Arsène Jiroyan

Arsène Jiroyan: ‘I would like to perform in a play or a film in Armenian’


YEREVAN/CANNES — Arsène Jiroyan, a French stage and screen actor of Armenian descent, was born in 1962 in Istanbul. He has acted in about 20 films and nearly 40 TV projects. Both on the small screen and the silver screen, he has worked with several well-known directors, including Luc Besson, Yves Boisset and Patrice Leconte, covering an extensive genre of films.

But two TV series brought him most recognition: “Fantômette” and “Extrême Limite.” On stage, Jiroyan starred in a one-man show entitled “Arsène fait son seed.” He received several prizes for his acting. In 1991, “La Revue du cinema” characterized him as a promising actor with an “excellent technique and amazing presence.”

Arsène lives in Cannes and continues his career in acting.

“We have known him with a gun in his hand and sinister face in the costume of an Armenian mafia boss, for the Braquo series. Or more recently in a priest’s cassock for an episode of ‘Joséphine Guardian Angel.’ But with Arsène Jiroyan, from the dramatic to the comical register, we are never at the end of our surprises!” (Nice Matin, March 2, 2020).

Arsène, in Armenia we heard about you back in 1996, when the Russian TV broadcasted “Extrême Limite” series under the title “Challengers.”

“Extreme limit” is very French as an expression, for sales abroad, “challengers” was better. Just like “Sous le soleil” sold better abroad like “Saint Tropez.”

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We Armenians are sensitive regarding compatriots in various fields, therefore friends knowing about my interest in Armenian-born actors were telling me about you. How did your acting career start?

I started my career as a professional actor in 1991, in 2 series at the same time “The Destiny of Doctor Calvet” and “FDM,” after graduating from my theater course, the Viriot course, where I won the medal, awarded by Patrice Leconte and Yves Boisset who were the sponsors of this promotion. It was Tuesday, June 25, 1991. I will remember it all my life. I felt that night that I was made to be an actor.

I assume it should be difficult to be pursue acting career in a country like France.

Let’s say that in France, it’s complicated if you don’t speak English very well, which I do.

Film vs TV – is there any “struggle” among them?

For a long time, TV was the ugly duckling. Those who did TV were punished and didn’t act too much in movies. Today the opposite is true, almost all movie stars want to have a lead role in a TV series.

Having a not so typical European face, are you confined to mostly ethnic roles?

For the French, I am not at all typical, they even say that I have a “normal” face, which allowed me to play all the “normal” characters. I have never felt this difference, just the opposite. The proof is that it took me 25 years to play an Armenian.

You mean the series “Braquo” in which you play Atom Parajanov, godfather of the Armenian Mafia. Whose idea was to combine the first and second names of two renowned Armenian filmmakers in a character of a Mafiosi? As far as I know there is no Armenian mafia in France, but this is for the second time in the French film we have a character of an Armenian criminal with the name of an Armenian film director – I mean “Le Premier Cercle,” where Jean Reno acted as gang leader Milo Malakian…

It was the screenwriter of “Braquo,” Abdel Raouf Dafri, who had this idea to associate the two names of Atom Egoyan and Sergey Parajanov. And when he knew that I was born in Istanbul he also made me speak Turkish in season 3.

Arsène Jiroyan in his youth

Please tell us about your parents, family and surname origin and if you have any connections with your birthplace and French-Armenian community.

I arrived in France at the age of 2 and never returned to Turkey. My parents passed away 25 years ago. I have very few memories. My mother’s name was Silva Bagdassarian. I hesitated for a long time to take her name to start my career. Arsène Bagdassarian, that would have been nice. but certainly more Armenian than Jiroyan. In France, there is a town called Royan. Maybe that’s why my name does not sound very Armenian in France

Are they some family traditions you preserve?

Apart from a few culinary traditions, very few. But I would like to perform in a play or a film in Armenian.

What do you want to say to Armenian readers?

That even though I am happy and grateful to be French, my heart is Armenian and I am proud to be Armenian. I hope one day to obtain Armenian nationality. And also to discover the land of my ancestors.


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