In this TV series, People's Artist Như Quỳnh plays an elderly woman with Alzheimer's. Photo courtesy of VFC
People’s Artist Như Quỳnh has been known for many years as a famous actress in both film and television dramas.
Most recently, she played Mrs Dần in Hương vị tình thân (Scent of Love). She talks to Minh Thu about the interesting role that has changed her image among audiences.
Quỳnh was born in 1954 to a family of cải lương (reformed theatre) artists. She grew up with the art of cải lương. She studied theatre art at the Hà Nội College of Theatre and Cinema. When she had her first chance to take part in the film Bài ca ra trận (Marching to the Front Song) in 1973 directed by Trần Đắc, she realised that acting in films was her calling. She became an actress and received many domestic and international film awards.
Inner Sanctum: In previous films, you often act like a tolerant woman. Playing Mrs Dần in Hương vị tình thân (Scent of Love) seems to be a breakthrough in your career as she’s cruel and very different from your other roles?
Mrs Dần has Alzheimer's and sometimes she doesn’t know what she's doing. She’s confused between the past and present. At midnight, she wakes up and beats her daughter-in-law cruelly, for example.
When director Nguyễn Danh Dũng invited me to join the TV series, I refused at the beginning because I thought Mrs Dần would be a difficult role and the series was to have 120 episodes. I was afraid that I was not healthy enough to follow through. However, Dũng convinced me. He helped me realise Mrs Dần’s inner feelings and then I decided to do something new, something different from myself. Yes, Mrs Dần is a terrible woman, different from other previous roles of mine.
Inner Sanctum: This is a difficult role as you said. Where do you find your inspiration?
I read the script thoroughly and thought carefully about Mrs Dần’s emotions. She lost her daughter and worked hard to raise her son because her husband betrayed her to follow another woman. Her son is the only relative she has. That’s why she’s so strict with her daughter-in-law. When she got old, she got a mental disease that made her anile. She often mistakes her daughter-in-law as the woman who stole her husband in the past.
I find inspiration for this role when I think of my grandmother, she had many similarities to Mrs Dần. I try to understand her feelings and thoughts.
I think Mrs Dần is pitiable. It’s expected that through the TV series, people will care more about the elderly in society and acknowledge their problems and sympathise with them.
This is an interesting role that I feel like participating in an action movie because there are many scenes in which I hit others.
Inner Sanctum: What do you think about other young actors and actresses in the Vietnamese film industry?
They have strong will, passion for acting and respectful talent. Young actresses in the TV series Phương Oanh and Thu Quỳnh are smart. They can learn the script and focus on their roles though the surrounding atmosphere is crowded and noisy. They are better than me at concentrating.
I am the oldest in the film crew so other people give me priority to nap at midday. After the climactic or difficult scenes, I have a place to sit down, have a rest and find balance. At this point, I think young actors can work under higher pressure than me.
In general, the Vietnamese film industry has a new generation of actors who are intelligent, laborious and studious. When the Việt Nam Television Film Centre organised a training class for actors, other veteran artists like Hoàng Dũng and Thanh Tú and I joined as lecturers. Our first students, like Việt Anh and Hồng Đăng, are now famous actors. They are key factors of the Vietnamese film industry.
Actress Nhu Quynh talks about the TV series at a recent press conference in Hà Nội. VNS Photo Minh Thu
Inner Sanctum: You have worked in films of foreign directors like "Indochina" by Régis Wargnier, "The Vertical Ray of the Sun" by Trần Anh Hùng and "The Golden Bride" of South Korea’s SBS Television. What do you think about the development of the Vietnamese film industry today?
Vietnamese films take big investment in all aspects such as acting, directing, screenplay and post-production. We can see the engagement of many foreign filmmakers in Vietnamese films in recent years. TV series produced by the Việt Nam Television Film Centre are also better but from my experience, I think TV series should be made with more care and professionalism.
Inner Sanctum: Can you share something about your everyday life?
Well, I have two daughters. One works for Việt Nam Television and lives with her husband in Đà Nẵng and the other is a singer and stays in Hà Nội with me and my husband, photographer Hữu Bảo. He always encourages me to pursue my passion for acting. I am still healthy enough to act. I feel that’s lucky.
Inner Sanctum: You and your husband are a beautiful couple. Would you share some tips for having a happy family?
As a woman, no matter how busy you are, you should take care of your kitchen. Though I was busy with acting and working far from home, I still called my husband to remind him to have meals and take medicine on time.
I think people get married due to true love but if we don't know how to protect our home, we are in danger of breaking up. When I was young, I went to film and was away from home for a few months and my husband stayed at home to take care of our children. At that time, we did not even have time to talk, but he always sympathised with me and that makes me feel respectful and grateful for my husband. VNS