A thrilling immersion behind the scenes of the Palais Garnier! In the new OCS Originals series Opera, broadcast this Tuesday at 8:40 p.m. on OCS Max and available on the platform, Ariane Labed plays Zoé, a drifting star dancer, pushed towards the exit. A performance rewarded with an interpretation prize at Séries Mania. Interview with the Franco-Greek actress, revealed in 2010 by the film Attenberg by Athina Rachel Tsangari, which won her from the hands of Quentin Tarantino, then president of the jury of the Venice Film Festival 2010, the Volpi Cup for the best female interpretation.
What made you want to play in “The Opera”?
One of the reasons I accepted was the fact that Zoe was a dancer, and that I understood that there was a lot of dancing. I did dance as a teenager and little girl and it was kind of a rendezvous with my past experience in a way. I had a real desire to work this physical way again. I really liked the fact that it was dizzying. I obviously didn’t feel up to the role of a star. There was something of the order of the challenge that moved me when I read the script. I also liked that L’Opéra talks about dance in a different way, and avoids all the rather cliché pitfalls in the world of classical dance. This world is sufficiently open and complex so that we can identify with the characters even if we have no connection with this institution that is L’Opéra.
You trained in teenage dance, did you have special training to shoot in this series?
We worked for several months with a team of choreographers and dancers. We had daily training, choreographies to learn. This fitness program included ballet classes, floor barre classes, pilates classes. We worked a lot!
With this role, you combine the roles of dancer and actress, how does it work compared to a series that requires less physical commitment?
This double hat necessarily means more work. But what’s great about such physical work is that one nourishes the other: the more I work on the dance, the more it nourishes the game, and the more the game takes shape, the more it is part of the dance. . It’s a real dialogue. I take this as a gift and an opportunity to develop these two weapons that feed on each other.
What do you like more about this character, Zoé Monin?
I really liked the character, it was obvious. The character of Zoe Monin is quite fascinating in this fighting spirit and in this strength that she has, which I tried to embody.
Zoe is a complex character, quite ambivalent… How did you approach her psychology?
Zoé is the product of this institution. The things she fights… These are also the things she is made of. She was trained in that harsh and quite ruthless universe. It is indeed, in any case, that’s how I understood it, in this ambivalence between determination and real fragility. As a ballet dancer, she certainly had to fight from day to day. You cannot walk through this institution without leaving feathers there. She’s humanly quite awkward because her life has been centered around dance work and her body. So there are things she’s less good at. She has injuries that make her suspicious of people. He’s someone I can forgive. She is multi-faceted, because she’s been through some pretty hard things.
We can all identify with Zoe, in the sense that we can all find ourselves pushed onto the sidelines …
This feeling of being sidelined, of thinking that we were in an established place and finally understanding that things are more fragile than that, we have all experienced it whether in love, at work or within his family. We have all known the feeling of rejection, the fear of no longer belonging. Zoe’s great fear is no longer belonging to this house when it’s absolutely everyone. The fact that it could escape her confronts her with this abysmal anguish of finding her place in the world, which she thought she had found at the Opera. We can all understand Zoe.
In the series, the dance scenes really resonate with what the characters are going through …
Yes, it is not at all separate. The more we advance in the series, the more dance is present. For Zoe, there is something of the order of the fight between her and her own body, her limits, her dizziness… She feels herself prevented from dancing. Zoe’s dancing moments are like Rocky Balboa fights. With Cécile Ducrocq [la cocréatrice de la série], we talked about it a lot, laughing a bit… But the idea is that when she dances, she fights. What is interesting is that we break away from the idea of the frail and fragile dancer. The series portrays powerful bodies.
How do you see her relationship with Flora (Suzy Bemba), this young supernumerary who hopes to become one of the first black dancers of the prestigious corps de ballet?
At the beginning, Zoe is not at all in a logic of transmission because she does not envisage the end of her career at all. The idea of transmitting seems absurd to him. Eventually, she decides to help him initially for selfish reasons and discovers in her, someone who, like her, must fight and prove herself. There is a real parallel between these two women. I really liked reading the screenplay this idea of mirror and mutual aid between two women who can understand each other by saying little. They are rather in action. It’s a pretty obvious encounter.
And how do you see her relationship with Sébastien, the ambitious dance director of the Paris Opera Ballet, who wants to fire Zoe?
They were friends before. When she sees him coming, she tells herself that he’s an ally, so it’s good news that he’s taking this place. She sees it as something quite comfortable for her. And what she thought turns out to be something quite different. What is interesting in their relationship is that each is there to defend their own project or their own career, even if it means hurting the other. Maybe she even hears and understands him.