When you meet Melissa Anna Bartolini you can’t but be amazed by her irony, sympathy and the crazy passion with which she talks about her projects and cinema in general. On a grey day in Milan, we decided to play with her with pop shades and colors, talking about her new projects like “Extravergine,” “1994” and a script she’s currently writing. With her we understood how much the love for acting can be both a bless and a curse and how important it is to be able to express one’s thoughts and art.
The world is full of stories, real stories to tell, and Melissa is looking forward to doing so, with her new haircut, and an always greater awareness of herself and of what she wants from this crazy and fascinating world called cinema.
When did you realize that you wanted to become an actress? And what was the first thing you did?
The epiphany dates back to a December morning in the mid-90s. Although I was six years old, my life was already a disaster and while I was on the stage of the theater of the San Gaspare del Bufalo elementary school in Florence playing the famous role of the “wife of the carpenter” in the Christmas recital, I felt a sort of detachment, an indescribable feeling at the time: I felt at ease with myself for the first time, fully myself and in the only possible right place. At that moment, I condemned myself to be an actress. I ask myself now that I’m answering this question if that feeling could have been linked to the fact of being the carpenter’s wife and that my real vocation was indeed that, but now the doubt is as useless as irreparable.
Instead, about my adult debut as an actress is in the episode “Amore Tossico” (“Toxic Love”) in the series “The Pills,” I remember mainly the tears of pure terror before going to set. Then I remember the feeling of the only possible right place (like on the stage of the San Gaspare del Bufalo) while I was shooting the scenes.
What is that thing that makes you say “yes” to a project?
I’ve said many nos to this today, and I have learned that for me “to do” is always better than “not to do,” so to say yes now is easy. I listen to my desire to grow by doing new experiences as an actress. At the moment, it’s more complex to say no, but when the role is wrapped in a bundle of voidness and the project has little to do with the sense of things or with respect for the public, then I feel that the rejection is a necessary choice.
“I felt a sort of detachment, an indescribable feeling at the time: I felt at ease with myself for the first time, fully myself and in the only possible right place.”
“Extravergine:” how did you connect with your character Ginevra, and what were the challenges?
I had an automatic appeal to Ginevra’s character, almost as if I had been waiting for her for years. About the process, the real challenge was managing my impatience to go to the set.
Female comedy series: what are your favorite, or is there one you were inspired?
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is a comedy series that I love so much.
What was it like working with director Roberta Torre? Was there room for improvisation?
Roberta Torre is one of those artists you meet, and they expand your vision of the world and yourself. She left us a big space for improvisation, a great challenge, and a true gift of this project.
“…the real challenge was managing my impatience to go to the set.”
The funniest moment on the set of ” Extravergine”?
The funny moments were so many that they blend in my mind, but I have one memory in mind, which was the most exciting and vivid. It’s when my 4-year-old niece, Sofia, came to set to visit one day when we were filming in Milan. It was her first time on a set, and her pure gaze, her curiosity, her research to find the boundaries between truth and fiction is something I will forget only in the case of neurological disease.
You are also on the TV series “1994:” what was the research process to play Giovanna Melandri? And in general, how was it to be part of the project?
I documented myself fiercely about the historical period: I read articles, essays, saw interviews, political forums. For me, it was essential not to have a superficial knowledge of the context in which my character lived. The series is a high-quality product, and it’s so rare and precious, so being a piece of it makes me very proud.
Ginevra and Giovanna are two very different characters: which character would you like to play next?
I would like to play a great musician or a huge sportswoman or a political heroine. I want to sublimate the high limits of my real life in art!
“I want to sublimate the high limits of my real life in art!”
Is there a female director with whom you dream of working?
My fear of the definitive never leads me to a single choice, what a damnation it is. I’ll give you a few names of European directors that I respect a lot, and that would be exciting to meet: Alice Rohrwacher, Valérie Donzelli, Mia Hans Love, Valeria Golino, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Ioana Uricaru, Joanna Hogg. I stop here because it already looks like a crowded Olympus, and I feel sadness just at the thought that I’m not working with any of them!
What’s your 90s style icon?
While I was a child in the 90s, I dreamed about the style of Ambra [Angiolini], and the girls of “Non è la Rai.” How much I would have loved not to have that sad blue smock that condemned me to feel like a sad and lonely little laic nun and to be able to dress like one of those girls: colorful, revealing, combed, radiant! I have to say that now all the variations of the 90s style, from minimalism to grunge, are iconic and inspiring for me. I look languishing at certain outfits of Lady Diana, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, and Patricia Arquette, among others.
“…I feel sadness just at the thought that I’m not working with any of them!”
The book on your nightstand right now.
I’ve just started “White” by Bret Easton Ellis.
Your must-have on the set.
A fuchsia notebook, headphones, and a water bottle!
An epic fail on the set.
On the set of “Maraviglioso Boccaccio” one day, I had a devastating allergy attack, I had to shoot a scene lying on a field, and I was possessed by snots, itching, and tears: I had to leave the scene. Or maybe I got myself an allergy reaction to being removed from the scene, self-sabotage was my faithful life partner up until a few years ago (I’ve been telling myself that this is not the case anymore after years of psychotherapy, but who knows!).
“…self-sabotage was my faithful life partner up until a few years ago.”
What makes you laugh the most?
I laugh a lot when people talk about disastrous adventures they have experienced with a lucid and self-criticism expression.
The last series you have binge-watched?
I suffer from a compelling TV series narcolepsy, and I believe that now that “Mrs. Maisel“‘s third season will be out, I will watch all it in just a few days.
Greta Gerwig, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Kathryn Hahn: a reason why you “love” each of them.
These three women are like the electrical repair shop: I dive in them, and they recharge what is for me the sense of doing this job today. Nowadays, they are my three lights in the darkness.
“Nowadays, they are my three lights in the darkness.”
If you could go to dinner with three people from the past, present or future, who would you choose and why?
Still, for the usual reason I don’t know how to choose (what a bore I know, I’m sorry), I’ll give you a couple of contemporaries for every Age, while suffering for all the excluded ones.
Past: Natalia Ginzburg and Cesare Pavese.
Present: Kate Tempest and Sally Rooney.
In the future, I would say the first two people who are available in 3019 on that evening.
What does acting mean to you?
A need, a choice, a passion. And also a strong condemnation.
Writing and directing: can you tell us about your upcoming projects and which stories would you like to tell?
I’m writing an on the road movie about a European country, but I can, and I want to say very little at the moment. As an author, I’m passionate about the stories that broaden the boundaries of the sight we have out of prejudice on certain topics. Vast and free stories both from the point of view of style and subject, but sincere. I think of a great Italian author who is somewhat not well known and a little bit forgotten, Corso Salani: he told stories in a way that is very close to how I wish to tell them.