Spotlight: An interview with Charlotte Bjornbak ("Captive")
Charlotte, congratulations on winning Best Actress for your role in Captive. Before we talk about your stunning performance, please tell us a bit about yourself and how did you become interested in acting?
Thank you so much and thank you for having me! I was born and raised in Denmark where I started my creative career. Ever since I was a little girl I have always loved performing. I enjoyed playing dress-up in my grandmother’s old clothes and creating different characters. When I got older, I would sign up for any drama class and school play I came across. I moved to Los Angeles 20 years ago where I continued to pursue acting focusing more on film and television in addition to my roots in theater. I simply love the craft, it is so satisfying to create a character from start to finish, to explore places you don't dare go as yourself and then live in that world for a moment.
You've appeared in over 30 projects across so many genres: Criminal Minds, 1 Buck, and Baphomet to name a few. Is there a genre you feel most comfortable with, and what do you hope to book next? (any dream project?)
Hands down I am a drama and horror queen, haha! Those two genres seem to follow me. I am very drawn to more extreme, complex and dark characters. For me they’re simply more fun to play. As Jude Law once said “I’ve always thought Prince Charming was the most boring role; I’d rather be the Wicked Witch”. And I couldn’t agree more. I love to challenge myself and go out of my comfort zone with a role. The gritty, raw and “unfiltered” projects are where I wanna live as an actor.
Let's talk about Captive- it's such a creative concept, and seems very relevant to our times - between exploring radiation, vaccines, and human behavior - how did you approach this screenplay, and what research have you conducted prior to writing it?
Thank you! I am so grateful for all the recognition this film has received. Captive came to life in the midst of the pandemic in 2019 when the world was on lockdown. I was quarantined home alone and my creative mind was going stir-crazy. I knew I had to try and stay creative in other ways than just acting. So I began writing. The story started from a mix of experiences. I’m a co-owner of the escape room “The Bunker Experience” with my producer of Captive, Bea Egeto. We created a post-apocalyptic storyline and I decided to use that as my inspiration and steer from that concept and incorporate my own individual work I’ve been doing as a performer, more specifically, creature work. The Bunker Experience is based on an original sci-fi post-apocalyptic story taking place in an underground bunker, as well as the current conditions of the pandemic gave me the baseline of the story.
Alongside acting and writing, you also produced Captive. Can you talk about collaborating with director Jeffrey Carolan? What was this experience like?
I couldn’t have done this film at this level without Jeffrey. He originally came onboard as my cinematographer only but he had such an incredible vision for Captive and some very creative suggestions to make certain scenes stand out that I hired him as my director as well. We saw eye to eye from the first day we met to go over the shot list. Jeffrey took Captive to the next level and made my 10K film look like a big budget film. It is so important that your DP/director sees and understands your vision.
What was the most challenging part of the production?
Funding the entire production myself and staying within the budget was a big challenge. I was on a tight budget and had to wear many hats to make this film happen. I needed to shoot this entire film in one 12/hr day. Luckily we (Bea Egeto and I) own the location and were able to pre-light the day before and that saved us so much time on the day of the shoot.
Did you have any influence on the rest of the creative process, after shooting? If so, what were you involved in?
I was involved in the entire post-production process of Captive. Not only did I hire every person to work on the film afterwards, I also sat in during both the editing sessions and the coloring process to make sure I got what I wanted. It was a great experience for me as an actor to learn about the entire post-production and I now have a much better understanding of how much work goes into the process. When the director yells “that’s a wrap” on set, the work has only just begun to complete the film.
Your breakout role in Hollywood was in the popular TV series, 'Weeds', guest-starring opposite Alexander Gould. It must have been extremely exciting! What was it like, and what have you learned from this experience?
It was a wonderful experience booking the guest-starring role on Weeds. Just two years prior to being cast, I worked on Weeds as a background performer. I played a restaurant patron and I remember thinking, as I was watching the actors do their scene, that one day maybe I would be lucky enough to book an actual speaking role on this show. And fast forward I did!! I was nervous about going to set since this was my first big TV role but I just went for it and trusted my instincts with what I had prepared for my character. There is no greater feeling for an actor than when you let yourself go completely in the moment and give it your all. There is no time to doubt yourself, you just gotta jump in when the director yells “action”. Producers enjoyed the scene so much that they wrote my character in for an additional episode later in the season. I was absolutely on cloud nine when I got the news.
You recently authored an audiobook titled 'Surviving Dachau', about your grandfather's capture and rescue in World War II. Why did you decide to tell his story, and how did this book come to life?
I have wanted to tell my grandfather’s story for a very long time. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me to once again explore a new territory as a writer. So I began collaborating with my dad who was the intel on all the fine details of my grandfather’s journey. My grandfather’s experience as a German war prisoner is in many ways no different than thousands of other prisoners who survived the gruesome concentration camps. But what stands out about his story is that he always found a way to elevate everyone else’s needs above his own. He was a man who fought to keep not only his own hopes high but the collective hopes of his fellow prisoners. Despite the brutalities he endured, keeping his family safe and worry-free were paramount. And that was something worth sharing with the world.
Is there anything you'd like to add, or someone you'd like to thank?
First of all a big thank you to The Actors Awards for the incredible recognition and winning Best Actress for Captive. I was so honored.
I'd also like to thank my producer and business partner Bea Egeto. She has always been an incredible support and my rock. Whether it was putting out fires during the Captive production or reminding me not to quit acting when times have been tough, she's always been there for me.
This is the first time I have created a film project from start to finish on my own and the fact that Captive was so well received and won many awards is a nice reminder that everything is possible. I had a vision that I managed to bring to life and that is an incredible feeling.
Where can our readers follow more of your work?