Angela Sarafyan On 'King Knight,' Shifting Into Comedy, Armenian Representation, & 'Reminiscence' | Hype | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Angela Sarafyan On ‘King Knight,’ Shifting Into Comedy, Armenian Representation, & ‘Reminiscence’

Interviewed by:
Alex Arabian
Interview date:
August 2021
Director Terry George (left), producer Eric Esrailian, and actors Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale on the set of The Promise.

Was Eric on set a lot? Is he a hands-on producer?

Oh, yeah. He was. Well, when I was there, he was. And we had this very lovely choreographer from Spain who was going to design the dance. But I felt like the dance wasn’t very Armenian. He had an idea of what Armenian is, but he was creating a dance that didn’t look Armenian in any way. And I’ve had some experience dancing on stage as well, and also, Armenian traditional dances, too. So Eric was there, and he was so supportive because I said, “I really think that what he’s choreographing is something that isn’t Armenian.” And his wife, Melina, was there as well. And so we all agreed that we needed to change this. And his support and his presence on set was so essential because there aren’t that many Armenians around as a point of reference. So it was wonderful having him there. And I got to dance with his boys who were so little at the time, and now they’re grown up, they’re adults. It’s crazy! I just can’t believe it. So I’m happy that they caught that moment in time on camera.

That’s beautiful. And that’s key that he helped, and that you were able to incorporate your voice into the film and change the dance. I think the dance was such an important part of the film.

Yeah, me too. Me too. And really bringing the Armenianness to that film is something else; to bring that authenticity is so important. And so I’ve done so much research about the time and what Old Armenia used to be, how people that lived in villages lived, how you stored your cheese in order for it to not go bad for a long time, how you survived, what was the lifestyle, what was the world, really learning and educating myself about being an Armenian then versus now, the music and how that colored the world, the sensibility, what did marriage mean, all of these things. And I kept finding myself in tears and so moved by recreating all of that in this tiny village in Spain called Albarracín. It had that pink rock, that very characteristic quality; the buildings in Armenia have that pink tone. It was incredible.

And Armenians, in general, are really underrepresented in film and TV, so it’s always great to see our culture on screen.

Hopefully, that changes. And I think it is.

Yeah, it is. Whereas The Promise depicts the actual events of the Armenian Genocide, 1915 recreates them on stage while confronting the historical censorship, protests, and misinformation that we often encounter with the Armenian Genocide in film and history, similar to Atom Egoyan’s Ararat. How does reenacting our collective trauma on stage in that film compare to acting in a historically accurate depiction in The Promise?

Working with Simon Abkarian on that film – I really, really admire his work, and Garin (Hovannisian) and Alec (Mouhibian) – was a very different experience because now we’re going into your imagination of recreating very traumatic moments that we’ve heard stories about since we were kids. I’m sure your ancestors also have stories about how they survived. But my great-great-grandparents have stories. And I know if you’re in that moment in making a decision, what do you do, what can you do, and it was a really controversial debate, because the film 1915 really explores that moment where Angela has to make a decision that she has to go with the soldier or die. She’s pregnant also. And so to think about all of the things that our ancestors had to go through. All these amazing moments were coming up, and my mom and grandma were around and I was really looking at them and going, “I’m playing this Armenian woman who has dignity, who has strength, who has power, who has a family, who has all of these qualities, and am I bringing her justice in this moment if I follow the soldier out? Do I stay?” These are the kinds of questions. And audience members tend to have real strong reactions, especially Armenians, about, “An Armenia would never do that.” And the truth is, at times they have. Some were raped by Turks. Some were taken away by Turks. And they had to go and have a child with a Turk, or whatever the case might be. And it’s a difficult conversation to have. It’s a difficult subject to look at.

It’s not black and white like you would want it to be or think it may be. There’s a lot of gray area.

A lot of gray area. And also the stuff that’s been happening in Armenia this past year has been so disheartening and incredibly sad, and Artsakh, and with us in diaspora watching helplessly, trying to help, figuring it out. I go, “How amazing is it that America can recognize that there was an Armenian Genocide? How incredible is that?” That is history in the making. I mean, it was amazing. I’m so grateful. Clearly it could be colored by many things, but the mere fact that it happened, I didn’t know if we would see that.

Yeah, I didn’t know we would see that in our lifetimes. It brought tears to my eyes. And then the passing of the Pallone Amendment, with the help of the ANCA, which cuts military aid to Azerbaijan, is a huge step, too.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

With Netflix recently adding the entire Twilight series last month, it’s reignited fans’ and new viewers’ interest in the series. And you were in Breaking Dawn – Part 2 as Tia. So is it cool to see old projects grow new legs?

I didn’t even know until you told me. Breaking Dawn is on Netflix?

Yeah, they they put the whole series on Netflix. And now the Edward and Jacob debate is back, believe it or not.

It’s back? Really?

Yeah. Social media has been having fun with it.

Oh, that’s so funny. That’s great.

Were you Team Edward or were you a Team Jacob?

Always Team Edward, of course. Is that crazy?

No, not at all.

I think that’s because I’m a fellow vampire.

That makes total sense. Are there any future projects that have you particularly excited?

Yeah. So a film I did called Reminiscence is going to come out very soon. August 17th is the premiere, so the film will be out in theaters August 20th as well. This movie, of course. I have two other films that are meant to come out. One at the end of the year, a film called A House on the Bayou. And then The Ray, which I’m assuming will come out the following year.

Reminiscence is directed by Lisa Joy, who co-created Westworld.

Yes. She’s one of the creators of Westworld, so this is her first feature film.

And are you going to make an appearance for season four of Westworld? Is the old Clementine coming back?

Not that I know of.

King Knight will have its World Premiere at Fantasia Film Festival on August 8.

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