A wheat field.
A garden with the gifts of the Earth.
The desire to get in touch with nature.
The yellow and green colors of summer.
Dancing over the wheat, running, and letting yourself go.
For our July Cover Story, we could only talk about freedom, connection, and finding yourself again. Actress Federica Sabatini gave us the opportunity to do this and opened our eyes on how we should love the moment we live, how to respect the world around us, and the freedom that comes from this love.
Federica, who has just finished filming the third season of “Suburra: Blood on Rome” and with many other projects coming out, explained to us how acting “saved” her, opening up a world in which she could express herself and overcome her shyness. But she also talked to us about how we must face a character with empathy, without judgments and how, each time, we must let ourselves go a little bit in order to make a new person live, made of facets that don’t belong to us.
Federica does this, and much more and she explains it with her words in our new Cover Story.
How have you lived and are living this time in history?
Besides the problems and the pain we have been experiencing as a society, I’ve personally spent these last months with a huge mental and inner freedom, enjoying the time I could dedicate to my passions and new discoveries.
Stopping has been quite regenerating for me and it has allowed me to connect even more with who I am while respecting my own time and my emotions. Starting again has been harder than stopping, going back to a similar reality, yet different from the one we left behind.
How much “Suburra: Blood on Rome” and Nadia, the character you play in it, have meant for your professional growth?
Very much. It’s definitely the most important job as it’s on an international level, a world I had never stepped in before. It’s been the most significant experience so far and where I felt the most fulfilled from an artistic point of view. I couldn’t afford to be afraid of facing such a huge set, I had to rely on those hidden resources that everyone has inside themselves to best face this experience, even just for the topics the series touches since I had to get close to a world I had fortunately never experienced.
“Stopping has been quite regenerating for me and it has allowed me to connect even more with who I am while respecting my own time and my emotions.”
What was the most difficult thing you had to face and what was the most beautiful one instead?
The most difficult was feeling as I could measure up to the project and working with such good actors altogether. [laugh] I hope I was able to be at their level and give something good as a co-star on set, something that could beneficial to their characters. Such a big project allowed me a different kind of growth.
Was there a scene more difficult than others to film?
More than for various reasons. There was a day on set that was a bit more intense where I felt very much connected with my character, and it was when we filmed some key moments: when Nadia goes asking Aureliano (Number 8) for help after been beat up by the cousins, trying not to be pitied by him and when she tries to encourage him to react and not give up. It was the day I really and fully understood Nadia.
It was the first time I fired a gun on set, I knew the bullets were fake and the guns were firing blanks yet you could still see the flame and the noise was huge. It was intense. In the beginning, when I first held the gun I was trembling, I was very nervous, but after I started, it was really fun and I couldn’t stop. [laugh]
“It was the day I really and fully understood Nadia.“
If you could use a word to describe Nadia, what would it be?
Frail. But she tries in every possible way to be strong. It’s not a weakness, but it’s a bit of a childish character, with a really difficult past, with this ever-present desire of redemption and with a big heart despite everything.
Was there something in particular that made you fall in love with Cinema?
It’s a passion born out of imitation because I understood I could reenact what I was seeing around me; it’s a curiosity that came from being able to unconsciously live different lives in one, knowing that I could have been something that I would never be because of different personalities and life experiences. Also, a deep curiosity for human beings and because I would reenact everything that I’d find entertaining, from MTV video clips to “Moulin Rouge”, male roles included.
When I was a kid, I would also put on small plays with the other kids of the neighborhood. I believe it was an unconscious need, I was very shy, so to me, acting was the tool thanks to which my subconscious said, “Okay, Federica, you can survive everything.” [laugh] If I think back at the elementary school plays, I would have never had bet on me, I was shy and closed off, I still am but at least now, I’m able to talk to people.
The game is all based on the fact that you play a character: Federica dies but nobody knows that because what they see is someone else being brought to life. I had an experience on an independent theatre: it wasn’t a big place with many seats, yet it had just enough to make me anxious, so much so that every night I would go on stage and say, “that’s enough, I’m out of here.”
“…acting was the tool thanks to which my subconscious said: Okay, Federica, you can survive everything.”
