Sally A. Edwards and Sarah J. Edwards met Bella Dayne the morning after the 45th President of the USA had been elected. We were all tired being on British time and glued to the news, but it didn't stop us having fun for the shoot at L'Escargot in Soho.
Shoot and interview took place in November 2016
Interview by Sally A. Edwards
Photography by Sarah J. Edwards
Shot on location at L'Escargot, London
At The Point Of Giving Up, Opportunity Came Knocking For Bella Dayne
We're delighted to introduce the multi-talented actress, Bella Dayne to you. Born in Germany, Bella is multi-lingual and a complete globetrotter having spent time between her homeland, the US and now the UK. Bella recently starred in Humans, season two of The Man In The High Castle, alongside Idris Elba in the Sky Atlantic mini series, Guerrilla and can currently be seen in BBC's Troy. She's in good company.
What was the moment and circumstance when you absolutely believed you wanted to become an actress?
"I wanted to become an actress since I can remember, but what really made me decide to move to New York and just do it was performing Sarah Kane’s “4.48 Psychosis” in school. I got to experience that thing that actors strive to achieve in their every performance. It was like a drug you tasted and you want to feel that high again, you lose yourself, you don’t remember what happened, it is liberation.
"Also, I think every artist has had a sort of mentor at some point in their lives. It doesn’t have to be in the same form of art, or even a creative at all, but someone who inspired them to be their true self. I had someone like that at that time whom I’m very grateful for."
What would you consider your biggest moment - good or bad that set up the momentum for all these great roles you have? And how did it shape things going forward?
"Funnily, it was a personal one - a very big heartbreak. During that time, I was broke and working three jobs to stay afloat and I got to a point where I had a complete meltdown à la ‘what the fuck am I doing with my life?’. But that moment where I felt my lowest and thought I’d quit, a sudden peacefulness settled in. I just thought 'you’re alive, you don’t need to prove anything to anyone. None of that shit matters, just enjoy the small things in life. YOU don’t have to be anything.’ And funnily, very shortly after, I think maybe even a week after, everything started to fall into place. That heartbreak taught me to let go, which ultimately gave me the freedom to be a better actor.”
You're multi-lingual. How did you learn to speak so many languages?
"Well, in Germany in general, you are very much encouraged to speak a variety of languages (not that many people in the world want to speak German, ha). But I actually don’t speak that many languages compared to the people I grew up with. I actually look quite silly next to them, they speak 8 languages easily, don’t ask me how…"
How does this help with accents and characteristics for characters?
"Oh, it helps tremendously! In each language or accent, you find almost a different version of yourself. When using another language, or accent, you use different muscles in your mouth than you’re used to. That physical change automatically makes you feel differently, it’s like getting into costume. Obviously, each character varies and you should never generalize, but the melody and sound of a language can help guide you into being that person. It is, in the end, part of who they are."
Can you tell us about your role in Humans? And for those who haven't seen the show, how would you pitch it to encourage them to watch?
"My character in Humans is called Astrid. She is from Berlin and is completely uninhibited, free of materialistic values, full of love. She sees beauty in everything and everyone, very much what Berlin as a city embodies at the moment I think. Astrid feels comfortable with who she is and thus can infatuate others with her happiness and warmth. She meets Niska (who is a Synth, but doesn’t know it yet) and the two get involved. It is to me an incredibly beautiful story, this odd couple. Niska, a Synth, disappointed by humanity, full of anger and violent impulses, who is incredibly closed off and to many would evoke fear, meets an emotionally uninhibited Astrid. She sees beyond that and sees that that behavior is only the result of deep pain of Niska's past, thus never judges and only sees beauty in her 'imperfections' and flaws and recognizes how deeply sensitive Niska truly is. My character makes someone who has become 'bitter', unafraid 'to feel' and 'to love' again. I think that is an incredibly beautiful message. Someone loving you for who you really are and continuing to do so no matter how much you try to push them away, is disarming.
"Adding to that layer that Niska is a Synth that looks like a woman - but theoretically, a 'robot' doesn’t have a gender - it reminds that love goes beyond any labels of what we are or what we look like - it goes back to that truly loving someone is loving their heart and essence.
"Pitch (trying ha..): Humans is about our obsession with perfection and asking the question ‘What makes us human?’ You see this crucial question tackled in different scenarios throughout the series, applied to our work, dreams, family, love and sexual preferences. It asks the question of why we exist, what we want in life, what consciousness is, what love is and what a world would look like where AI would make our lives 'easier'."
Please introduce us to your character on The Man In The High Castle. How is it going into a show that has such a big following and such established characters?
"What I can say is that there is something dark, sexy and quite disturbing about my character. Definitely one of the most fun characters I have been able to play so far. I had watched the show before and found the idea of what a world would look like had Germany won the war very interesting as it obviously is a very dark scenario. What particularly grabbed me is what daily life would look like. Walking onto such a great show, to me it was about continuing to create that world together with the other characters, so I was simply really excited to be a part of it."
Guerrilla looks into a very interesting subject. Can you tell us more about the storyline?
"Guerrilla follows characters that open our eyes to what it meant to be of color or a minority in the 1970s. It shows us the different obstacles that you face if you want to change how you are treated in a country, by society; the personal struggles you have to deal with when you start to take action to change your circumstances and to be considered equal.
What makes the script so brilliant is that it shows different ways of going about that - from the very peaceful approach to the very extreme. It asks the question of what is right and what is wrong. Is there a ‘right way’ even to bring about change? What is justified if you have been treated unfairly and as an unequal. It shows the journey of a couple awakening from feeling powerless to taking action and how these actions, if morally questionable, can bring a human to the edge of their own emotional and psychological stability and how different backgrounds and upbringings of each person can shape our forms of actions differently."
How do you think history and this story can teach us today with relationships and acceptance?
"I think it will have a huge impact on people, especially after the U.S. election and what has happened in the past year all over the world, this is more relevant than ever. It will help people understand the struggle that people of color and minorities had to endure and still have to to this day. There will be very clear parallels to today’s problems, the roots on both sides. It will give us an insight to how radicalism can be born, what pain and oppression it comes from, and maybe force us to look at the very first seed of today’s radicalism. It will teach us how as a society and individual person, if we would be more accepting and loving to each other in this world, consider each of us human beings as equal, no matter what background, social status, nationality, color, gender or religion, there might not be any fuel for terrorism. As for the relationship between the two main characters, the story teaches us about our different roles as a man and a woman in a relationship, our power struggle within a relationship; it teaches us to let go of ego, making compromises, believing in something together and what it truly means to be 'partners' and a 'team' beyond being in love."
What has been the most inspiring role you've taken on to date and how has it shaped you in the present day?
"I’d have to say Eliette in Guerrilla. There are other characters that came to mind, but what has been the most inspiring about this particular character is her strength. Not a strength out of ego, but a strength out of a great love for humanity and truth and equality. Eliette has shaped me in the way that she made me stronger as a woman and feel more grounded as an individual to voice how I feel and to not let myself be oppressed by the idea of what society tells us we should be like.”
What other creatives do you admire and why?
"There are a lot, new ones every day even. But if I had to say I’d say Christian Bale, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kate Winslet, Jessica Chastain... For the ones I named, what they all have in common is a strength and vulnerability in their art. They allow people fearlessly to look into their soul, including the darkest parts of what it means to be human and the most vulnerable places we want to hide. They go where others don’t want to go and to me that’s strength and true art."
What's next for you?
"Training dolphins. Aside from that classic activity, possibly a period drama, and well... Moving to London."