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TESTIMONY. Agnès Soral, an actress in times of pandemic: “I learned not to make profitable my time”

Named César for Most Promising Actress in Tchao Pantin in 1984, alongside Coluche (César for best actor), Agnès Soral is part of the collective memory. After 44 years of career, the one who started in the theater at 13, before being spotted by Claude Berri, talks to us about her job and her confinement for a year.

Franceinfo Culture: How do you position yourself in the profession?

Agnes Soral: I feel like a craftsman, I like the collective, participate, I like sharing, I was a coach at one time. At my age, I don’t have the physique of a 60-year-old woman, and I don’t necessarily fit into the marketing box that is expected. I want to be given more mature roles, but there aren’t many. The paradox is that France is aging, but the representation of women from 50-55 years old is low, while men are very present on the screen. It is the opposite in demography.

How have you professionally experienced this “confinement” for a year?

In March 2020, I was at the theater on tour in Thoâ by Sacha Guitry, which we played ten times, then stopped. I was contacted by a troupe who offered me another piece, Dearly said, so I worked in lockdown, and toured a few times. Then another stop at the end of October, followed by the second confinement. Paradoxically, I have also acted in TV films, and a short film, since November, since we could work. I have played more than the last three years. It is strange, even if films have been postponed, until being canceled for some. I finished a long, The woman in the wood, where we were all masked on the set. There, I’m about to shoot another short. So that’s five shoots, one of which has won an award, Motus by Elodie Wallace, plus two pieces. People were happy to play with me, it made me happy.

And from a more personal point of view?

During hard confinement, I learned not to make the most of my time. I discovered my loneliness. I cut my phone, stayed in front of myself, I checked if I was in good company, I did meditation, sport with my daughter, I took care of the rehabilitation of my mother. I’m a hypnotherapist too, but not on Facetime. I need to be with my patients. We must not abandon them. I had to stop, that’s the only thing I missed, then my theater tour and filming took over.

For money, the status of intermittent is by definition precarious, we are used, as artists, to lose our work all the time. I have always had confidence, even though I have a career in ellipses, with an image, and market expectations. Otherwise, of course, I was frustrated not to go out. Wearing a mask has never been a problem, I already have this culture, with the first cold, with the flu, I protect others. I hope people have understood its use and that it will stay.

On the other hand, I was unable to write during this year. I wanted to start a second novel, and I said to myself, no, let go. Fortunately, I have a green thumb, and I grow plants and vegetables on my balcony in Paris. It calmed me a lot. But I had no creativity in the face of this invisible enemy, the ill-defined nuisance. I had the Covid for five days, and treated myself with essential oils and inhalations, so that the fever did not exceed 39.2. The coronavirus is more insidious than AIDS, only contaminating during unprotected sex and through blood. I felt like I got closer to nature with my treatment, and gardening, because I missed her. For the fever, we can find alternatives to chemistry, and I ate my vegetables.

How do you feel about the fate of culture at the moment?

The management of culture during this crisis is extremely serious, because it lacks the measures to allow its dissemination. If there are a hundred theaters occupied, it is not for nothing, it could be the museums too. Art provokes a kind of hypnosis, in the artist and the spectator. I believe that it is even more important in the period we are going through, because art is a transcendence that allows one to escape from daily constraints, like work, when it is not fulfilling. So a pandemic … I found it very touching that people found out that they were deadly, or that the French came together in times of fear. So I tried to develop a vibration opposite to fear, in calm. The guilt of not working has arisen, do you waste your life earning it? While we say “pass the time”, I find that it passes too quickly. I stopped being overactive. That’s what defined me in some people. They will now discover something other than what they expect from me. Some are gone, others are coming back, we are very connected to each other in fact, much more intuitively than we think.

You have embodied an image of the youth of the 1980s and 1990s, what is your view on those who are experiencing the pandemic?

It is true that they are on the front line and spoil their entry into life, as if sacrificed. We could have said a little the same thing about the AIDS years, but that only affected sexuality, they cannot come together. But we have to put ourselves back in relation to the past. At their age, our ancestors lived in the trenches of 14 years, the Occupation, Indochina, the Algerian war, people were forced to leave, some not to return, by decision of the State. It was other sacrifices. What did not prevent going to the theater, the cinema and dancing in the back, it is all the difference. Today, the front is everywhere. Cartooning it now looks like it’s the end of the world not to eat out or party, let’s be decent. Yes, this is terrible, for everyone, not just professionals. I also did not support the paternalism of the State, this depersonalization of individuals, it’s annoying, is it ego, on both sides?

Paradoxically, this destabilizing period is synchronous with such rich news in your career …

It touched me that people wonder how I was getting older, I took roles without makeup for example. This demand reflects a new image, detached from the only seductive and sexy appearance, which dominates in France. This is less the case in England, where we offer more mature roles, more ungrateful, less attached to glamor.

I recently missed a casting. How could I have missed a casting after 45 years of career? It is distressing. In fact, I think I was afraid of succeeding, because I didn’t like the role. Of course there is the money, especially since there is not much at the moment. If I had been selected, I would not have had the courage to say no. Since I’m not a careerist, it was bad for good. If I was, there are things I would never have done. I’m happy with what I’m doing, but I have to be happy to do it. I love to work, I love this art, but I am not an opportunist. There, I just started with a very professional “amateur” troupe, something that I might not have done before.

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