After a 2020 edition in Paris due to the pandemic, the La Rochelle TV Fiction Festival is making its “return to its city of heart” from September 14 to 19. The emblematic Renaud Lepic of Do not do this, do not do that, Guillaume de Tonquédec, will have the heavy task of chairing the jury. At his side to award the fifteen prizes during the closing ceremony this Saturday, producer Emmanuel Daucé (A French Village), screenwriter Natalie Carter, actresses Anaïde Rozam and Anne Charrier, and director Eloïse Lang (Bitch), and a composer whose name has not yet been released. With 20 Minutes, Guillaume de Tonquédec talks about his love of television, his role as president and the two series in which we will see him this fall, Germinal on France 2 and A French Affair on TF1.
During the press conference, you said you owe your vocation to the small screen….
When I was little, I was fascinated by the power of television because I saw my parents, in front of the little box, smile, be moved in front of complete strangers, almost have a second life thanks to the television. I told myself as a child that if one day I could be in this little box to tell stories and create emotions for my parents, who became my first spectators, that would be great. It was the beginning of my vocation as an actor!
What programs marked your childhood?
I have so many images in my head … like Screen Folders where we saw a film, followed by a debate. I miss the debate, it exists but I think there could be more, during more regular meetings. After fictions on a social theme, I find it very enriching to see the director, the authors, the performers and also the people who are represented or about whom we speak in this fiction. Otherwise, I loved a show called The front page is yours, where we saw singers and series like The Mysteries of the West. You could vote for the singer or the fiction you wanted to see. I loved that television. I also think of Mr. cinema which offered very great films.
Do you have any favorite genres when it comes to fiction?
What touches me is the accuracy. When a work at the level of writing, of realization is right, it speaks to me, I have the impression that one speaks to me, sincerely. Whether it’s comedy or drama, that’s what interests me.
Tell us about your first La Rochelle TV Fiction Festival?
It was during the presentation of the first form of Do not do this, do not do that, 40-minute access prime time episodes, broadcast Saturdays at 7 p.m. We had come to present two episodes. At the screening, we discovered, if I may say so, the work we had done thanks to the public. People had a blast watching this. The series was awarded. We came back when it aired on prime time at 8:30 p.m. It was once again awarded. The La Rochelle Festival, these are foundational memories of the beginning of the series and of this crazy adventure that has passed us all and has become a social phenomenon.
What made you want to accept to be the president of the jury for this edition?
I love watching how others are doing, be it writers, actors, producers, directors. I love being a spectator because it nourishes me and opens my eyes. I work a lot and have little time, honestly, to watch a lot. There, it was a great opportunity to be able to do it and immerse myself in the work of others.
On what criteria will you judge the works presented?
I know what a fiction represents as a commitment and as a mass of work. I have a lot of respect for that. I will judge with my heart. I like to watch something and forget that I am watching a fiction, to go into the story completely. This is what will make me choose this or that fiction. It will also be the fruit of the discussion with the jury.
And precisely, how did you put together your jury?
There will be seven of us. I have chosen voluntarily to surround myself only with people I do not know. My first impulse was to say to myself: “Hey, I’m going to take some friends, it’s going to be nice”. I finally took people I don’t know, whose backgrounds I admire, to meet people, but also not to be in a comfortable and already acquired position. I want the discussion to be tough because I know I will have a hard time choosing because there are so many beautiful things on offer. So you might as well not be in the inter-self. I wanted something more risky.
Even if you don’t see much of it, do you feel a progression in the level of French fictions in the roles that are offered to you?
This is something I had a presentiment of when I read the first episodes of Do not do this, do not do that. There was a freedom of tone on the part of the author. France 2 gave Anne Giafferi carte blanche. She did not self-censor. It liberated, because everyone watched it, especially the broadcasters. A family that says bad words at 8:30 p.m., we would have censored it. The broadcasters had put themselves in the place of the housewife under 50 by saying: “Here is what she wants to see”. Not at all ! Fortunately, “Daddy’s television” is over! We freed the authors, the directors, the actors, that gives things of an extraordinary daring. This movement is general and French fiction can be exported, like Germinal, in which I participated and which won the Audience Award at Séries Mania.
How did you feel when “Germinal” was screened in Arenberg, a former mining town in the north where the series was filmed?
In the audience, there were former minors, children and grandchildren of minors, as in the series, among the extras. A desire of the director David Hourrègue and the producer Alban Etienne, who wanted to associate the people of the mine with the history of Germinal. When we came to shoot, we found ourselves with people whose personal history was linked to the history of the mine. It also brought a level of demand and emotion to the days we spent with them. Suddenly, you imagine the emotion for these people by discovering the fiction, sensitive and passionate of David Hourrègue, in which they recognized themselves!
You present in La Rochelle another fictional event, “A French affair”, what made you want to play Étienne Sesmat, this gendarme who led the investigation in 1984 into the Grégory affair?
I wondered if there wasn’t a voyeuristic side to plunging into this story and making it into a fiction. I wouldn’t have accepted if I hadn’t found great honesty and sincerity in the writing. The scenario is based only on real facts, because this case is not resolved on the judicial side, like the minutes of the recorded interrogations. The meeting with the director, Christophe Lamotte, was decisive, because I asked him why entrusting me this role. His enthusiasm and vision made me say yes.
For many French people, you remain Renaud Lepic from “Fais pas ci, faire pas ça”, after the Christmas episode last year, would you be up for a new episode?
To start again as a series, no, to remake special episodes, yes, really with great pleasure! We have great pleasure to meet again. But the condition we all set, the producers first, was to have the right idea, the strong idea. And the good author and the good director. It must be necessary, it must not be done to make it, it is not a hen that lays golden eggs that we are going to exploit to the end. It is our common will. So if there are more great ideas coming up, why not? With pleasure !