She got her breakthrough in madly acclaimed For the struggle Carries On and plays love-battling Mia in Kiss Me, playing with flying colors in timing with Pride. Helena Lindblad met with Ruth Vega Fernandez, the Swedish actress who loves to play theater in France.
Pumps, pencil skirt and a fancy blouse. Ruth Vega Fernandez matches a classic outfit with heavy eyelids and an exotic sixty-like, new wave-movie star look. It’s not without reason she broke through as the idealistic doctor Rebekah in the TV series For The Struggle Carries On four years ago, Michael Marcimain’s highly acclaimed television series that took place in the Swedish early seventies.
The fact that she dresses as stylishly as a French woman is perhaps not surprising. Ruth Vega Fernandez has lived in France since she was sixteen. First she went to drama school in Lyon and then in Paris. Thanks to For the Struggle Carries on, she has wormed her way into Swedish film with stops in such odd roles as the girlish, urban bloodsucker in the low-budget film Vampires and a nifty Midsummer guest in the romantic comedy hit Summer with George, including appearances in crime series such as Wallander and John Falk.
In Kiss Me(currently in theatres), by first-time feature film director Alexandra Keining she plays Mia: a young, engaged architect with an upper-bourgeois background who against all odds falls madly in love with her father’s new woman’s daughter (their parents are played by Krister Henriksson and Lena Endre; the latter has also produced the movie). All that Mia has planned for herself including marriage, buying a house and having children overthrown in favour of steamy passion.
“When I read the script I thought at first that it was a typical classical love story. A bit Romeo & Juliet. Eternal questions,” says Ruth Vega Fernandez over a cup of coffee at Maria Square. Her Gothenburg accent hangs around since her childhood in Haga, although she constructs Swedish words out of French ones from time to time.
“The theme around bisexuality was interesting and important, but when I built my character Mia, I thought it really might as well have been about a Jewish woman who falls in love with a Palestinian. What happens when one’s own group so to speak, is not okay with the choices you make? Should you listen to yourself or be a slave to conventions? That sort of thing.”
-Did you hesitate to take on the subject?
” No, but sex scenes are clearly hard to do, it’s not a fun thing for an actor, it’s not exactly an outlet for your acting-skills. Obviously I thought about that. But Liv Mjönes – my co-star – is crazy good and fortunately we worked well together from the first improvisation we did together. It was also fun to play an upper-class girl of course, I’ve never really done that before. She’s very different from other roles I’ve done that have often been these kind of mental warriors, like Rebecca in For The Struggle Carries On for example, a character that is still close to my heart.”
For Ruth Vega Fernandez, it is important that her character Mia not be portrayed as a heroine.
“Kiss Me can probably be important for those who have gone through the same things, but it’s not a hero movie. Mia is quite an antipathetic person, I’m sorry disagreeable I guess is what you say in Swedish. And then that unexpected thing happens and she somehow has to think again … It can happen to anyone, you’re not heroic simply because you make an unconventional decision. Those two women just suddenly love each other. You could say that it’s the triumph of honesty with oneself. Mia’s decision to change her life doesn’t make her a completely different person.”
“I think in general it’s exciting to portray characters who are seemingly harsh, barren and a little cold and find that breaking point where things make a turn and where there is a sense of sympathy [with the character].”
How about the ‘drama within a drama’ that occurs in the new family formation, not exactly the ideal for a new step family?
“Yes, that’s a different kind of taboo, slightly incestuous. On paper Mia and her love are also step siblings. You never get to know what happens to them afterward, if they choose to buy a house and have children and all that,” says Ruth Vega Fernandez and adds a bit dryly that in Sweden, it can be controversial not to choose the nuclear family life, regardless of sexual orientation.
-Why did you want to become an actor from the beginning?
“I think it’s because that was where I felt most in touch with the outside world. We roamed around a lot when I was little between Spain, the Canary Islands and Sweden and I went to a lot of different schools,” says Ruth Vega Fernandez, who grew up with Spanish and Swedish as dual mother tongues .
“When I was little and we lived in Gothenburg, I ended up at the Haga Cinema watching Charlie Chaplin movies. It was a revelation that you could feel such an affinity with someone from a different era, who conveyed so much about the ordinary person’s existance. A silent film at that. It really spoke to me as both immigrant and working class … I knew as early as then that I wanted to be the kind of person who conveyed those things.”
Movies by neorealists, the Finnish brothers Kaurismäki and Jim Jarmusch spoke especially to her, and she played truant to attend the film festival in Gothenburg at a young age.
” Sometimes it felt as if my real life played out at the movies. That feeling of sitting in a theatre and just connecting,” says Ruth Vega Fernandez longingly. Her career as primarily a touring stage actor in France makes it difficult to find time to dream away in theatres.
– What is the difference between working in France and working in Sweden?
“Firstly, it’s not so common over there to alternate between stage and film. I was offered a movie role recently in a French film, but I had to turn it down because it clashed with a tour. In France, a lot of theatres work like The National Theatre, there are really only two permanent ensembles throughout the country, otherwise they tour all the time,” says Ruth Vega Fernandez, who this year played an experimental version of Anton Chekhov’s Ivanov touring around the nation. Her own acting role models are also big names: Anna Magnani, Jeanne Moreau and Gena Rowlands.
Ruth Vega Fernandez
Movies: “The Struggle Carries On” in 2006, “Vampires” 2008, “Summer with George” 2009, “John Falk,” 2009, “Wallander: The legacy” 2010th