The first thing that I notice about actress Marina Pennafina is her voice. There are some voices that I could sit back and listen to all day. She possesses one of them. It is sultry, intelligent, rich. And while looking at her body of work, at each of her films or television series, that voice helps me to remember that this is indeed the same actress. Though the accent and dialect may change depending upon the role, the sound of her voice remains the same.
The rest- her expressions, her body movements, her mannerism-immediately transforms into another person. She is so convincing playing her characters, I truly believe that she is the successful lawyer in “Qualcuno da Amare,” or the housekeeper in the “I Figli Strappati,” or Vincenza, a mother who battles with severe Post Partum syndrome, and the loss of her own child in “Maternity Blues.”
Born in Rome, Italy, Marina was the first of her family to try her hand at acting. With over twenty years of acting experience, and having embraced a variety of roles, it is clear that she made the right choice. In preparation for her next role, Marina-this true chameleon of Italian cinema- spoke to me on a fine sunny day in Roma, about how she manages to stay looking so young, remains centered in a chaotic world through meditation, and is able to give the world an award winning performance on any given day.
Gaya Lynn: Marina, it such a pleasure having you with l’Italoamericano. Since you were a little girl, you were in love with theater, film, and acting. Share with us the moment you realized you were destined to become an actress.
Marina Pennafina: When I was little, my favorite game was to imitate singers and I have say, I was particularly good at impersonating Nada [Nada Malanima]. Perhaps because we both have a deep voice. Then for a little while, the thought of journalism peeked my interests, naturally as a correspondent for dangerous areas. Until chance stepped in. In order to help me overcome my shyness, I signed up for acting school. And there, I discovered my true and only passion. I was eighteen, and at my first recital, I decided to become an actress. I acted in the Mirandolina [the Mistress of the Inn] by [Carlo] Goldoni.. In that instant, the anxiety of that first moment, my shyness and any indecisiveness [passed]. In the end…. we can say that Goldoni and his work decided my destiny.
GL: Did you ever experience any doubts about your career choice?
MP: Well, I would be a hypocrite if I told you otherwise. There were moments of difficulty, of feeling stuck… and then thoughts that maybe you cannot do this, and then the doubt of whether or not you have the right passion needed for this work come to mind…I have to say it almost makes you want to quit, but right in that moment, all of a sudden, someone says something positive or you get a phone call or a gesture of appreciation, then it makes you change your mind and you come back but even stronger.
GL: Did you come from an artistic family? What did your parents say when you told them you wanted to go into acting?
MP: No, not at all. There are no actors in my family. The first and only one is me. I come from a simple Roman family who worked in the business sector….Naturally, they tried to convince me otherwise… only because they perceived it [acting] as part of a world that was too far away from them. But since I am stubborn…it was impossible for them to change my mind; only after…having achieved results that were earned by my sweat, they began to change their minds and understand that this was now part of my world…. I have to say that seeing my mother happy and proud of my achievements makes me so happy….
GL: Were you shy as a child? Did acting help you overcome this shyness?
MP: I was very shy and introverted--all hidden behind a veil of aggressive behavior as to cover up my weaknesses. Fortunately, that aggressiveness disappeared, but that shyness in some situations is still there. Acting has helped me overcome my insecurities; it has helped me become more open, cheerful, and aware of myself and the world around me. It helped me get in tuned with myself through mediation…
GL: You have been acting for over twenty years. In fact, although I am exaggerating, you have in a way, lived perhaps more in front of a camera than in normal everyday life.
MP: I have to say this indeed is the most wonderful job in the world. But it also can be tiring for a variety of reasons, and I am talking not just about the physical fatigue. But … the moment you have a role, you are on set, and that magical feeling comes over, then suddenly, all that matters is your character. You have to make that character come alive and give it all the true emotions… The set is, at the moment, similar to real life..even though true life surprises me even more than film.
GL: After the director has said CUT, after being in world that is so rich although fictitious, is hard to transfer back into real life?
MP: It depends on the character you interpret, there are some characters that have moved me more, that leaving the role definitely can create a sense of melancholy. But we need to move on, just as when a good friend decides to leave, we say goodbye using the same love we used to welcome her. And you never know what is in store after a goodbye.
GL: What characteristic or trait has helped you continue to work as a consummate actor for so many years?
MP: Definitely my tenacity and ability to work hard have paid off. As my meditation teacher once said, “Whoever has it hard, wins in the end.” and this is true… Moreover, having the love for what you do helps you forge ahead despite any obstacles that come your way…
GL: Tell me about Maternity Blues, a brave and moving film, where you interpret the role of Vincenza--a woman struggling with severe post partum depression.. Did you ever worry that this subject matter would be too difficult for the public to handle? Or do you feel that one should address social issues openly without any refrain?
MP: In truth, it has been the character that has not only suffered the most but has also been the most beloved..Vincenza is a character that I already did on stage and I wanted to bring to the big screen. This was possible due to a meeting with the film’s director. He loved and fought for the screenplay. The movie later was critically acclaimed both in Venice and by critics everywhere. The character of Vincenza was so different than me, and the only common ground we shared was our spiritual strength…This is a character that will leave you with a hole in the pit of your stomach…. The suffering, the lack of love towards oneself, the great maternal instincts, for me it was new….this is one of the characters I had more trouble saying goodbye to, and still this character lies within a corner of my heart.
This film neither condemns nor acquits but rather shows with a certain delicacy and compassion four broken souls … It makes little sense to think that every women out there is equipped with maternal instincts-- this is portrayed in the film, a truth that is felt but never brought to the surface or talked about.
GL: Let us turn from acting to beauty. You posed in a calendar: Donna O.N.L.U.S. with in hopes of raising awareness of anorexia and bulimia. We live in a world where the ideal beauty is a twenty year old who is 180 cm. and weighs sixty kili.. How can women feel confident about themselves when the world tells us we need to adhere to these impossible standards.
MP: Unfortunately, we live in a world that emphasizes…fame, exterior beauty, money…. if we could only think for a moment that all that comes from outside, can come and go…. when we have the courage and strength to look within, then we can discover what is truly timeless and find true and eternal happiness. This is what I am discovering through mediation…..
GL: What’s your beauty routine and diet like. I heard you are a wonderful cook and your specialty is pasta e fagioli.
MP: Haha. I love to cook, but truly just do it for my friends….When I’m home alone, I turn to vegetables, salads and salmon…I love piazza and pasta but when I start a diet, I avoid them all together. For the rest, I’m very lazy, the only sport I truly love is swimming, so the pool is my favorite place along with the summer sea.
GL: What projects do you that are coming up?
MP: This fall, I’m going to start working on a brilliant film with Manuela Tempesta, who co-wrote the screenplay with Francesca Massaro.
GL: Thank you so much for spending some time with us. Any final thoughts, and do you have a special “saluto” to our readers at L’Italoamericano?
MP: A kiss and special thanks to a super woman who is more American in her ways of doing things than Italian. A true professional and just a great soul, Katya Marletta, Thanks Katya. And of course, s special hello to the many Italoamericani who have found a second and welcoming home in America.
GL: Perfetto. I hope to meet you one day, and taste your pasta and fagioli. I look forward to watching more of your work .Tante grazie cara. A presto.
For more, go to www.marinapennafina.com
Special thanks to Press Manager, Katya Marletta
Find me at www.about.me/Gayalynn