A few days after the premiere at Rome Film Fest to present her new project, Coco Rebecca Edogamhe never stops surprising us.
October 26th is the release date of her latest work, the very one which premiered at the Roman festival, directed by Renato De Maria: “Robbing Mussolini”, an action film that pushed her way beyond the boundaries of her comfort zone. With humbleness and kindness that are never to be given for granted, Coco told us about the difficulties and emotions of life on set, which have been getting more and more intense and totalizing since “Summertime”. Playing a young thief in 1954 Italy, between misadventures and all sorts of tumbling to find Mussolini’s treasure, was an experience that taught her a lot: by observing the “big names” at work, “little” Coco has grown up, even becoming a stunt expert.
The time to dream about living in movies is over now: Coco isn’t faking it anymore because she’s embodying her characters with mind and heart, always abandoning herself to “the first-time shivers”.
What’s your first cinema memory?
I don’t know if I have one, specific memory, but I know that, as a kid, I would love to watch movies at home with my parents, and I would always pretend I was part of the story I was watching. Once the movie was over, if it was a spy movie, for example, I would pretend I was a spy myself, playing with my sister [laughs]. I’ve always had a habit of delving into the universe of the movies I watched, pretending I was one of the characters, ever since I was a child: as soon as I saw something that caught my attention, I immediately wanted to imitate it, I would daydream all the time.
Of course, the first movie I saw in the theater was a Disney or a Dreamworks cartoon, maybe “Finding Nemo”.
Your next project is the Netflix film “Robbing Mussolini”, by Renato De Maria, about a group of young people trying to steal the legendary Mussolini’s treasure, which apparently, he brought with him while trying to escape. What was your reaction when you read this script?
It was a very particular sequence of events. My agent told me about this project and I auditioned because I found it very intriguing, it was so different from “Summertime”, so I thought it would have been both an acting test and a self-test. However, after the audition, I had no news for a long time, until they eventually told me that I hadn’t gotten the part. I felt awful because I really wanted to be part of the project. Luckily, I had other thoughts to keep me busy because, in the meantime, we were filming “Summertime”, so my mind was elsewhere, I was focused on my job on that set.
Anyways, when I had lost all hope because I knew that they had chosen another girl for that part, they called me saying that the actress wouldn’t have been part of the movie anymore and that I would have taken her place. Initially, I was shocked, and then everything happened altogether: I had to rehearse for a movie of which, of course, I remembered the storyline, but after so many months I’d forgotten the details. I had a week of rehearsals with stunts and then, on set, I realized I had to portray a character that was so different from what I was used to doing, with a personality that was so far from Summer, in a very different historic context, with people I didn’t know and who were already famous actors, whom I didn’t have a chance to meet before filming because they did the first rehearsals with the girl who had gotten the part before me.
It was very weird, the first days on set I felt like a little girl in an adults’ world, surrounded by “big names” with so much experience, something which I didn’t have, instead, because I still had to enter that loop and get used to the idea that I was about to do something different and find my place in this world. However, it was a great experience, I got along so well with my colleagues, and the very fact that it was something new for me made me constantly feel that feeling, that first-time shiver, so I let myself get absorbed by all those emotions.
“The first days on set I felt like a little girl in an adults’ world, surrounded by ‘big names’ with so much experience…”
Can you tell us something about your character? What kind of research did you do and how did you prepare to develop it?
I play a supporting character in a story set in 1945. I’m part of a group of people who embarks on a journey to find Mussolini’s treasure. It’s an action movie, so I had to set my mind on a completely different genre compared to what I’d done in the past. As I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, or at least not the amount of time I wished I could have, I built my character kind of improvising things day by day, finding inspiration in the costumes and the storyline.
I’m lucky enough to be a person who really loves listening to and observing other people, so to be on a set where there were actors and actresses with great experience was very useful because I could “steal” from them, learn from them lots of stuff. Moreover, we would often hang out also out of the set, we’d have dinner together for example, and even just listening to them speak, and learn their worldview, was so educational for me. It’s always so interesting to hang out with people who inspire you, and being constantly inspired helps enrich your personal background so that, later on, you can take from it to shape your characters and use it in your scenes.
As you were saying, it’s a completely different genre from what you’ve previously worked on: what is it that usually makes you say “yes” to a new project?
Maybe it’s my instincts, what I feel inside, the curiosity.
It’s a weird feeling this one I’m trying to describe, it’s nothing rational, and it depends on a lot of details. First and foremost, it depends on the kind of project, if it’s something that can be challenging for me, that makes me want to put myself out there and go beyond my own limits and get out of my comfort zone. They say that if something scares you, then it means you have to do it, so, you know, at the beginning you need to let your heart choose for you, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe, when you grow up, you understand a little bit better what you like and what you don’t like to do, but I’ve just started, I’m young, so I still let my instincts guide me. Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re wrong, but I think it’s good to make mistakes sometimes because that’s how you learn to face and analyze things.
What was the hardest and the funniest scene you shot?
The hardest, on a physical level, was one specific scene I shot with my stuntwoman, but I don’t want to make any spoilers here [laughs]. The funniest scenes were the ensemble ones, where we were all together because there are some very funny characters and then, as it is an action movie which also has comedy sparks, though, it was impossible not to laugh and be involved.
If you were to find that treasure (which they say amounted to something like 610 million lire), what do you think you would do with it?
Oh gosh, great question! [laughs]
If I could, I would use it to get a time machine and see with my eyes and understand what the situation was like at the time of the movie and to see all that Italian people were living back then. I’d love to see what was happening because what we study at school is certainly not enough, it would be so much different to witness those kinds of events and the war and see how it’s changed the world, learn all the secrets that people would hide at the time.
Acting is also an occasion to get to know yourself better: have you discovered anything new about yourself during your journey, so far?
