Interview with ‘Tranh et Nowak’ Geneviève Doang Part One

Photography by Alejandro Guerrero

Photography by Alejandro Guerrero

Hello folks,

Today we are bringing you part one of our interview with Geneviève Doang, the lead actress of Les aventures de Tranh et Nowak. Last year Les aventures de Tranh et Nowak won Best Fight Choreography and Geneviève Doang won Best Actress. She’s an amazing actress and we highly recommend you check out her work.

What is your favourite part about growing up in France?

I was actually born in France, so I feel French, although my parents were originally Chinese who were born in Cambodia. I love France for its history, food, education system, the beauty of its social and cultural heritage and the diversity of its landscapes, regions and nature.

How would you describe your cultural identity?

I grew up with both Chinese culture from my parents and French culture from school and at my friends’ houses when I was invited over. I feel completely French as it is my native language, and the country I’ve lived in since I was born, with a Cantonese-Chinese family background culture and roots. My parents would always say I’m a « banana » - as they also pointed out in the « Crazy Rich Asians » movie - which means I look yellow - or Asian - from the outside, but I’m actually white - or French, on the inside because I talk and think like a French person.

Do you think that had an impact on the roles you went out for?

I actually wanted to go for any roles without consideration of my origins and looks but because my face looks Asian it hasn’t always been that simple. In France even more than in America or even in England, being an Asian actor or actress prevents us from getting as many roles as if we were Caucasians. Actually almost all the roles I’ve ever played in a show or a film were only Asian roles.

Do you ever feel typecast or there are a lack of roles for Asians? Do you think the industry will change regarding the success of Asian led films like Crazy Rich Asians and Searching?

Yes, as I said, of course I feel typecast all the time since every role I’ve ever played on camera was written for an Asian girl. Most of the time they even ask for an accent and sometimes being able to speak fluently an Asian language. I actually even feel typecast a lot when I do voice overs which makes no sense because my voice doesn’t sound Asian, and I don’t have any accent. Of course, I hope that the success of big movies involving Asians as lead characters are going to bring even more diversity in the film industry! But France is currently still way behind. Asian Americans are complaining about playing too many stereotyped roles such as doctors, geeks, martial art experts... well actually in France it is even worse as the ‘roles’ we are offered as Asians are mostly cleaning ladies, prostitutes, masseuses, illegal workers… basically they are almost always immigrants. That’s why I’ve been focusing on going international with my acting career by getting a talent agent in the UK, hoping to get more roles than in the French industry only ; at the end of last year, I’ve been cast for a small part in the movie ‘Terminator 6’ by Tim Miller (who directed the movie ‘Deadpool’) in which I have a scene with the lead female character played by actress Mackenzie Davis.

Describe yourself in three films?

‘Armour of God 2: Operation condor’ : for the kung-fu action (I’m a big fan of Jackie Chan’s since childhood), ‘Hook’ for the child in me that loves fairy tales, dreams, adventure and the magical side of things, the ‘Rocky’ films for the warrior in me and because I love Rocky Balboa for being such a kind-hearted, genuine, honest, generous and loving human-being.

Who are your favourite actors?

I love Benedict Cumberbatch who is such a sensitive and powerful actor, but so humble at the same time. I’ve been a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio’s since ‘Titanic’ and like most people I don’t understand why he didn’t win the Oscar earlier for ‘Catch me if you can’, ‘Shutter Island’, ‘The Aviator’, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’… and so many other great roles he’s played. I also like Rami Malek very much since ‘Mr. Robot’ and was so thrilled he won the award for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ this year. As for actresses, I admire the work of Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Cate Blanchett, Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone… I’m surely forgetting a lot of wonderful actors and actresses!

How did you get started in acting?

It was almost by accident. I was a big fan of Japanese anime and manga when I was still at school and I was in contact with a dubbing /voice over association which produced fandubs and parodies of Japanese anime. Soon they started to dub anime series for the French DVD market professionally and so I dubbed my first anime just after entering high school. After that I went to a prep school and graduated with a Master’s degree in Management. Meanwhile, I was still very active in the association’s activities during all my studies. When I was almost done with it, I decided to give myself a chance as an actress and I started taking acting and theatre classes while reaching out to voice over studios. I was lucky enough to start very fast in the voice over industry as an actress, and I have built my career from there, step by step.

What was your experience with drama school like?

It was very strange for me to be almost the oldest student because I already had a Master’s degree while most of my peers were still in high school a couple of years earlier. I also felt frustrated that I was never given to play any young female lead role (we call it ‘jeune premiere’ in French) because I was 2, 3 or 4 years older. I was also mostly taking more traditional theatre classes, so when I started filming my first short films, I wasn’t really trained for it and I had to learn almost everything on set. Now I still take acting workshops (Meisner Technique) when I have time.

What are your favourite types of roles to play?

As I said, I’ve always liked the strong female-lead type of character with a lot of action and fight scenes to play. For instance, I would have loved to play a woman version of the Bourne Legacy movies. Actually, my character Tranh in our short film ‘Tranh & Nowak’ fits the bill quite well! It would be awesome if I could play her in a series format or a movie! I would also like to explore the more dramatic, sensitive side of that character too.

How do you prepare for an audition?

I try to know my lines inside out. It’s a good place to start, so I can be able to play more freely, truly listen, respond to the other character and let out the emotions without having to worry about my lines. I also ask myself the usual questions like who the character is, the situation, what she wants, what is at stake, etc.

Do you have any great audition stories?

Unfortunately, I haven’t done so many camera auditions in France because there are not so many roles for Asian actresses. I might have 4 to 6 auditions a year, and they don’t always match my profile and my age... So I’ve never had any big major audition that I nailed, but I still hope that time will come!

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Hopefully with my husband and two children, well-established and balanced in my career as an actress and in my personal life as a mother and a wife!

Are there any actors or directors you want to work with in the future?

I would like to work with any of the great actors and actresses that I quoted earlier and that I admire so much. As for directors, of course I think of big names like Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese, but I also love Clint Eastwood’s movies and his way of directing actors.

How did you get started in Martial Arts?

My father was a self-taught fighter. He did a bit of kung-fu, and he also knew a few things from other Asian martial arts, so he passed it on to my brother and I since we were kids. We also grew up watching all the Jackie Chan’s movies. But I didn’t start Kung-Fu before the age of 11, because I took Ballet classes from 6 to 10 years old. I finally gave up because I wasn’t so talented, and it was starting to get very intensive and serious (we had like 3 times 2-hour dance lessons per week). When I started Kung-Fu, everything fell into place, and it was obvious that my energy was exactly right for it.

What’s the best part about Martial Arts for you?

It gives you confidence, perseverance and teaches you to be a fighter in real life. I especially recommend martial arts to little girls. It really helps to build a strong and confident personality.

We hope you guys enjoyed the interview. Stay tuned for Part Two.

To keep up to date with Geneviève, make sure to follow her on social media.

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