The Best: meeting with the revelation Esther Rollande

First winning cast and first major role. That of a 19-year-old teenager falling in love with another young woman in a housing estate in the Goutte d’Or. She bursts the screen there.

With his first feature film, Best, Marion Desseigne-Ravel tells a love story – complicated to live and to be accepted by their loved ones – of two young women in a housing estate in the Parisian district of Goutte d’Or. The filmmaker recounts homophobia on a daily basis without giving lessons, always at a good distance from her characters, explored in all their contradictions. And facing the always excellent Lina El Arabi (Wedding), we discover a brand newcomer, Esther Rollande. A deflagration-like appearance as she inhabits the role with this mixture of cinegeny, accuracy and finesse that such a story requires. Meeting with a real revelation.

What made you want to become an actress?

Esther Rollande: Since childhood, I have loved observing people and trying to get into their heads to guess what they are thinking. Everything is therefore probably a little part of this compost. Because my family isn’t a movie buff at all, so I wasn’t really immersed in movies as a child. I think I’ve always had a taste for the game, this desire and this pleasure to be someone else but without ever thinking of making a job out of it. I grew up in Paris and one day I had to go and live with my family in the north of France where I didn’t fit in at all. The teenager that I was then had only one goal: to return to Paris. And since I’ve always been attracted to art (I draw, I write, I make music, I danced at the Conservatory…), I applied to all possible and imaginable artistic schools, including a theater school. And it’s the only one where I was taken! I only stayed there three months but it was a game changer for me. Because I was surrounded by people my age who all wanted to be actors and for some already had an agent. Suddenly, the profession of actress did not seem so inaccessible to me anymore. Afterwards, a huge amount of luck comes into play. In my case, I was spotted on Instagram doing music videos. I was able to familiarize myself with the camera there. And on one of them, I met Nadir El Arabi, Lina’s brother, who told me a lot about his sister before, a few weeks later, sending me a message to tell me that, for the next Lina’s film, they were looking for the second main role and that he had talked about me so that I could pass the casting

Was this your first casting for the cinema?

Yes, but I almost didn’t have access to it because, at first, Marion thought she understood that Nadir had met me at a sort of alcoholic party and that didn’t make her want to meet me! (laughs) And then, probably out of politeness to Lina, she changed her mind. But I went to this appointment without any hope. I had never played, I did not think I had the skills. And then a week later, Marion called me back to see me again. There, I pass new tests but facing Lina and inevitably more stressed because suddenly a chance was looming. To the point of having the white page syndrome and totally forgetting my text! But I got along perfectly with Lina and I think it was this immediate complicity that made Marion want to hire me two weeks later.

What was your first reaction to reading this script?

In fact, I read it twice. The first to discover it and the second to analyze it in more depth with a view to playing it. I was immediately struck by the quality of Marion’s writing and the accuracy of this story. Zina immediately seemed familiar to me. This project fell right into my life because a lot of themes spoke directly to the young 19-year-old girl in full construction that I was.

How did you build this role from there?

Marion is an extremely caring woman. In choosing me, she obviously had in mind my lack of experience. So we talked a lot about this character. And I immediately liked analyzing this Zina, trying to understand her. Afterwards, it was necessary to succeed in embodying it. Go from theory to practice. And of course, I wondered if I was going to be able to do it. To achieve this, I watched Lina a lot and I can really say that I learned by imitation. I was aware that this film and this role were the chance of my life and that I might only have one so I shouldn’t miss it!

How were you on the first day of filming?

Until that day, I really thought I was a calm person! (laughs) But I was scared to death, I wondered what I was doing there, I first wanted not to go and then to run away. I was sure that Marion was going to realize that she had made a mistake. But I wanted to honor her trust in me. It was my gateway, which allowed me to overcome my fear. Especially since I started with a scene on a bench where there was a lot of improvisation and where all my partners, starting with Lina, had an experience that I lacked. But they too welcomed me with open arms and there again I tried to hold on to her.

How did you react to the first viewing of the film?

I discovered it in public at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival and I had the feeling of taking my privacy right in the face and even more that the whole room had access to it! (laughs) So I experienced it as a fairly brutal exposure, I admit.

Have you chained since?

Lina introduced me, during filming, to her agent who became mine. And since then, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to land a series – the title and subject of which still remain confidential – in which I stumbled two weeks before shooting. I was able to confront myself with a really intense rhythm of three takes at most per scene. This obviously only reinforced my desire and my pleasure in doing this job. And I will be able to dive back into it very quickly for a first feature by Lucas Beccaro, Angèle and my demons. At the same time, I do modeling for a living. And I do everything to make up for the shortcomings of my film culture. I took subscriptions to UGC and all possible platforms. I watch a movie every day no matter what!

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