The life of an actor: An interview with Derék Bence

Me_with_Bence

 

It was a rather warm afternoon when I arrived into the heart of Budapest, searching for the illustrious Magyar Theatre, which plays a plethora of famous Hungarian classics such as ‘A tizedes meg a többiek’ and ‘Harisnyás Pippi’, well-known among those who often frequent theatres. I paced around slowly and steadily as I observed various actors coming in and out of the back door, taking a moment of respite between their tiring rehearsals. Stopping nearby, I looked around and happily waved at Derék Bence who was busy discussing something with a fellow actress of his. After shaking hands and welcoming each other Bence ushered me into the building, leading me to room 22, a dressing room, where we could converse in peace and comfort.

 

Thank you for accepting the invitation, Bence. It is an honour to have an up and coming actor here with me today.

The pleasure is mine, thank you for having me!

What do you think, what motivated you to step on to the path of acting? Did you have anyone you were looking up to? Was this your life goal from the very beginning?

I was 12 when I decided to be an actor for sure – it was then when in my school me and my entire class performed ‘Macskafogó’ in a ‘Diákszínpad’ event where I was playing Mr. Tájfel. It was during the performance when I realized how much did I actually enjoy the atmosphere and performing in general that I decided that this was the thing I wanted to do in the future. From then onward, I began to participate in actor workshops, visited various drama schools – like the Ász Drama School and the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest. And now – well, it somehow turned out that I am here.

What do you think, from the plays you have acted in so far, did you have any particular role you thought to be your favourite?

I have never really looked at roles like this – honestly, I never really had a ‘favourite’ role from the past. The things that mattered the most to me were how the preparation for certain plays went: which was smooth, which went well, which people I could work with more easily. But as for a favourite role, I think I would not be able to choose just one.

You have played in various plays in the past before appearing on TV. You mentioned that it is rather difficult to choose favourites – but do you happen to have any play you liked very much? Maybe that Macskafogó you mentioned?

I indeed liked Macskafogó, but that was pretty much only something from my childhood, not a serious project. What I liked to play very much was the role of Toldi with the guys at Ász – but to be fair that was also in my teenage years, I was probably 17 at the time. Still, it is one of my most precious memory, I even have that particular performance at Óbuda Culture Center on a DVD at home!

The other big stepping stone was when I was playing the role of Anyegin here in the Magyar Theatre. I did not feel that I could impersonate and play the role perfectly: I could not immerse myself into it perfectly at that time. But since it was the first time playing in front of hundreds of viewers it is certainly a memory I will never forget.

A lot of people may recognize you as one of the lead actors in the series HolnapTali! What was it like to first appear on TV and in a series in general?

It was a very good feeling for sure – I really enjoyed the casting, our team was – and still is – really good. I got to meet a lot of new friends, got a lot more contacts and trying myself out in a field I loved very much was something I really enjoyed. However, the publicity I might have gained from it never really gone to my head, neither when it was only a web series nor when it became available to watch on TV – I just focused solely on my job.

Do you think that the team is in sync? Is working together with them easy?

Absolutely. We have, at this point, more than 200 episodes behind us, 20 minutes each – that it is a lot of time that we spent together. Not to mention that all this transpired through roughly 400 casting days: everything started like a year ago, if I recall it correctly, on October 4th last year, and we didn’t really have any pause since then, we have been constantly working. We had some changes in the team though – some people went away to pursue other goals, others we needed to part with ourselves, but those who are still with us make a very good team – everyone is an important cog in the machine, everyone knows what they need to do and that if they perform their tasks properly the machine will work as intended.

In the series you impersonate Soma, who is a very charismatic person for certain. Was it difficult to get into his mind set? What was it like to act as a teenager once again?

It was difficult at first, especially because I needed to get used to the concept of daily series. At the time I was on a one and a half year hiatus and prior to that I spent another one and a half playing in theatres exclusively, with the exception of some appearances of graduation films of some of my friends, and so joining into a more serious working environment with a casting crew provided a very sharp contrast to me. Thankfully, I adapted to the situation very fast, which made me really glad and got me back on track soon enough.

As for Soma, I don’t think that the character took significantly more time to work on than any of my previous characters. A lot of people tell me that this is because I am playing as myself – which is not entirely true. Sure, I use my own gestures and utilize my humour (it would be weird if I’d use somebody else’s, wouldn’t it? <laughs>) but I would not react so vehemently as Soma does in certain situations – the time when I actually come close to his behaviour is when I am full of energy and I am going nuts – but in real life, in almost every situation, I tend to be rather different.

You mentioned the enormous amount of episodes that the series has – which I believe has four actual seasons as we speak. Do you happen to have a specific episode which you believe to be your best performance yet?

Well, truth be told, I do not think that I could give you a concise answer for that. You see, we are not recording episodes one by one, as in doing the 3rd then the 4th and then the 5th one after another. Instead, we record episodes in blocks of 7 or 8 and we record scenes based on what is available and what more logical at that point. Say if there are 10 or so scenes featuring the school from episodes 10 to 18 then we will record all those scenes there, for it is the easiest to coordinate and direct things that way. Due to this, we are getting scenes often in different context one after another – which encompasses the beauty and difficulty of acting. While in the theatre there is one, connected arc of story we follow, here I often need to act sad and be in the depths of despair after getting a grade 1 during class, while in the other scene, 5 minutes later, I will need to act as if this was the happiest day of my life. Because of this I do not really have favourite episodes in general – rather, I have favourite moments. Then again, these are usually tied to the people I work with: there were moments when we were laughing our hearts out, very good ones – and of course less good ones as well.

Your job seems to be a hard and taxing one. Does it affect your personal life in a way? Is it hard to sort out your life with constant demand like this?

It is not easy for sure. <laughs> It is most difficult for the actors, as we do not really have a fix schedule and are not called in for every day to work. The crew has an easier time I would say, as they usually work a normal 5 days a week and that is that – but for us it is completely unpredictable when we need get here to work or not. Since we are moving in a rapid pace and we need to perform well, unforeseen contingencies may occur on a daily basis – it has happened before that I scheduled to meet my girlfriend on a certain day only to get a call later that afternoon, informing me that I needed to come in to work. This is pretty much in our contract, part of the money we earn is due to this requirement to be available at all times and to be able to come work any time we are called in to do so.

Do you happen to have a specific role you wish to play in the future? Perhaps a character you wish to personify?

Don’t think so, honestly. I don’t have any wish like ‘I would really like to play Hamlet or Tony Montana one day’. I concentrate on the present, to always have something to work on and work with, to perform to the best of my abilities here and now, not writing out long term plans for the future. I would like, of course, if I didn’t have to repeat one thing over and over again: personally it is important for me to try out as many things as possible. So no, I do not have characters that I would really want to play – of course when I am offered a variety of characters I would not mind choosing one most to my liking but far in advance? No.

Do you have anything interesting happening here right now? A project either within the premise of HolnapTali! or something else towards we should look forward?

Of course, two things, in fact. One is a musical called SunCity, a HolnapTali! musical, which will debut here in the Magyar Theatre on the 17th of November. We were practicing it even today, and had been working hard at it for 4 weeks – something that consumed most of my free time recently. Once we are done with this project we will be shooting a 90 minute long film as well, which will be even more closely related to the series than the musical. Familiar faces will appear in it from HolnapTali! for sure, but it will feature a completely new, independent story from the series itself. I am very curious of how it will turn out!

Thank you very much for the interview! Well we will not be bored for sure!

Not if you watch me! <laughs>

 

written by Krisár Péter

 

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