generation). I think it’s an advantage to have been lucky enough to travel and speak different languages, that my world has always been bigger than Canada or Serbia.
Do you follow the film scene in Serbia, or do you have your own favourites?
I cant really say I’m completely in the know with the current film scene in Serbia. I am, however, a big lover of European cinema, my mom is a huge cinephile, and I grew up watching European films with her. I can never give an exact “favourites” list, there are too many good movies out there, but I can tell you some movies I’ve come across in the past year that really stood out for me and come to mind right away… The Constitution by Rajko Grlic, Sing by Kristof Deak, Toni Erdmann by Maren Ade, Godless by Ralitza Petrova, and I had to add Victoria by Sebastian Schipper.
Tell me about your collaboration with Serbian-Canadian filmmaker Sanja Živković on the short film “Cleo”.
I actually met Sanja in Whistler through mutual friends when I was in university. I knew from group conversations that she worked in film, but I didn’t want to be annoying and talk about how I was an actor, it didn’t really feel like the place. Anyways flash forward two years, I had finished my degree and moved to Toronto and was working full time as an actor. I was at a party and I overheard someone say “IN SERBIA….” I looked over and lo and behold it was Sanja, it was as if we were meant to meet again. She invited me to audition for the teaser “Manuela” she was filming with the CFC, we ended up working together on Manuela and later Cleo. We have become really close since that chance encounter, and we frequently talk about movies, our careers, or just life. Sanja gets the way I think and I get her way of thinking. It’s a really incredible feeling to have an artistic relationship like that, I don’t have to explain things to her, she just understands, and vice versa.
What are your plans for the future?
Other than the second season of “Handmaid’s”, I have been writing and filming a web series with a writer who is a friend of mine, which we will release in the fall. Sanja is also in the works of developing Manuela into a feature length film, a project we are really excited to work on.