Wednesday 6 March 2024

Interview with Lilith Primavera

Monika: Lilith Primavera is an Italian actress, singer and LGBTQI+ activist, one of the beloved faces of the TV series “Le fate ignoranti”, directed by Ferzan Özpetek. She was born in Rome and has worked in various professions such as a radio host, author, poet, and performer. She has also appeared in several films including “Mamma + Mamma” and “Anima bella”. As a singer, she has released several electropop singles such as “Vanilla”, Polvere e Pelle”, “Molto”, “Taboo”, “Goodbye My Lover”, “Vieni a Prendermi”, “Nuda”, “Quattro Parole”, and “AMAMI”. She has also given speeches at events such as Carla 2020, where she spoke about the importance of LGBTQ+ rights. Thank you so much for finding some time to chat with me.
Lilith: Thank you Monika and thank you for your precious research work.
Monika: Lilith is such a nice name. When I checked it up, I realized that it comes from Mesopotamian and Jewish mythology, and it is a female figure, theorized to be the first wife of Adam and supposedly the primordial she-demon. Lilith is cited as having been banished from the Garden of Eden for not obeying Adam. Does the name match your character well? 
Lilith: As I tell in the podcast “MALAFEMMINA” (the first Italian podcast to talk about transition in the first person, created in 2020) on Storytel, directed by Chloè Barreau, this name is the legacy that my mother left me when I met her after many years of separation, right at the beginning of my life as a woman. I was 19 and we hadn't seen each other for over ten years: my parents divorced in the early 80s and I was entrusted to my father. I never saw my mother again who was a drug addict and my father's family kept me away from her. 
Then I reconnected with her in those early transition times and she confided in me that while she was pregnant, she called me Lilith. It was a name that in those years was rediscovered by feminists, as a force of Self-Determination, in fact many schools of thought declare that Lilith was not expelled from the Earthly Paradise, but that she left it herself of her own free will.
I can say that this name partly fit well with my rebellious and non-conformist personality, which was predominant when I was young, but which also influenced me over the years because it overshadowed the side of my personality more linked to simple desires, affections reserved for the domestic hearth, which I have been embracing for some time now.
Monika: You are a woman of many talents. Do you feel more being an actress or singer?
Lilith: Actress!

"I love fantasy and action characters."

Monika: At the beginning of your movie career, you became the muse of Umberto Baccolo. You took part in the three short movies he directed: “Chiesa e Stato vol. 1 - Potere spirituale” (2013), “Analogue Sensations Modelling: Transmutation” (2014), and “Le sorelle Karamazow” (2015). How do you recall your collaboration with him?
Lilith: It was a super fun time there! Umberto Baccolo recognized me as his muse and I was very willing to get involved for him. For "Le Sorelle Karamazow" and "Analogue Sensation" we shot in Berlin, which was a city that in the early 2010s I frequented often, bringing my body movement performances between festivals and small underground venues and theatres, often opening electro punk concerts of friendly bands with whom we went on special tours by car, crossing the whole of Germany.
Monika: After you cooperated with Umberto Baccolo, you played different roles in “Mamma + Mamma” (2018), “Abisso nero” (2019), and “Anima bella” (2020), all of them directed by different film directors. Could you elaborate more on them?
Lilith: The role in Mamma + Mamma, the first film by director Karole Di Tommaso, which tells of the desire for motherhood of a couple of young women, was my first time on a professional film set and since I believe that first times are increasingly rare and that therefore you have to enjoy them, so it was: I immersed myself in the experience 100%. In the film I mention one of my poems, which you can listen to in the single "VANILLA".
As for the meeting with Dario Albertini, the director of "Anima Bella", it was a shock: I found myself in his film, which is a masterpiece of storytelling and aesthetics, and he set me in a scene like I was a diamond. I am very grateful to him.
“Abisso nero” is a horror B movie to make you want to pull your hair out.
Monika: In “Le fate ignoranti” (2022), you play the role of Vera, a transgender woman who is part of Michele’s group of friends. Which elements of your own experience did you use to build this character?
Lilith: I explored and released the energy of when I was younger, I took a leap back in time and then on that newfound energy I put the other elements including those given to me by the costume, make-up, and hair department.
I don't dress like Vera, I don't sit like her at the table, I have a different composure, but I keep as a gift that energy that made me rediscover, made up of amazement and curiosity, even if the most dramatic scenes were tough because I relived traumas that are very distant in time and that I have worked through in a lifetime: I had the ghost of my stepmother close to me throughout the film. Things were very difficult with her and her non-acceptance deeply traumatized me, as did her sudden death a few years ago, which definitively established our relationship as unresolved.
There are many ways of being a trans person, a trans woman, Vera shows one, an example of the many possible: we have in common that we were both born male but then her experiences are different from mine. Having said that, the job of an actress also involves mixing one's emotions and experiences with those of the character played, and so I did.

