Elena Seropova with Robert Duvall

Elena Seropova: ‘I Never Forget My Roots’

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YEREVAN/LEIPZIG, Germany — Theater and film actress Elena Seropova was born in 1964 in Moscow. In 1988, she graduated from GITIS, the Russian Institute of Theater Arts in Moscow. In her last year, together with her colleagues, she took part in organizing the Youth Miniature Theater “Impulse,” then she was enrolled in the troupe of the Theater-School of Musical Art. Seropova made her film debut in 1984 with the film “The Legend of Silver Lake.”

This actress became widely famous for her role as Jemma in Evgeniy Gerasimov’s melodrama, “The Trip to Wiesbaden.” Elena also starred in the films “Country Season,” “Revelation of Ivan Efremov,” “Idol,” “Without Evidence,” “The Killer,” in the Hungarian television film “Golden Time,” in the British series “Sharp II,” in the American films “Stalin,” “Tina and Lance,” “Bus to the Queens,” and in German films and TV series.

Elena Seropova in “Golden Time”

In 1989-1990, Seropova appeared in Moscow Television programs. In the 1990s, she followed her husband to the USA. Elena worked as a news anchor on the Russian-speaking television channel WMNB Russian-American Broadcasting Company. In the early 2000s, Seropova with her family moved to Germany.

Since 2003, she has been staging and performing her own solo performances, as well as literature and poetry events. In 2011, Elena opened an acting school and, later on, created the theater-studio “St’ART” first for children and youth and, a year after that, a group for adults. Over the years, Elena, in tandem with her husband, director Rostislav Kratzberg, staged 23 performances, which were successfully shown in Leipzig, Dresden, Chemnitz, and Halle.

My conversation with Elena Seropova took place via Facebook, in Russian.

Dear Elena, if you only knew how exciting it is for me to have this conversation with you! I remember how startled I was when I first saw your photograph in the Soviet Screen magazine, after which I did not miss a single film with you starring. Your temperament and your versatile beauty allowed you to play a wide range of characters, nationalities but to me you seem to be closer to the romantic roles.

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Thank you for your attention and kind words! As for the romantic role, you are right – in the beginning it was like that. Naturally, acting entirely depends entirely on the director’s reading of the role, which determines how that will be with the whole film or performance. And I’m sure there is no actress who would not dream of playing Turgenev’s heroine. However, as a professional actor, I was eager to try myself in different roles, including characters that fall from the cliché of how people think of me. It is a pity if all directors “sentence” you to play one type of character all your life. That is why I am so grateful for having a chance to try myself in a completely different emploi.

Was it that bad to leave Russia while having a successful career as an actress?

It was hard enough. True, my career was just at its inception. I was well aware of the fact that by leaving, I would unwittingly end it and that would be for the sake of my family. But before fate decreed otherwise, we must bear life’s offerings. I don’t regret it a bit, because without bad there would be no good, without sadness there would be no joy, and without ordinary, sometimes gray everyday routine, we would not appreciate so much the joy that the gifts of fate give us. Everything that we live through is given for a reason.

It is common knowledge that for foreign actors it’s almost impossible to break into the American or European film industry. However, there are such films in your filmography. Please tell us about your work abroad.

You are absolutely right: it is not easy. That is why I regard working in all Western film projects as a real gift from heaven and am immensely grateful to fate for this. It was pure happiness for me to work in the Hungarian film “Golden Time” (film studio Mafilm) with a unique director from Hungary, Ilona Katkics, a student of Ivan Pyryev, who once graduated from VGIK. She personally travelled to Moscow to find an actress for the main character.

The script was written based on the work of the 19th century Hungarian classic writer Gyula Krúda. Many wonderful memories are associated with this difficult work, in collaboration with wonderful colleagues – stars of the Hungarian theater and cinema. Wise Ilona did everything to enrich the soul of a third-year student from the then USSR with the cultural “baggage” that we were deprived of behind the Iron Curtain of those times, even though Hungary was still under the socialist’s dictatorship. What inspiration I received then, and how it helped in my work in the film! In the American film “Stalin,” produced by the Hollywood studio Warner Entertainment and commissioned by one of the largest commercial channels HBO, I had the opportunity to play a small historical role (which entailed certain responsibilities), the role of Nino Beria, in a stellar collaboration with Robert Duvall (Stalin), Julia Ormond (Nadezhda Alliluyeva), Roshan Seth (Lavrentiy Beria), Maximilian Shell and other talented actors. This film subsequently received an Emmy Award, as well as an honorary Golden Globe Award in three categories. Then there were two more American-made films in which I played the leading female roles… All that was an amazing experience and good memories for me to keep in my heart.

You were born into the family of a famous musician and philologist-poet. I believe you grew up in a unique creative atmosphere, didn’t you?

