Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Albiñana.
Maria, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Valencia, a beautiful city in Spain. Since I was a kid, I was always focused in everything that has to do with Art: painting, singing, dancing, acting… It´s funny when people ask me: When did you knew you wanted to become an actress? I always think for a while before answering: I don’t remember even making a decision. I knew it would be this way. I never imagined myself being anything different.
While at the audition for Acting School, I remember walking out of the room very happy. One of the current students who was sitting outside looked at me and said: “Why are you so happy? Don´t you know that becoming an actress might mean no work? What will you do?”. I have no idea why he was being so horrible to me. I remember looking him as if he´d asked the weirdest thing on earth, like: “What will you do if a big blue cow flew from the sky and kidnapped you?”. I mean, for me, what he had asked made no sense!! That possibility didn’t even existed. I feltthis is what I had to do, something inherent in me?
I started performing in musicals in primary school. All my teachers encouraged me to sing and dance. When I was about eight years old, I started my dancing degree that took me 12 years. I specialized in classical ballet but I also danced flamenco, contemporary, jazz… During myteenage years I spend every summer at a Dance Summer Workshop in France, London, Madrid… My parents used to visit me every time and I have to say that I love their constant support, it made everything much easier.
My Acting Degree started when I was 18 years old at Escuela Superior de Arte Dramático de Valencia. I was still finishing dance and my Mum encouraged me to study a “normal” career. So I started Journalism too. My days were filled with dance classes, rehearsals, acting classes and Uni. Two months after this maelstrom and realizing that I needed more hours in my day, I quit Journalism (which, of course, upset my Mum but my Dad said: let her do what she needs to do). Nevertheless, once I had my Acting and Dancing Degree I went on to finish Journalism while I started to become a working actress.
Yes, I still remember this guy out in the corridor asking me what will I do if I couldn’t get an acting job. I guess he was just prepping me for the tough road ahead. And it is tough. When you don’t work you feel like you can’t breathe, you feel like your soul sinks. But when you work…oh man! That is better than anything you can imagine!
Another good lesson I learned while at Acting School was thanks to my mentor Antonio Diaz-Zamora: what do you expect Acting to give to you and what are you willing to give back? I still think about this every day. Whether I’m on set, on stage, rehearsing or waiting for make-up. He, too, was preparing me for this life.
I have been working in the industry for over ten years now in Spain, France, London and now LA. I’ve been in dance companies, plays, musicals, shorts, TV series, digital series and feature films. And at the same time, I kept on dancing, choreographing and teaching. I’ve always tried to develop all my other skills which led me five years ago to found the web series section at the Valencia International Film Festival- CINEMAJOVE. This film festival has now been running for over 35 years and I am currently the (proud) coordinator of their digital series section. This new phase in my career has helped me with my directing skills (already developed previously in theater plays, musicals and operas). Directing has always been part of my life, even though I’ve never looked for it.
While this was happening, my heart kept thinking that I should be based in LA. It took me many years to build the courage and strength to move here. Moving countries is always tough, not because of the language (I’m bilingual since I was six) but because I had to leave my family, my stability, the world you know for the complete unknown. And, to be honest… that is always scary, isn’t it?
I got into a successful digital series (Sin Vida Propia) that helped me win several awards as Best Actress at the LAWebfest. And my Dad got us two tickets to fly to LA and pick the award (unfortunately my Mum couldn’t come). We stayed in LA for three months, just the 2 of us, trying to figure everything out. Once back in Spain, I kept on working in different TV shows and preparing my US working visa (which is like doing 4 MA´s and 5 PhD´s!!). I worked on another very successful series, now available on Amazon Prime, called “We all wanted to kill the President”,which got me several nominations in different festivals in New Jersey and Rome. And then, my dad passed away. One month later, I got confirmation of my US visa.
Yes, everything at the same time. I guess that is what life is: a complete rollercoaster of events (shitty events and amazing events).