"I would like to be able to play roles regardless
of whether they are cis or trans."
Photo: @jordibt

From the first reading of the script, I realized that Vera had many possibilities and that starting from her unresolved issues and from her being in her group I had the possibility of making her emerge and change. I love fantasy and action characters and Vera really has something of a superhero that reveals herself little by little and I worked like this: putting a lot of research into every single sentence she said from the first episode, with all the attention that Vera, with his love for the Fairies, brings her into the group even when it seems like she is in a corner on the sidelines.
So you can notice that Vera's posture changes slightly from the first to the last episode, her standing in space is influenced by the great events that she experiences together with others: the bereavement of a loved one can trigger many revolutions. And this leads her to also face her own critical issues.
Over the years I have approached martial arts several times, perhaps because from the age of 3 to 10, I practiced classical dance and martial arts are a bit like a dance, but they also give you that sense of security that I have often lacked. So as soon as I knew that I would play Vera I started doing karate to also characterize Vera's posture, in the various everyday gestures: I believe that body memory is fundamental in the characterization of a character. And she (spoiler alert) will turn out to have something to do with karate (end spoiler). ​
Monika: As an actress, you can boast intelligence, creativity, and beauty. I always wonder why we transgender women cannot play the roles of cisgender women.
Lilith: For me the theme of non-differentiating inclusion is central: narrating peculiar subjectivities without differentiating them from those we are used to seeing represented. 
Example: for a TV series you are looking for a character who has various poses, for example: the protagonist's friend, who works in a hamburger shop. Who do we send to the casting? Why not have a woman with Down syndrome or a trans woman or a woman with different abilities audition without explicitly asking for one of these characteristics in the script? There is always this hateful invisibilization.
And maybe even building stories in which these people are protagonists without necessarily having to put a magnifying glass on these characteristics wouldn't be bad.
Monika: What is the attitude of the Italian movie industry towards transgender actresses?
Lilith: In Italy, some experiments have been done, but sometimes failing in the construction of the character, still played by very wrong people. So it's easier to find trans characters played by cis people than to find a trans person playing any role without the script requiring us to know what's between their legs. I would like to be able to play roles regardless of whether they are cis or trans, because if the role is that of a "cook" or a "janitor", what does it matter to know anything else? I've written some plots and a screenplay about it... who knows if I'll find someone to update it with.
Meanwhile, my short film as director and performer, which I shot last summer in Alicudi, will begin to run for some festivals in the coming months. It's called "Petricor".

"To this day I put my poetic ambitions in the lyrics
of my songs."

Monika: So far you seem to have focused on releasing electropop singles. Have you ever considered producing a long album?
Lilith: I really like playing with music, writing song lyrics, researching various sounds and musical genres, so yes, I don't rule out the possibility of producing an album one day.
Monika: Are there any artists that you would love to perform together with?
Lilith: Lana and Lilly Wachowski, Craig Roberts, Emma Seligman, Tim Burton, Pedro Almodòvar, and David Lynch.
Monika: Apart from being a singer and actress, you also used your talent for poetry.
Lilith: To this day I put my poetic ambitions in the lyrics of my songs.


All photos: courtesy of Lilith Primavera.
Main photo: @ricciocapriccio_roma
© 2024 - Monika Kowalska

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog