Nadia Tereszkiewicz, the New Star of French Cinema

The César-winning actress takes on a new role in ‘Rosalie.’ Starring alongside Benoit Magimel and Benjamin Biolay, Tereszkiewicz embodies the role of France’s first bearded woman as she navigates the 19th century.

À lire en français

Winner of the César for Most Promising Actress for her role in Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi’s Les Amandiers (Forever Young), the incandescent Nadia Tereszkiewicz is on fire this year, with roles in François Ozon’s Mon crime (The Crime Is Mine) and two highly anticipated films, by Robin Campillo and Stéphanie Di Giusto. In the midst of this creative whirlwind, she spoke to Mastermind about her career, which took off only four years ago, and her passion for portraying a wide range of women.

What does the César you won for Les Amandiers mean to you?

NT There was something symbolic about winning for a film in which I discovered, at the same time as my character, the acting profession. It’s a wonderful recognition of my work and, of course, an immense joy to have my peers honor me in this way. It’s a bit crazy, too, because before I took up acting, I was a dancer for 14 years. When I auditioned, I always lost out at the very end. When my name was called at the César ceremony, it took me a few seconds to realize that it was me! [Laughs]

You have had an unusual career, moving from one passion, dance, to another, acting.

NT That’s true. From the ages of four to 18, dance was my reason for living. I was lucky to quickly find another. I am a great lover of literature and was going through a phase where I wanted to teach literature – I even took the test that would have allowed me to become a teacher. I started to discover the film world when I was an extra in Stéphanie Di Giusto’s La Danseuse (The Dancer) and a lighting double on Guillaume Gallienne’s Maryline. On that shoot, I met some actors from the Comédie Française who encouraged me to take the exam for the Cours Florent’s Classe Libre [one of France’s most prestigious acting programs]. I followed their advice, and that’s where it all began.

Encounters with various people have been important for your career. I imagine that it is not for nothing that you mentioned Dennis Berry, your director on Sauvages (Wild), who passed away in 2021, in your César speech.

NT Dennis was the first person to tell me that I would be an actor. He assured me that I had it in me and that it was up to me, through my choices, to develop it. He helped rebuild my self-confidence, which had been shattered by my years of dancing, during which I felt that I had tried so hard without succeeding. I was 22 and had to think first about earning a living. Trying my luck as an actor was not obvious because it was something of a random choice. During my years of dancing, deep down, I was not really fulfilled, but on Dennis’s set, I was immediately invaded by a feeling of happiness. I was filled with love for people and with being able to feel and express things through my body and the words of others. From then on, until the day before he died, we called each other at least once a week. He also introduced me to cinema – I had not seen any New Wave films before I met him. Dennis was an enthusiastic guide who never overwhelmed people with his culture and knowledge.

He spoke to you very early on about the importance of mak- ing career choices. Yours are astonishingly diverse, from Dominik Moll’s Seules les bêtes (Only the Animals) to Monia Chokri’s Babysitter to François Ozon’s Mon crime. Is it difficult for you to choose?

NT I want to do this job with all my heart – not to work for the sake of working. So, even at the beginning, when I had few offers, I made choices. And whether they are judged successful or not, I know why I made the films I did. They all gave me a voice, complex roles, the chance to express myself as very different types of women. But there is one particularly important role in a film with an ensemble cast that opened many doors for me.

Which one?

NT Seules les bêtes, in which I played the lover of Bruni- Tedeschi’s character. It was thanks to that role that François Ozon wanted to cast me in Mon crime, Fabienne Berthaud in Tom, Monia Chokri in Babysitter and Robin Campillo in L’Île rouge (Red Island). It’s also why I was approached for the series Possessions.

Was it also because of that role that Bruni-Tedeschi hired you for Les Amandiers?

NT Not at all! In fact, that was the only time the film almost worked against me! [Laughs] At first, she didn’t want to see me because she knew me from Seules les bêtes and thought I was too old for the role. It was the casting director Marion Touitou who insisted, and I know what I owe her! When Bruni-Tedeschi saw me during the casting, she changed her mind because she saw me do things that I had not done in front of her before: letting go and being open to self-mockery.

Do you do a lot of screen tests?

NT Yes but I’m lucky in that most of them are “real” tests, during which I am given time to act. That’s how it was for Babysitter, which I love for the way it questions the male-female relationship and the notion of desire, and for L’Île rouge, in which the process took longer because I play a mother of three children, and Robin needed to see if I could be credible.

You’ve never done any theater. Is that the next step?

NT I have been offered some roles, and I am tempted, but first I want to do everything I want to do in cinema – to shoot in different European countries, for example – and not forbid myself anything because I would be blocked otherwise. I know that I will try the theater one day, but I want to take full advantage of what cinema offers – working with François Ozon, for example.

What did that mean to you?

NT I have admired him since I was a little girl. I danced to his film 8 Femmes (8 Women). I went to see Dans la maison (In the House) several times when I wanted to become a literature professor. And he gave me incredible confidence by casting me and including me in the creative process. François loves cinema in the way a child does. After 22 films, he is anything but jaded. He gave us the joy of acting, the chance to use comedy and the period of the 1930s to say something much more serious about today’s world, while mischievously praising sisterhood. It’s quite a challenge to find the right tone, to let go without overdoing it.

You seem to be nourished by such challenges as acting in Arabic and Finnish in La Dernière reine (The Last Queen) by Damien Ounouri and Adila Bendimerad, the very first Algerian film in costume, set in Algiers in 1516.

NT Each scene was indeed a challenge in terms of both the language and the role of a slave warrior in a film whose directors fought for years to make it happen. I was happy and proud to be part of it. As I am to have been able to work with Stéphanie Di Giusto on La Rosalie, a magnificent story about difference. It’s all coming full circle. I’m not anxious about the future. I have never been as fulfilled as I have been these last three years. And even if it all comes to an end, I will at least have experienced it.

This feature was originally published in Mastermind 13 – buy it here.

Celine Releases New Fragrance, ZouZou

Read the interview

Bottega Veneta FW24: Dressing for the Elements

Read the interview

Dimitri Rassam, Son of Cinema

Read the interview