The mother of humanity

Rachel Hurd-Wood Each Wednesday at 6.30 pm, El Punt Avui TV airs the series of interviews Catalan Connections. Marcela Topor talked to British actress Rachel Hurd-Wood, star of the film, Segon origen.
What is your connection with Catalonia?
I first came here on holiday when I was 15, and then I came to Girona to film Perfume, 10 years ago. I love it here.
Now you're back for the film Segon origen, directed by Carles Porta. It's the first time you've been in a lead role. What was the experience like?
A lot of hard work, wonderful. The whole Catalan and English team have been fantastic, I am really proud of the result.
Was it hard to learn Catalan for this film? You even speak Catalan with a Lleida accent. How come?
I guess it's the director's fault! On the whole, learning Catalan was really hard. Everyone told me that if you speak a bit of French you'll be fine, but it was nothing like that. I had never spoken Spanish either so it was a real challenge, but I had five weeks before we started filming to just adapt to everything and get the hang of it. I also had a wonderful coach who worked with me every day. I practised as much as I could every day. We were staying in Lleida and I had to practise my Catalan there because there's not much English spoken there.
Carles Porta took over the direction of the film after Bigas Luna's death. What was it like working with him?
A fantastic experience, he is such a brilliant man to have around and work with. He's very intelligent and patient and we've also become really good friends, so it was a wonderful in every way.
The film is an adaptation of Manuel de Pedrolo's novel, El Mecanoscrit del segon origen. What would you highlight about it most of all?
Probably the love story between Alba and Dídac. It sets it apart from other post-apocalyptical films, it's a really different element.
How did you prepare for the film and what were the main challenges for you as an actress?
Being away from home for three months, and the language thing. Although Carles speaks English and I learnt a bit of Catalan, doing a whole film, working with the two actors who played Dídac (Andrés Batista and Ibrahim Mané), neither of whom spoke English, except for a few words, so that was really tricky trying to connect and communicate with them, and get a good working relationship.
What made you accept this project and how did it all begin?
A few years ago I was sent a project and we met with Bigas Luna in London and started discussions, it seemed then I was going to do the film but then Bigas Luna sadly passed away and it took two years since the first contact until I went to Lleida and started production.
The character of Alba is like the “mother of humanity”. What did it mean to you to play this part?
I wasn't aware of all this when I first read the script. I was once walking with Carles in London in Soho and he started talking about the feminist and mother of humanity idea and I thought it was a lot to take on. But I tried to take things one at a time and think more of what Alba would do in each situation.
Alba goes from playing a daughter, then an adoptive mother for Didac, then they become lovers, then she becomes a mother herself.
We tried to have shifts in the character. Initially she was more like a teenager and sulky, and then she progresses, she is more mature and mellow.
Any anecdotes from the filming?
One scene that really stuck out was a birth scene we filmed one night on the beach. It was really surreal, moving and special, almost like a dream. There is a programme in the UK called One Born Every Minute, which documents various women giving birth and I used to watch that obsessively as a teenager; I tried to remember the screaming, so that was my preparation. Another night I had to jump into the sea wearing just a dress, and it was really cold and the sea was very choppy, so in the end I was like a rag doll and I needed lots of blankets, heaters and hot water bottles, but it was fine in the end. I also had to learn to ride a red Vespa scooter, and ride a bike again as I hadn't practised since childhood. As well as practising diving, and learn how to do an elegant dive. An interesting fact was also that my father in the film is my biological father in real life; he is an actor as well and it was interesting to perform with him.
What other projects are you involved in at the moment?
I am doing a TV series and I've done a film which is a modern interpretation of Othello. Then I am going on a safari in Africa soon, and I am writing a lot. Also I am studying to finish my university degree, I want to get on with my studies. I am doing a language course called The art of English.
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