Prison-themed movies and series come first. Why do you think viewers admire such movies?
Martyna Byczkowska: I think people are interested in prisons, horror movies, thrillers because they need excitement. The subject of prison is often unfamiliar to people, so it is interesting for them to know what life in prison really is like. We are often fascinated by something far away from us, something we have not been able to test or experience ourselves.
Do you remember the first reaction after reading the script of “Prisoners”? What impressed you about this?
It had been so long that I could not remember my first impression. At first, I was skeptical of Hania. When I saw that he was not a positive character, I thought about how I would play this role to protect him. I was very interested in the actors and the end result. I was interested in what it would look like and whether we would make a second film, Orange Is the New Black, imitating American productions, or it would have a completely different atmosphere.
Haniya is a teenager who has to face many problems that are not appropriate for her age. Do you think that his situation affected his subsequent behavior?
I think that many teenagers are deprived of adoration and attention, and Hania does not have a father and is not accepted by her peers. Suddenly, her stepfather appears and becomes interested in her. The feeling of being important to someone else made Hania very attached to him. The only thing that helps to protect Hania is to bring this naughty mother home. He first fell in love with Paul, who later fell in love with Hania. You see, Hania is very mature, because she was able to enter into a dialogue with a man much older than her. I doubt that he was mainly friends with his mother, so his level of maturity was much higher than his peers. Of course, it was his mistake, but I tried to understand why he chose to do so.
In your personal life, would you not like Hania?
This is a moral problem. I always wonder why there is constant competition between women? We have a time for feminists, we are fighting for our freedom and equality, and women can still be jealous, take partners from their friends, and be dishonest. It’s horrible and I don’t accept that kind of behavior. I can’t imagine such damage to the camp. Especially because I believe in women’s strength and solidarity, and it shakes her. If he had explained exactly what the problem was, I would have understood Hania, but I should have understood that what he was doing was wrong.
What was the hardest part of playing this role?
On the issue of the series and the set, I kept in touch with not many of my peers among the actors. In addition, I had to learn to work quickly. Experienced actors knew when to say a scene shouldn’t be like that, and they knew what to do to make it better. It was only in the second filming season that I began to feel more confident after watching the work of other actors. If something didn’t suit me, I could say it out loud, which made the scene even better and I was able to defend myself more as an actress. In the first season, I pushed myself a little and didn’t play everything I wanted, but of course it was very open and developing for me.
What can we expect from the second part of “Prisoners”?
I think the second season will be more brutal and therefore more interesting. I hope that Hania will be saved, because she will suffer a lot.
You also play in the “Mental” series. Your hero – Lena Gradziuk Can you say something about “Swallows”?
Lena is a young girl who has learned that she suffers from schizophrenia. This is a figure rejected by his peers. He lives with his mother, who is not his mother. There are panic attacks and as a result one of them visits the hospital. There he meets three friends and has a hard time with them. I think mental illness should be spoken out loud. People are often afraid of people with schizophrenia and do not want to be with them. This fear stems from ignorance. I am glad that it was through Lena that I was able to convey this problem to others. Schizophrenia is a treatable disease and a person taking medication can continue to function normally. Lena also suffers from auditory hallucinations, hallucinations, and eventually tries to commit suicide. Many young people today struggle with such problems. “Mental” shows the mental state of Polish youth. The viewers of the series wonder why mental illness is such a big problem today.
Why do you think more and more people are suffering from mental illness?
Based on my thoughts and feelings, I can say that my generation is having a really hard time. First, an overnight pandemic. It took two years, and when things slowly returned to normal, war broke out. All this made us even more worried, not sure about tomorrow. Doubts arise in the head, some dreams have become fiction. I do not know what will happen in six months. Maybe something else will surprise us. I feel sorry for the teenagers growing up these days. Because of the period of rebellion, their self-esteem is shaken and they receive additional blows from outside. It has to be really hard. The third thing that increases the number of mental illnesses is easy access to medicines and drugs. I would say that we are a generation of heavy drugs and their use has serious consequences.
To be honest, I was surprised to read that he was 26 years old. You look very young. How often do you come across people who confuse you with a teenager?
People’s reaction depends on how I dress. It is a wealth that I can easily change my image, because it is a very valuable feature in acting. It occurred to me that the makeup artist, who played the role of a 13-year-old girl in two skirts and a red dress, asked me very politely and kindly what class I was going to (laughs – ed.), And I had already graduated from college. It always annoyed me that he called me “Martinka” on the set, and even though I tried to explain to everyone how old I was, I already forgot. Now I have changed my attitude towards him. I can play with young people more and I look at these characters more objectively because I am older.
So far, you have played all the young girls. Would you like a change? Do you have a dream role?
It seems to me that this will happen soon, and the moment will come when my appearance will match what is in my brain. It will be a very pleasant experience, because sometimes it is difficult to play a convincing young girl. During adolescence, certain emotional mechanisms become very shallow, hormones rage, and young people’s reactions are different, often one behavior is not the result of another. As we grow older, our emotions become more complex and we can control them. It is a great challenge to recreate the stage of rebellion and anger that I experienced many years ago and to make it convincing. So far, I have only been in front of the camera once, and I hope that there will be more such calls.
Do you have career plans now? New projects?
Maybe during my vacation I will work on two projects that are still a mystery. I hope I can unite them. Unfortunately, we either have nothing to do with acting, or we have to cope with more than one job. I can say that this will be another big problem for me, but, of course, I will still play as a teenager.
You were born by the sea. Do you like to return home?
When I was very young, we lived in Gdansk. Then we moved to Kashubia. These areas are close to my heart. Unfortunately, since I moved to Warsaw at the age of 18, I no longer have much contact with many of my childhood friends. I devoted myself to the capital, to education, and these acquaintances did not survive. Of course, I am always happy to be back home. Fresh air, lots of forests, sea – it’s not in Warsaw, and I miss it very much.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love this time when I can do other things. Even a moment away from acting gives me the desire to work. I like reading books, watching movies, I have taken pictures for a while in my life. I was also interested in directing, but I was a little scared when I saw the work of directors from the actor’s point of view. This is a big responsibility and the set itself is a lot of work. The directors are filming from start to finish, editing in the process, and even sitting in the editing room after the filming is over. Then they are the first to be criticized. Although I don’t go directly, I like to make movies. They are not professionals, but I am fascinated by filming different situations with Jonas Mekas, who brings his reality to life as a movie diary. I went to Vajda’s school for a year, where I made a short documentary. The editing of the feature film is underway. This is a very difficult task. In addition, I love sports, meeting people, going to exhibitions, going to the theater, cinema. I love to travel, and recently I saw the positives of the pandemic, though not easy. Thanks to him, I realized that as a teenager I often ran abroad: to Berlin, to Paris, a little more. Now I look at different places in Poland and rediscover it.
Thanks for the chat!
Interviewer: Edyta Dąbrowska / AKPA