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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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The Nativity – Tatiana Maslany plays Mary

Tatiana Maslany plays Mary

Tatiana Maslany won critical acclaim at this year's Sundance Film Festival for her role in A Grown Up Movie Star; she was awarded a special jury prize for breakout performance.

Tatiana plays Mary in The Nativity; here she talks about the role and her amazing experience filming in Morocco.

You won the Sundance Award for Break Out Performance this year. What was that like?

It was a huge honour. I was just so proud that our film was at Sundance, that it was being seen by the audiences at a festival like that. It is really surreal to be recognised by a festival I respect so much. It was really humbling and terrifying and wonderful.

What initially attracts you to a project?

I'm attracted to stories that excite my imagination, stories that, as I'm reading the script, I feel it, I can see it, I can hear the characters.

I'm attracted to characters that are real, that tap into something inside me that I haven't explored yet. I like challenging parts, something I haven't done yet, something that scares me. There's just a feeling I get when I read a script that I love, I feel an attachment to it, a yearning to play that character.

How did you get the role of Mary in The Nativity?

The project was a co-production between Canada and the UK, and I auditioned for Coky [the director] and Ruth [the producer] in Toronto, where I live.

How did you approach playing Mary?

I had to separate myself from the idea of Mary and to keep things personal and on a human level. I did read a lot of literature about Mary and the Nativity story, and then I tried to forget everything I knew about her, and just approach her as I would any other character.

I think I struggled throughout the process with disconnecting from this idea of Mary as so perfect and untouchable. There is a large loneliness in the journey Mary takes, she becomes very brave, very strong, she has to and she is very much human, and fallible, and a child. I had to keep in mind that she's very young, that innocence and newness with which a child sees the world.

Was there anything that helped you get into character?

My first day on set, we were shooting a scene between Frances Barber [Elizabeth] and myself, an intense, intimate scene, under a tree. I sat down in the sand, in my robe and bare feet, and it was just such a wonderfully visceral moment. The sun was burning down on us and it just grounded me in the reality of the story. I felt amazingly rooted in where we were.

The locations we shot in consistently helped me feel grounded in the character. And I was so fortunate to be working with incredible actors, who just pushed me so much, taught me so much.

Which scenes did you enjoy filming the most?

There were so many. A special one that sticks out in my mind was the scene between John Lynch [Gabriel] and I. It was a really surreal scene, very emotional, very crucial and yet very delicate and intimate. It was a wonderful struggle to take this enormous, epic event, and explore it gently with him. He is an incredible actor, completely mesmerising, he just has this presence about him that was perfect for Gabriel.

What do you think audiences will enjoy about Tony Jordan's adaptation of The Nativity?

I think people will love the fact that it is so accessible. Tony has taken this story that we've all heard time and time again, and he makes it personal, he makes it vital and new. He has grown each character into a living breathing person, instead of an icon, an idea.

The first time I read the script, I remember saying to a friend that if you took the names Mary and Joseph out of the scenes, it could really be a story about any two people in love.

It's universal because it's so specific and speaks so accurately about the nature of love. It isn't so much about the belief in God, but the belief in enduring love, in love that can hold people together even in the most difficult circumstances.

How did you find filming in Morocco?

I loved filming in Morocco, it was amazing. I'd never been anywhere like that. The culture was phenomenal. I was so blown away by the spirit of that country.

We shot the engagement party scene, and all of the extras were locals. After we finished the scene, they burst into a huge celebratory song. They were so uninhibited, so full of life and joy. It was amazing. When you finish a scene in Canada, extras are like "Can I go home now?".

Also, the food in Morocco is the best. I ate my weight in couscous every day.

How did you find working with Andrew Buchan? Andy was amazing. Right off the bat, I felt so comfortable with him. He loves to play, to try new things in scenes. He's an explorer. He is so physical and I learned so much watching him. It was a joy to be able to play all those courtship scenes and all those intensely emotional scenes with him, because he's so present and available and raw. We also both love The Office, so we got on like wildfire.

There are quite a few scenes where you are riding on a donkey. What was that like?

Clara [the donkey] was an old pro, she'd already done a few Nativity films before. It was a little treacherous going over some of the rockier terrain and sometimes Clara would get bored and run off during takes, but mostly she was kind of a calming presence on set.

Were you in a Nativity play as a child? Who did you play?

I was in a Nativity play as a kid. Back then, I played the donkey.

Do you have any favourite moments from filming?

There were so many wonderful moments. I woke up every day feeling so lucky to be working on this project with this amazing, talented group of artists.

The day we walked into the manger for the first time was a really crazy moment. It was so surreal. It's this iconic image, so familiar, and here I was in the middle of it. It kind of all clicked into place at that moment.

What do you have coming up next?

I just finished a film called The Vow with Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum and am finishing up a small part in a film in New York called Violet And Daisy written by Geoffrey Fletcher (the writer of Precious).

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