A Conversation with Valeria Solarino (2024)

With a track record of diverse roles, actress ValeriaSolarino proves time and time again that she is not afraid to play therebellious character who doesn't follow the crowd.

Born in Venezuela to a Sicilian father and Turinese mother,Solarino was raised in Northern Italy and grew up surrounded by culture. As astudent, she majored in philosophy but turned her direction to acting in 2000when she auditioned for the prestigious northern Italian acting school, Teatro Stabile di Torino, and was selected to enroll in their program. After followingthe three-year intesive course, she received her first acting job shortly aftergraduation; a role in Mimmo Calopresi's 2003 film, La felicità non costaniente (Happiness Costs Nothing). One year later, she accepted the roleof Bea in Giovanni Veronese's Che ne sarà di noi (What Will Happento Us). The role turned out to be life changing for the actress. She fell inlove with the director, and 10 years later, the couple is still going strong.

Through the years, Solarino has chosen challenging rolesbased on actual women who stood strong in their beliefs no matter what thecost. In director Donatella Maiorca's 2009 drama, Viola di mare(Purple Sea), Solarino plays the part of Angela, a woman who falls in love withher childhood best friend, Sara. Based on true events, the forbidden love storytakes place in 19th century Sicily and shows the lengths these two young womenmust go in order to stay together. The film was shown on this side of theAtlantic at the 2009 Nice New Italian Cinema Events film festival.

In 2010, Solarino had another opportunity to portray areal-life woman known for her strength in the most challenging times. MichelePlacido's, Vallanzasca - Gli angeli di male (Angel of Evil) is thestory of Renato Vallanzasca, the notorious Milanese criminal responsible forrobberies and homicides, which spanned from the 1970's to the mid-80's. Adaptedfrom the biography written by Renato Vallanzasca himself, Carlo Bonini andAntonella D'Agostino, Vallanzasca - Gli angeli di male offers arare glimpse into the personal and criminal life of one of Italy's most ruthlessgangsters. Solarino took on the role of Consuelo, Vallanzasca's girlfriend.Solarino conveyed the pain, fear and also love that Consuelo felt while in thisrelationship with Vallanzasca. Consuelo lived a tormented life, always tornbetween her love for Vallanzasca and her conscience until the moment arrivedwhen she had to make a choice between the two. Actor Kim Rossi Stuart playedthe part of Renato Vallanzasca and the two were able to convey the poignancy ofthis love story in the midst of a chaotic, dark underworld.

I caught up with Valeria Solarino when she was in NewYork promoting her latest film, Smetto quando voglio (I Can QuitWhen I Want) at the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema film series. We talked withher about her journey in becoming an actress and the diverse characters she'splayed.

You were born in Venezuela. Your father is Sicilianand your mother is from Torino. How has all of that culture influenced you asan actress?
My physical features are very typical ofthe south. I'm of Sicilian heritage and so that's perfect for representingsomeone southern, but I can also easily represent someone northern becausethere are many Sicilians in the north. So, I can certainly portray theMediterranean type.

With Valeria Solarino after our interview in NYC, 2014

Tell me about your journey as an actress. When did yourealize this was your dream?
About 15 years ago. My mother was a stage actress whenshe was young, and although I never saw her perform, she took me to the theatera lot and it was sort of something that I had inside of me. So, I decided oneday when there were auditions for a school- the Teatro Stabili of Torino, animportant acting school, that I would try out. I did the audition and I got in.From that point, it was like 8 hours a day every day of the week for threeyears. While I was there, I realized that this is my life.

Let's talk about two of your films that are available inAmerica.First, Purple Sea. Angela is such a strong, complex character. Tell me what it waslike to portray her.
This was a very beautiful character for me to do. Fromthe very start, it was good. The movie was adapted from a book. I was fortunatebecause I had plenty of time to read it, and to really get to know thecharacter. So I went into the project wholeheartedly.

Which qualities of that character did you appreciate oridentify with the most?
The aspect I appreciated the most is how I shared thisidea of love between two people independently of their gender. We were shootingsome very delicate scenes between two women, scenes that you don't generallysee in Italian cinema. But I had no problem to do them because I saw this as astory of love between two people.

Watch Purple Sea..

Another strong woman that you portrayed was Consuelo in Angel of Evil.
Yes, I really loved playing that role and working withthe director, Michele Placido, and the great actor, Kim Rossi Stuart. He's thekind of actor where all you have to do is look at him and you are able torespond as you need to. Being able to depend on someone like him when you'redoing a film is a great experience.

Watch Angel of Evil...

What were your challenges in portraying that character?
It was a complex character and I was always trying tokeep a balance with her eternal sweetness and that kind of tough, provocativeside that you need to survive in such a tough environment. So I tried to bringthese qualities into the character; both this sort of sweetness with a moreprovocative side, which is a more decisive thing you see in her when shedecides to leave because that was such a hard life that she had to face and youhave to be very strong to survive in such a tough world.

During the Q&A at Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, 2014

I noticed that all of the films in this year's editionof Open Roads speak to the economic crisis in Italy right now. Your film,Smetto quando voglio does so with comedy. How is that reflective ofItalian culture during these trying times?

The inspiration behind this film was a little piece inthe newspaper,Il Messaggero, about twostreet sweepers in Rome who were meeting in the dawn and talking about The Critique of Pure Reason by the German philosopher ImmanuelKant. If you think about it, it would make you laugh but it's also a startlingreality. The director said, "This is a world that I want to talk about." This issomething happening in Italian society and also throughout the world where yousee how talented people are not able to express themselves. This lent itself as a starting point to tell a story in the style of acomedy.

Valeria Solarino currently has four films in production,which include Michele Placido's latest project, La Scelta.Solarino's films, The Purple Sea and The Evil Angel areboth available stateside through Amazon.

A Conversation with Valeria Solarino (2024)
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