BY CHRISTY KEY
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Lizzie Brocheré stands out in her roles in USA’s ‘The Falling Water’ and FX’s ‘American Horror Story,’ but her true #sbjct lives in the documentaries she creates from her non-profit, Yemanja.
Christy Key The second season of your television series, ‘Falling Water’ is out on USA – what can the audience expect this season?
Lizzie Brocheré Season two digs into the darker sides of travelling through dreams and nightmares. Last season all dreamers were pretty much disconnected from each other, each following his own thread. Today, a common fight is going to bring them together, as a team. I love Tess because she has a very unique instinct and is learning how to trust it. It takes balls to follow your guts against all outside evidence. She spent last season looking for her son, this child that she only saw in her dreams, when everyone was trying to convince her she’d never had a baby. This year, she found him. Now he’s living with her. So she can start trusting her instinct to develop her abilities. It’s great to grow with her.
CK American Horror Story has a huge fan base! What was your experience playing Grace Bertrand for a season?
LB I loved playing Grace. She moved me deeply, this abused child who sought vengeance and got locked up for life in her own fantasies. American Horror Story: Asylum is such a unique universe – I felt extremely lucky to go to work. I remember there was this group of extras on set every day, and many of them just stayed in character all day. One woman was always playing with her doll, a man constantly banged his head on the wall. We very rarely interacted out of character. With the crazy creative design of the sets, the costumes, it was really like entering a different reality.
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“Over the years, I realized that if you put out the roles you want to embrace by working on plays close to the note you want to hit, exploring it in yourself, the roles come to you.”
“As an actor, I just quit thinking about what I can’t do – it’s too paralyzing.”
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CK You began acting at a very young age in various television and films in France. How has your career has changed/developed over time?
LB I think what changed the most is my attitude towards roles and projects. I started off trying to fit into any character that was available to me. I was afraid to displease – I wanted to fit in. Even when the parts were a lot weaker than what made sense to me. Over the years, I realized that if you put out the roles you want to embrace, by working on plays close to the note you want to hit, exploring it in yourself, around you, then the roles come to you. It’s a very empowering realization for an actress because it’s easy to limit yourself to what other people want you to incarnate.”
CK You created a non-profit by the name of Yemanja. Can you tell us what Yemanja means and what its goals are? What was the catalyst that led you to start an organization? Where did you begin?
LB Yemanja is a Goddess of water in Yoruba culture, a nurturing image of nature. When I created the association with Léo Leibovici, he was a news editor and an underwater camera operator. I was acting and giving French and literacy classes to adult migrants. We were both depressed by the direction the world was taking and wanted to carry out projects that mattered to us. Our first project was Notre-dame-des-Landes, a site in France that had been designate as an airport site, despite it being constituted of wetlands and thus protected by the French law on water.
Locals had been resisting for fifty years and the site has been occupied by environmental activists and supporters for over a decade. Over the years, the ZAD of Notre-dame-des-Landes became a fascinating experiment of alternative ways of living together, sustainably, bringing together very different people not for economic reasons, but around a cause. We started by focusing on the wetland itself, its legal rights and its endangered amphibians, tritons, and salamanders. For months, people volunteered to observe the different species. We released a short-documentary that went viral. That was our first project. A couple of weeks ago, the government announced that they were renouncing to the airport project. It’s a huge victory, setting environment as a priority and proving that occupation can be a legislative tool when law is not put in place.
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CK Through Yemanja, you have produced yet another film, this time one that explores racism. What was the biggest challenge you faced as you worked on this project?
LB The film on racism in France was actually a narrative short film made during the month that led to the French presidential elections. It was written and directed collectively by a group of refugees and French-native filmmakers. We were all intoxicated by the debates going on in France – our strong extreme right wing leader was omnipresent in the public sphere. We needed to prove that diversity was a precious chance by making a project born from it. Collective storytelling in itself was an immense challenge. Why do you choose someone’s idea over another one. How do you decide? We’re not used to making things without a “leader.” In the end, it was really interesting because it forced us to bend the structures of narration we were used to. Terre Ferme is a relay story where one character takes the audience to the next who takes it to the next, and so forth. It was a wonderful experience, it allowed everyone to meet around the making of something and created strong bonds between natives and freshly arrived. And the extreme right lost the elections.
CK Producer, writer, actor, and activist… quite a bit that you have accomplished at a young age. What can’t you do? And what are you hoping to do as you continue to grow and evolve in all these roles?
LB I only planted a few seeds. I want to water them, watch them grow. I hope to keep creating and developing projects that matter to me, bonding with like-minded people, fueling constructive debates with others. As an actor, I’m exploring physical theatre, mime, clowning. It’s extremely freeing and challenging to come back to pure performance after a few seasons of television. I’ve also never directed and hope to direct my first piece by the end of the year. I just quit thinking about what I can’t do – it’s too paralyzing.