The Profile of Valene Kane

In the first of the PROFILE interviews, I sat down, via Zoom, with the actress who takes the life of real-life journalist Anna Erelle in the role of Amy Whittaker for the movie coming out to theatres THIS FRIDAY!

During our conversation, we got to the heart of the matter with the cold hard facts of what it was like to portray this journalist on-screen and meeting her to find out what she went through to capture the true essence of her story. It’s time to delve into the profile of actress Valene Kane!

Talk to me about the role of Amy Whittaker and what attracted you to the role?

The first film that I ever did was improvised and it was the best experience that I ever had. So when this audition came through, I was like… Timur, auteur… tick, and an improvised film. I was like “Oh wow, this is like the universe given me some signals here.” Then each moment that I find more and more and more about the project, I was even more attracted to it for a myriad of reasons as you can imagine. A real-life person. A very contentious and important subject matter. A great director. Working with a complete and new innovative format of filmmaking. There’s a lot going on. It was a lot of reasons why I wanted to do it.

And it ticked all of the boxes which is damn good. I understand that Timur had set a meeting for you to meet the real journalist, Anna Erelle, what was it like to meet the person whose life you’re portraying on film?

It’s quite daunting because I was sorta aware that she would take one like one look at me and say “No, you cast the wrong person.” When we had the Skype meeting, I sat down with Timur, and like ten minutes before he Sia that I had a surprise for you. When both of our pictures came up, we were both still that we were taking in each other for about a minute and a half. It was complete silence which I feel Timur found riveting because Timur was like  “This is fascinating.”  He was looking at the two of us silently looking at each other.

Then I was able to ask her some questions. She was understandably quite guarded. When she came to Berlin, I got to meet her properly in the flesh and hug her, that was really nice because she was really happy with the film. It felt like me and Shazad had done the story proud which is all that we wanted. 

From what I have seen in the film, you both had done a pretty good job with it. I want you to walk through the challenges of acting with someone through a computer screen which years ago when you shot the film it wasn’t commonplace but now, it’s the norm since we’re talking through a computer screen as we speak?

I know! I mean we were lucky that we had weeks of rehearsal beforehand in person. Then Shazad and I were so passionate that we spent even more time together rewriting the script, improvising, trying to figure out what was really going to work. It didn’t feel like your above standard average job where you both like fill in, everything else went out the window.  It felt like we didn’t have another life. It was just us on this project which is great and all-encompassing. It was interesting when he left for Cyprus for I can really feel the distance and that helped our performances so much.

What was it like it working with Timur and Shazad?

It was just like the most collaborative, incredibly creative nursing project I have ever done and I would love to replicate it again. Timur’s so generous and open. He’s just isn’t a dictator in any way.  It was so collaborative. He’s like you know your character Shazad and you know your character, I just want to able the both of you to this world, and let’s see what fun we can have on this scene, what we can bring. It was never like “This is wrong! That was wrong! That didn’t work!” And that was nice. It was nice to feel that we were all creating this together.

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I loved that film, it was great! I mean what’s so bizarre is that I’m in that movie for about two seconds and I shot more days on that film than I did in Profile. I shot like three and a half weeks of that film for it to be condensed into five seconds.

Another thing is that Gareth Edwards was on my vision board. I wanted to work with him because I have seen “Monsters”. I watched the backstage. I have seen that he worked with a real-life couple using improvisation and I wanted to work like that. I am attracted to odd very naturalistic ways of working. So to work with this like very independent filmmaker on such a huge project was mad. We actually improvised on the set of Star Wars but none of it obviously made the final cut. It was his way then you know that we said the lines that Disney had approved. You know, filming in Iceland, working with Ben (Mendelsohn) and Mads (Mikkelsen), it was a dream. I know Felicity (Jones), it was crazy to be playing her mother when she’s older than me. I love it! I was such a fan. I hope that they’ll do another film and they’ll do Lyra’s whole life, that’s what I am vision boarding.

Well, with the Star Wars saga, fingers crossed, it will probably be done. When you read the script for Profile, what’s your take on the frightening reality of this true story?

I think because she has written such an eloquent book and she’s quite honest in the book and the fact that she lost herself, it became less of a sensation story about trafficking of women to join ISIS to more about a specific story of this one woman and what her journey was. Although there was some fear and trepidation, it was more of I just wanted to honor Anna’s story and I felt like it was such an important story to tell.

It’s still happening and when we shot it, it was really prolific. It was like hundreds of girls leaving Europe every week to join. I wanted the film to show the dangers of online activity and how easily one can be manipulated. Someone as intelligent, yes she was reckless but she was more ruthless than anything else. It was her ruthlessness that made her reckless. I feel like I am playing a specific character in a specific story rather than a spokesperson for the atrocities that are happening.

Since you talked about vision boards numerous times throughout our conversation….

I don’t know why, I am desperate to talk about my vision boards. I didn’t mean to.

Is there anything on your vision board that you yet to achieve but would love to one day?

You know, I stopped using them and I should probably get back to them because I booked both of the jobs. I just wrote a TV series and that’s my next plan. I would like that to come to fruition.

Would it be a comedy, drama, Scifi? What kind of genre are we talking about?

It’s like a thriller. It’s like a black comedy thriller set in Ireland.

Stay tuned for Part II of the Profile interviews as I talk to the film’s writer, producer, director Timur Bekmambetov!

Profile comes out to THEATRES THIS FRIDAY May 14th from Focus Features