I told my girlfriend: “You have to live with a woman for two weeks. Don't complain!"
Andrea Garofalo is an Award-winning Italian actor, who has already worked on several major productions in Italy and the United States.
In his recent short film, "Arianna", Garofalo plays a young transexual lawyer who is ready to deal with an interview for the job she desires.
In the following interview, Garofalo shares his thoughts and challenges, transforming into a woman for two weeks, and admits that he felt a great responsibility towards the transgender world.
Andrea, you're a Roman actor who started out in... New Zealand! How fascinating! Can you tell us about your early acting days? how come you lived in New Zealand, what sparked the passion for acting and how did you get your first role?
It’s quite strange to say for an Italian, but I started studying acting in New Zealand! After having watched “The Lord of the Rings”, which was filmed in New Zealand, I really wanted to go there! I was a great fan of the film and I was struck by the beauty of this country’s landscapes. Fortunately, thanks to an international high school project, I had the chance to study one semester in New Zealand. I was only 16 years old. In high school there was a lesson “media studies” that included also several acting projects. As a teenager I was pretty shy, but on stage I felt more alive than in life and my shyness suddenly disappeared. Since then I became addicted to acting.
Acting both in the US and Italy, you're very much in demand these days! You recently completed the second season of the international TV series “I Medici – Masters of Florence” directed by Jon Cassar and Jan Michelini, with Daniel Sharman, Sean Bean and many other famous stars. How was working with such great actors? Tell us about your upcoming projects. What's on the menu?
It was wonderful to take part in such a great project and a great honor to work with so many extraordinary actors. As I said before, I was a great fan of The Lord of the Rings and finding myself playing the role of the faithful servant of Sean Bean (Boromir in The Lord of the Rings) was an indescribable emotion! I strongly believe that in life everything comes back, I am sure that playing with Sean Bean was not just a coincidence. Next project? In a few weeks I will act in a short movie and in 2018 I will take part in a very important project but I can’t tell anything right now about it.
The very first screen appearance you landed was on Amanda Knox - Murder on Trial in Italy, a movie directed by Robert Dornhelm. What was this production like? What was the most important thing you learned from working on it?
It was a very small role in a big American-Italian production. I was a bit tensed, the day before I also had an exam at the university and it was my first experience in front of a big camera, not the small one I was used to! First lesson I learned on set was to be relaxed and focused on what I had to do.
Arianna's character is an LGBT trans woman. Such a demanding role! For your lead role, you were nominated for Best Actor at the Actors Awards. You also won Best Actor in an Indie Film at the Los Angeles Film Awards, Festigious International Film Festival and at Top Shorts Film Festival. Congratulations! What was the most challenging aspect of this role, and how did you prepare for it?
Thank you! I didn’t have much time to prepare the role, so I had to live as a woman as much as I could. So I told my girlfriend: “you have to live with a woman called “Arianna” for two weeks. Don’t complain! You will be temporary my best friend!” I felt a great responsibility because I didn’t want to play a stereotyped (mtf) transgender and I felt a great responsibility towards the transgender world and above all toward Francesca Busdraghi, who inspired our story. I was conscious I couldn’t transform myself in two weeks; thus I tried to give to Arianna as much sensibility and emotional vulnerability as I could. Working on the character with Francesca and the director David Ambrosini was an unforgettable experience that I will always bring in my heart.
Not many people know, but Arianna's' character is based on a real person- Francesca Busdraghi, the MTF transgender person who inspired the story. Tell us more about how this movie came to life? Who initiated the idea, and how did you come on board to play the role of Arianna?
The idea came up in my mind while I was driving my car. It came from a simple question: if I say the word “transgender”, what would be the first image that appears in my mind? Unfortunately, as the majority of people in Italy, I had the image of a prostitute because is the more common way we perceive them, either because of high levels of prostitution, which involves also transgender people, or due to the stereotypical image that medias and TVs broadcast. But this NOT the reality! It’s just a very small percentage. So, I did a lot of research on the topic and I went to the LGBT center in my area to ask contacts of transgender people. That’s how I met Francesca. Then, I started writing the storyline and the screenwriter Maria Stella di Nardo wrote the entire script. The short talks about Arianna, a young and brilliant transsexual lawyer that is ready to deal with an interview for the job she desires. After a long self-acceptation path, the only thing she needs is a job that would permit her to be independent and have a normal life.
The data related to transgender people and work are terrible:
In the last ten years, in Italy, 45% of transsexual people were rejected from holding job interviews due to their gender.
According to the survey conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, in the US due to harassment, abuse and discrimination the rate of suicide attempts for transex people is 44%. 53% of this percentage states s/he attempted to suicide after a job interview
Are you still in touch with Francesca Busdraghi? Did the movie raise much awareness and were you able to crowd-fund some aid to prevent her from losing her apartment and becoming homeless?
Yes of course we are still in touch! She is a wonderful person that taught me a lot about life, not only about being a transgender person. We are friends and we call each other every week. Now she is facing a very hard period. Since she was laid off after changing gender she hasn’t found a job and now she risks to be evicted from her own apartment. We have launched a crowd funding campaign “Help Francesca stay in her home” on gogetfunding.org in order avoid it. To every donor will give the private link of the short movie as a reward. I think that although is commonly perceived that reality inspires cinema, it is of fundamental importance to remember that sometimes cinema can also improve reality itself.
This is the campaign link: https://gogetfunding.com/help-francesca/
You premiered Arianna at the 74th Venice International Film Festival - an amazing achievement, congratulations! What was this experience like? Did you receive the reactions you expected? And what's next for the movie?
I was very enthusiastic about it, but at the same time very scared, because I was responsible of the short movie as producer and of my interpretation. I was very tensed in the screening room but at the end the public and the critic loved it. We had an unexpected success - more than 100 pages of press release! Even our publicists couldn’t believe it. They did a great job.
Arianna - Official Trailer
Tell us about the international premiere of Arianna: Reeling 35: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival. Did you attend? How was the film received, and what are the next steps you are taking with it?
Yes, I attended the international premiere in Chicago and it was a wonderful experience. There were so many great films at Reeling 35 and it was an honor for us to be in the official selection and to represent Italy at the Festival. I will never forget that person who came to me and to the director after the screening to congratulate and started crying. He felt represented by Arianna. This moment is more important than any award.
Where can our readers follow you and get updates and news about your work? Can you tell us about your next projects?
Mainly on my website: www.andrea-garofalo.com