How was this experience on stage compared to the one on set?
Amazing because theatre is an immediate litmus test: you hear and feel everything coming from the audience. And then, every time is different; I did 12 nights on stage and it felt infinite and yet also this experience ended, but every night was different due to the various ways the audience would react.
What are the stories, also personal, you dream to tell?
I would like to do a biopic. I don’t know if I’d be good enough but I would like to take on the challenge sooner or later: I don’t exactly know whom I would like to play because for each person you discover incredible things to which you have to give truth for the audience to see them as they are. Your judgment for this kind of characters has to die, as it should for every character by the way: for instance, Federica hates guns whereas Nadia fires one on every occasion, but this is how it’s supposed to be, the actor-person has to “die” to give life to someone else.
The last thing you’ve discovered about yourself?
I feel very much loved by life, even in the darkest moments.
A film to laugh, a film to cry, and a film to be on edge?
“Young Frankenstein,” “Like Crazy” and “Parasite.”
How do you choose what to watch?
Sometimes by the topics, others following good pieces of advice or for the director or cast.
The book you would love to play on the big screen?
“Someone to Run With” by David Grossman.
“…I feel very much loved by life, even in the darkest moments.“
What does “feeling comfortable in your own skin” mean to you?
Always being connected with my needs; “seeding and harvesting” what makes me happy; remembering that we are full of beauty and that life is transitory: the experience is something unique to enjoy here and now, with gratitude.
“L’arte della ricerca” (“The Art of Research”) is a personal project of writing: would you like to write for the screen?
It’s a project more linked to my spiritual paths, even though I tried to write a couple of short films. I write a lot when I’m inspired so I take huge breaks from it. I would like to write monologues for women that my friends could recite, I wouldn’t want to recite them myself, I like the idea of someone else bringing to life something written by me.
“The experience is something unique to enjoy here and now, with gratitude.”
How did this project where you write about your spiritual path begin?
Spirituality has always been part of my personality since I was a child, and I personally chose how to manage it. I “met” meditation when I was 18 and I haven’t left it since.
Starting from there, besides the meditative techniques that can be learned, many paths came together: for instance, I’ve been studying family constellations, which is both a spiritual and psychological journey because you work a lot on what you’ve experienced, it requires a huge acceptance of events.
Maybe my grandfather started all of this when I was 4 years old, while I was squashing ants in the garden, he told me not to do it because they were living beings themselves and it wasn’t right to kill them. That was the beginning of my change of course: it’s a predominant part of my life to which I dedicate as much time as I do to acting. My project would be to reunite them into a specific path.
My paternal grandmother then, when she would find dying birds, she would bring them to her chest to feed them: I’ve always lived deeply felt stories of respect and connection with nature and for me, it is very emotional, I’m moved by anything.
Once I was making a vegetable soup and I started crying for the gifts of the hearth because without vegetables you cannot eat: if the planet you live on, the planet that feeds you and fills you of emotions, is not touching, what should it be then? If people don’t get it, we should ask ourselves, as people, where are we going? If we’d be able to have more empathy maybe we could stop fighting against human rights and start voting in their favor instead.
The book on your nightstand?
I don’t know anymore how many books, of various genres, I have open on my nightstand, but as fiction, right now I’m reading “Portnoy’s Complaint” by Philip Roth and “My Family and Other Animals” by Gerald Durrell.
I know I should read one at the time but I can’t help it.
A film that has positively struck you recently?
Rather than a film, a series called “Unorthodox.”
I wasn’t very much informed on the reality it depicts and I found it very interesting, plus it’s based on a true story, which for me it’s an added value. I love biopics.
What’s the experience that has made you feel the freest so far?
I have 3 options to answer this, all of them are valid, but among them, I would say “I Liviatani” (“Bad Habits”), a film that hasn’t come out yet. It was a new experience, I played a character that allowed me to get to know things I had never experienced before, and playing this character was a beautiful experience.
What can you tell us about your next projects?
Not much, for now, I’ve just finished filming the 3rd season of “Suburra” and I have a film coming out soon.
I hope I can say more soon, I’m curious as well.