Today we’d like to introduce you to Liana Giniatullina.
Liana, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in Kazan, Russia to parents who were both economists. We lived in a small town called Almetyevsk up until my parents got a divorce. When it was time for me to go to school, my mom and I moved to Kazan to start a new life in a bigger city. As a child I remember being mature beyond my years, spending most of my time alone. I usually preferred the company of adults to the company of my peers. I was a generally quiet yet outgoing kid, so whenever my parents’ friends showed up, I would try to get their attention often by trying to crack inappropriate jokes overheard from my parents.
Self-imposed isolation from my peers, parents divorce and my insecurities transformed me into a deeply reserved person during my middle school years. Depression crippled me, yet the desire for self-expression was still ignited within me. One night The Phantom of The Opera film was on TV and I got so thrilled by the story, I read the whole book on which the musical was based on the very next day. I was walking around our living room spreading my arms and calling for the Angel of Music through my squeaky childish singing. I guess my mom got so annoyed by my full daily recitals of the entire musical and worried about my introversion, she willingly let me sign up for an acting class and voice lessons. In addition to that, I started taking ballet which I was obsessed with since my early childhood and looked up to ballet dancers as if they were gods.
My family had a great opportunity to send me to summer camps abroad and later to a high school in Switzerland, which I considered as a blank slate to become more outgoing and make new friends. There I was introduced to the American style of education which included various after-class activities. Having never had an opportunity to perform in a production, I was thrilled to apply my artistic skills towards my school’s plays and musicals. I also took IB Theatre HL which was an in-depth study of theatre history and included creating a whole theatrical production book as a final project. When it was time for college applications, I got an invitation to apply for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and on the same day, I saw on Facebook that one of my friends* was already accepted there. Knowing him as a talented actor, I wanted to try my luck and apply.
Obviously, it was not easy to persuade my parents to let me leave for Los Angeles to study drama. It was also not easy to move across the ocean from my family and start living alone in a city that felt like a different planet. I am still adjusting, but I already know that there is no place else for me where my self-expression would be so willingly accepted.
I am beyond grateful for all the amazing opportunities and people I have met in this city. This year has been especially fruitful for events and making new friends. It started with a filming of Things of Beauty Burn directed by a talented director Skinner Myers. This film is about a black man who grew up in a Russian community and my friend, who was one of the leads, recommended me to Skinner to play one of the supporting roles in the film and help out with all the Russian text in the script and on set. Majority of the work I have done I got through referrals and I am lucky I have worked and keep working with people who believe in my talent and whom I can now call friends. I am also grateful that this year I became a manager at the Victory Theatre Center and work for its owners Tom Ormeny and Maria Gobetti, who have also shown me support on my journey. And recently I got signed by Gina and Brenda at RSA Entertainment and knowing how much they care about foreign talent inspires me to work even harder. Life has finally picked up its pace and it feels like I am now getting over a significant milestone. I am excited to see what awaits me and the enterprises I have contributed to once I am over it.
*May you rest in peace, Grischa
Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I have already talked about my struggle with depression and I am sure it was my main obstacle dragging me down. My experience with it has given me a deep understanding of that dark place where others go as well, and I can now go there if my work requires me to do it and not have a problem getting myself out of it.
Being a foreigner and not just a regular foreigner, but being a young Russian woman is a sometimes frustrating experience. Some people assume that life got easier and safer for me because of the country where I am from and its supposed connection to the latest elections. That is not the case since current world politics has actually made it even more complicated to work internationally, no matter where you are from. Being an Eastern European woman is also hard when encountering strangers. There is a stigma about Eastern European women that still exists in the US and, unfortunately, media still reinforces it and makes money on it. Stereotypes and prejudices inspire me, even more, to pursue my dreams and work hard to eventually get to a level where I could speak up against them.
Another obstacle that probably every international here has encountered is homesickness. There has not been a day when I had a brief thought about leaving everything behind and going back home.
What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Many external factors have influenced me as an artist and they possibly set me apart from others. Thanks to my father I have visited about 30 countries and this has given me a unique background and has developed my tolerance. Living by myself since I was sixteen has made me introspective and analytical, which often helps me to get to the root of a problem in my work and see what is working and what is not.
My search for beauty in daily life, various art forms I have been pursuing and literature I have read have instilled in me aesthetic taste. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for an actor to read classic literature besides acting books, plays and self-help books. English literature has become a new way for me to escape tough realities, refine my language and learn more about human nature. The latter I studied in-depth while attending psych classes to earn my BA after AADA. I believe psychology helps actors to have a scientific approach to their work.
Other essential qualities I have learned at my acting studio and apply in daily life is to take risks because I do not have time to be cautious with my work. I am also learning to find comfort in discomfort and this applies not only to my acting but to my life in general.
I am also very proud of my ethnic background. I am Russian by nationality, but I am Tatar by heritage. My ancestors were fierce and free-spirited Mongols and wise and progressive Ancient Bulgars. Staying deeply connected to the roots is another essential quality every artist has to possess to avoid getting lost on their way.
- Website: lianaginiat.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @liantus @dramaliana