Elena Seropova and her father George Seropov

My dad, George Seropov, was born and raised in Tbilisi. After graduating from music school with a violin class, he became enamored with the saxophone and independently mastered it to perfection. He became interested in jazz, admiring the great American musicians, who were his real, albeit absentee, “hearing” teachers. He was talented not only in music, but also in drawing, passed the competition and entered the Georgian Academy of Arts, which was almost impossible for an Armenian in those days. However, the time came when it was faced with the choice between fine arts and music. Music won. In Moscow, dad worked for many years in the large jazz orchestra of the MosConcert with famous musicians of that time, then in the orchestra of the old Moscow Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard, under Yuri Nikulin. The conductors of the orchestra were Vladimir Mikhailov and Georgy Garanyan. My mother, Lyubov Seropova (Zhukova), also had a musical education in piano, like my younger sister, who graduated from the Music School at the Moscow Conservatory. And the spirit of musical culture, the creative atmosphere really reigned in our house, where musicians often got together, some from the artistic world – friends of my father, our family. Dad himself was a jubilant man, and regardless of fatigue and mood, he always brought this joy of life with him, along with his constant humor, jokes, extraordinary stories and his unique kind laughter.

Your father (may he rest in peace!) was a prominent representative of Soviet jazz music. Where were his ancestors from?

Unfortunately, I don’t know much about ancestors from my father’s family, only that they once lived in Turkey. The notorious period of persecution of Armenians in Turkey, the genocide of 1915-16, also affected my dad’s grandparents, who were then forced to flee Turkey with their five children and, through Simferopol, ended up in Tbilisi. My grandmother, Elena Amayakovna, was a simple and unusually kind woman with an innate sense of intelligence and decency. Unfortunately, she passed away when I was only eight years old. Some of our relatives on my father’s side still live in Georgia, and the others live in Armenia.

Besides the love of art and beautiful eyes, did your father pass on to you some of his Armenian heritage?

Of course: he conveyed to me a love for his roots, for the history of Armenia. I remember with what interest, while still a child, I read about the ancient state of Urartu, then about the Hellenistic era in Armenia, which then enriched the national culture (for me, for example, it was an interesting fact that the tragedies of Euripides were staged in the Artashat Theater with the participation of Greek and Armenian actors; this really inspired me when I played the Hellenic Greek Thais of Athens in a movie), about Armenia during the adoption of Christianity and the Middle Ages, monuments of its architecture and culture, including the development of fresco painting and art in general in later times … Dad took us to relatives in Yerevan and Kirovakan, to the beautiful Lake Sevan… it’s simply impossible to forget these beauties! I think the main thing that my father passed on to me was love and benevolent respect for honest people, regardless of nationality, hospitality characteristic of the Caucasian people, family values… and also a special feeling of pleasure from the sound of the Armenian duduk. In my solo performances “Faith, Hope, Love… And Dream,” a live duduk sounded as a symbol of the eternal wisdom of this wonderful land and its people. The performance was attended by a wonderful man, a graduate of the jazz department of the music and theater school of the Leipzig Conservatory, a participant in International Jazz Festivals, a young and very talented musician and composer Artyom Sargsyan. In our evening he played the tenor saxophone, flute and duduk. Artyom wrote wonderful music for our play “The Little Prince,” and in another play “View from Above” he successfully presented himself as an actor.

It was interesting that in “The Trip to Wiesbaden,” probably the last successful Soviet film-melodrama, the roles of children of an Italian family were played by you and young Arthur Vardanyan, both with Armenian roots.

Elena Seropova

Italians and Armenians are very close in appearance and temperament. This is probably why both me and Arthur were in demand in this film, an adaptation of Turgenev’s “The Waters of Spring” directed by Evgeny Gerasimov. I would also like to say that in 1993 I was very lucky to work with the talented Armenian director and screenwriter, Emmy Award winner, Boris Hayrapetyan, in his film “The Killer,” where, in addition to other wonderful partners, I had the honor of working with Armen Borisovich Dzhigarkhanyan, an amazing actor, a unique personality, a wise and infinitely kind person, with whom me and my family were then connected through years of friendship, which I still value very much.

What Elena Seropova is doing now in Germany and will we see her one day in the homeland of her father’s ancestors?

Now I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done – acting and teaching. My life is a constant movement. It’s not for nothing that one of my recent performances in Leipzig was called “On the Road.” And wherever this road leads us, we bring there the cultural heritage that our great masters left us, and we share with our studio members, viewers, and listeners whom we love, appreciate. My firm conviction: spirituality, culture, art – this is what brings peace and love, awakens human souls from everyday routine and negativity. At the moment we are in Georgia, but life is unpredictable. You know, I have a lot of different blood: Armenian, Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish. I am a person of the world. And professionally, I performed a Gypsy, a Hungarian, an Italian, an Azerbaijani, a Tajik, a Greek, a Spanish, a Georgian, a German, a Ukrainian, a Russian, an American and even an alien in the cinema and theater, but, unfortunately, I did not get a chance to play an Armenian. Traveling, living and working all over the world, I never forget my roots; this is what is giving me strength and motivation in life and inescapable warmth to my soul. I certainly hope to visit the homeland of my father’s ancestors again someday.

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