So many things! Being an actor is a job that “forces” you, so to say, to make very deep inner research, even when sometimes maybe you wouldn’t want to dig so deep. Acting gives you a different kind of sensitivity in your way of seeing the world.
“Being an actor is a job that ‘forces’ you, so to say, to make very deep inner research, even when sometimes maybe you wouldn’t want to dig so deep.”
When I talk with you, actors, I often realize how your sensitivity is way higher than the average. You have this ability to analyze yourselves and others that is so hard for people to have, and maybe it’s this very art that helps you develop it…
Of course. This job gives you the possibility to confront so many different people, new ones or people you already know, it’s always a bit of a “washing machine” of things, a continuum of emotions, and sometimes it’s hard, but the acts of questioning yourself, digging deep inside yourself to find something to give to the character, even where there are areas of you that you would not want to explore or show to other people, become abilities that you keep refining with the passing of time and experience, that you learn to control. It’s a very complicated process, but when you start to understand the mechanism, it gives you so much and allows you to exorcize your own, personal stuff, that in which you wouldn’t be able to face in other ways, you learn to see the world from different perspectives. Also playing a character that has nothing to do with you obviously gives you a higher sensitivity but at the same time it’s your body and your soul that are embodying that personality, and it’s all part of a very instructive game.
Which part of you hasn’t changed, instead, and which one do you think will never change?
I’d say my curiosity. I will never lose it.
Usually, when you create a character, are you more rational or instinctive?
So far, my approach to characters has always been a bit more instinctive, as I’ve started this journey without having ever studied acting. So, I don’t have those basic notions that maybe some education could have given me: my school has been the sets of “Summertime” and “Robbing Mussolini”. Anyway, I’m very curious by nature, I always watch interviews with actresses and actors, directors, to understand what kind of camera frames they do, the technique they use because I always try and learn from the people I admire, that I find fascinating and are passioned about this job.
What’s the best and the worst advice they’ve ever given you?
The worst advice… Maybe no advice at all! [laughs] It’s the worst when they don’t give me any advice because I like to be advised, instead. The best piece of advice they’ve ever given me is not to fake it, especially in this job where it’s so easy to pretend to feel the feelings you’re acting. Acting, instead, shouldn’t be fake, the character’s feelings should be really felt and lived.
What inspires you on the job and also in your everyday life?
I take inspiration from everyone, in the sense that I’m a big observer and basically even when I go out for a walk and cross paths with some strangers and see them do something that catches my attention, that becomes a source from where I can take something. Other than that, I listen to lots of music and I’m a very visual person, so I find photos and videos very inspiring as well; I love talking with my friends, confronting people that are older than me, and listening to them telling me about their life experiences and how they face the hardest times.
I believe anything can be inspiring.
“Not to fake it”
What’s a song or an album that describes this very moment of your life?
This is super hard to say! [laughs]
I guess the record I’ve been listening to on repeat lately is “Renaissance”, the latest Beyoncé album. It doesn’t really describe how I’m feeling at this very time of my life because it’s a very strong album, of rebirth, as the title says, but it helps me recharge, or it’s a distraction when heavy stuff is going on, it makes me feel good and at ease, I listen to it when I want to dance and feel a little bit more self-confident, it helps me feel better.
An epic fail on set?
I’ve had so many, especially the first year in “Summertime”! Starting with this job and finding myself on a set in the titular role made me feel a huge pressure on my shoulders back then. By the way, I’m also very self-critic and severe with myself, so when I couldn’t do something, I got angry with myself because I wanted to make it at all costs. So, I’ve had several epic fails, even scenes where I would have wanted to reach a certain emotional state, but I just couldn’t. However, it’s part of the game, of the journey, when you less expect it, things happen that are out of your control, and it often doesn’t go the way you wanted it to go, but that’s fine, you realize you’re not a machine and you’re not invincible, and it’s good.
Your must-have on set.
I always need to have with me my iPad and earphones, or a book or a journal where to write or draw because downtimes, the hours spent in your dressing room doing nothing, can drive you crazy [laughs]. You can get easily bored on set, so when I’m not shooting, I reach the other departments to chitchat, the costume, the hair, and the makeup departments, or if I want to be by myself, I’ll start drawing or listening to music, I’ll do something that, even if it distracts me, can make me feel relaxed and not at all bored.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
I can’t think of one specific thing, but it certainly was an act of courage to challenge myself and manage to reach beyond my own boundaries, which is something I’m often scared to do. Sometimes, I curse myself, in fact, when I find myself struggling with things, but then I look back and think, “Wow, I really pushed boundaries that I didn’t think I could push, physically or mentally”. However, when I realize I made it, I understand that I can actually reach that point.
What are you scared of instead?
So many things! [laughs]
I’m scared of not being able to do my job, to be judged, even because it’s a particular job. Anyways, since there are no certainties in this life, everything feels a bit scary!
Your greatest act of rebellion?
Getting out of my comfort zone, having done things that I would have never thought I could do, showing a bit more character in certain situations, and standing up for myself.
What does it mean to you to feel comfortable in your own skin?
It means to be able to accept yourself, which isn’t, though, to love and like yourself a hundred percent, but it’s being aware you have flaws or things you don’t like about yourself and understanding you can’t let those things limit you or prevent you from feeling food, but that they’re just our travel companions.
What’s the latest thing or person that made you smile?
It’s very easy to make me smile. Anyway, I’d say my sister and my friends. The quality time spent with people who make me feel good is always a way to recharge myself.
What’s your happy place?
I still have to find it, can you believe it?
Actually, I love the sea, and any sea can make me feel so good. Last summer, I went to Sicily, Pantelleria, and Sardinia, and I loved them so much. However, I’d say that any place that is able to make you feel serene is a happy place, it’s your place.