Interview by JANA LETONJA

Actress Saura Lightfoot-Leon will star in the British Independent film ‘Hoard’, which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and will come out this April. Saura recently starred in Apple Tv+’s ‘Masters of the Air’ and is currently shooting Netflix’s series ‘American Primeval’.

We’ll be seeing you in the independent film ‘Hoard’, that premiered at the Venice International Film Festival at the end of 2023 to rave reviews. What does this film represent in your career?
It’s a birth of sorts. I think every project is. This was a unique journey for me. There is life before ‘Hoard’ and there is life after ‘Hoard’. It was a home birth and exorcism at the same time.  

Tell us more about the story of the film and what touched you the most about it.
‘Hoard’ is a story about many things, but in the belly of the beast is a heart that yearns for belonging. It’s a film about memories, how we deal with grief and the delicate nature of the human psyche. We follow Maria, a south London girl whose world is turned upside down when she gets some unexpected news at the door.

What is your favourite and most emotional scene from the film?
This question comes up a lot and my heart strings are pulled to a few moments, but I would have to say the bull fight scene between Joseph Quinn and I. It will stay in my bones forever. It was physical, feral and emotionally free. It was a beautiful balance of knowing the physicality of the dance and then having free range to let the camera catch what was happening in the moment. I’m grateful beyond words to have had a creator like Luna trust me the way she did. She let me take risks and really fed my imagination. It was a rare collaborative process.

With both of your parents being dancers and choreographers, how did you develop a passion for acting?
I’ve always loved putting on a show. It started with me wearing whatever elaborate dress I could find at home, some Peruvian pan pipes and dancing on the carpet in my living room. I was always in my own world as a child. Being surrounded by artists and growing up in rehearsal rooms, I was encouraged to explore my creativity.

I daydreamed a lot and my dad introduced me to the world of movies. It was with him that my love for cinema started. We would watch huge films, dramatic films and I remember this feeling that I was being given secrets to life through these stories. I also had a real thing for horror and complex characters. I’ve always loved things that made me feel viscerally.

Then at the age of 14, I became obsessed with the idea of going to London to train and perform on stage, so I went for it. And from the minute I walked into those brick walls of RADA I knew I wanted to absorb everything I could there. I got accepted into the foundation course before going straight into the Acting Bachelor. I lived day in, day out in that building for 4 years. That was where my passion for acting became a reality.

You’ve also appeared in some on stage productions. How did they prepare you for acting on screen?
I had huge expectations of myself when I was on stage at RADA, which stemmed from having come from this artistic background. A big one for me was learning to channel my adrenaline and get used to embracing the idea that there was no right or wrong. As for the technical side of the performance, it’s a marathon. It’s all about stamina.

Stage work taught me that preparation is a big thing for me. It’s the same for screen. I learnt what I needed to do in order to give the best performance I could.

What challenges you creatively the most about the profession of an actor?
That it still terrifies me. You have to dig deep to find what parts of you can serve the story best. Sometimes you play characters that are closer to home and sometimes you have to reach out. Either way, you’re forced to empathise with your character and it’s never the same. I don’t believe there is one, right way of acting. The only requirement is authenticity. How you get there is up to you. That’s the fun of it and its beauty.

Having grown up in the Netherlands, how would you describe the opportunities for emerging talents in the acting industry in the country?
I wish I knew more about this, but to be honest, I struggled to find English speaking acting opportunities in The Hague. I am a fluent Dutch speaker, but when I was younger, acting came easier to me in English. Now I’ve learnt to use languages and accents as a key into character. I think the best thing you can do is to immerse yourself in art as much as you can. And Amsterdam, for example, provides a really vibrant scene in all artistic mediums.

I was very green when I came into acting, but luckily a friend of a friend who was an acting coach taught me the fundamentals of working with text and Improvisation, tools I still apply to this day. It’s about starting the journey and that looks different for everyone.

What other passions fulfill you in life the most?
I love being physical. I don’t dance professionally, but my lifestyle isn’t too dissimilar than that of a dancer. Moving, in whatever capacity, brings me huge joy. I exercise every day, which usually looks like a mix of yoga and Pilates. I’m big on making my own playlists for my workouts. I listen to music non-stop.

You’re currently working on Netflix’s series ‘American Primeval’. What can you share with us about it at this stage, and your other upcoming projects.
It’s a wild ride and there’s not a lot I can say, but the story is centred around a real massacre that took place in 1857. You’ll get to watch some brutal, yet beautiful characters fight to survive for what they love and what they desire. You get to see some of the uglier sides of humanity and how beautifully complicated we all are. As for upcoming projects, there are some things in the mix, but that’s all I can say for now. The moment is wide open.

photography MILLY COPE
make up EMILY WOOD