Two years ago I finally arrived to LA. I have worked hard to make my way through (and keep hustling day and night, night and day). I have become a Finalist at the prestigious Actors Studio. I have a fantastic agent, Ross Grossman (Affinity Artists Agency) who takes care of me and I´ve had the opportunity to audition every day (something that doesn’t happen in Spain, unfortunately). This year I´ve started two personal projects as a producer, writer and actress… can´t wait to tell you all about it!
And four months ago, I had the wonderful experience to shoot in Australia the feature film “I met a Girl” directed by Luke Eve and starring stars Brenton Thwaites, Lilly Sullivan and Joel Jackson. A wonderful, generous cast and a talented director, what else could I ask for?
I’ve left a lot behind (especially family) but in LA I have found new friends and, the most important, my fiancee who I admire and support. But moving countries has giving me the wings to keep going, keep pushing, keep hustling and keep on track, keep dreaming. That track that I never questioned, that I always knew was my road, my trip, my life. I love being an actress and working hard but, let’s face it: without my Mum, my fiancée, my uncles, my cousins, my friends back in Spain, my people…this would be really, really hard (or should I say: hardER?)
I just wish I keep growing as an actress and get more and more work. Not only to make me happy but for all the people who are around me and believe in me all the time (and “ALL THE TIME” is a helluva lot!)
Has it been a smooth road?
Is there ever smooth roads? I try not to think of it as obstacles or struggles but just: the rules of the game YOU decided to play. Scientist works hard, doctors work hard, mums work hard, waiters too…everyone! So why shouldn’t I?
I would lie if I say I hadn’t wished to get more help from the industry or more support from colleagues or just easier opportunities or more accessible jobs but: that is not my reality and its OK.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I have an MA Acting Degree, MA Ballet Degree and MA in Journalism. I have worked in drama, comedy, musicals, ballets, operas… Maybe it feels too broad but I have studied several disciplines and my background as a dancer and singer has shaped my acting too.
Working in so many different genres and disciplines has helped me gain a wider knowledge on my craft, go deeper, explore other parts of me and challenge myself. I wouldn’t be the same type of actress if it wasn’t for the experiences I’ve had directing (“Star Desamparados”, which I also wrote), dancing and singing in musicals (“Full Monty”, which is still on tour), choreographing music videos (popular Spanish rock band “Oques Grasses” shot in LA) or commercials (Yamaha Pianos shot in LA), founding and coordinating the series section at the Valencia International Film Festival- CINEMAJOVE, writing and producing my own shows… I love doing all of this! Who said that an actor should only perform?
As an actress, I’m passionate about my craft and take care of it as if it was something precious, my baby. I am my own business, the CEO of my acting, the personal manager of my career. Recently, I became finalist at the Actors Studio. I worked really hard and I feel honored that my work has been appreciated by the Studio members (emblematic figure in the industry) and lucky to be surrounded by professional colleagues who help me grow as an artist.
I remember my first theater critic: “Maria is a very versatile actress”. Throughout the years, I have heard this from many other people I´veworked with. Nevertheless, directors who haven’t worked with me yet, tend to cast me in dramatic roles. Once they meet me they all say: you should be doing comedy! Shout-out to directors, casting directors and producers: I can do both! (And happy to switch from one to the other).
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Wow! If I just had a crystal ball! I do see a huge shift into diversity and a big support for women into directing, writing, producing. This means that there will be more (interesting) female roles created other than: the wife, the girl next door, the friend of the male lead, the mother… (which are OK but a bit boring for an actor).
I would love to see many more actresses (over 40) in every story. And for that we need new shows like: “Handmaid´s Tale”, “Fleabag”, “Orange is the new black”… Last year I started developing a project where the story is essentially carried by women and based in power and family dynamics. My team (all male) who shaped and created the story with me, became indispensable in the creative process. This support between men and women, together with the awareness of the unbalanced situation of women in the industry, is what will make better stories, better movies. Adding different elements is what generates diversity, and diversity is what the audience will watch in the movies. When we seedifferent people with different looks, accents and different ways of telling stories it helps to open up our minds and we can start changing the world.
We might not be aware of the power of storytelling but, after all, movies are meant to shake the world, to resonate in you.
- Website: www.mariaalbinana.com
- Instagram: @albinanamaria
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/marialbinana/
- Twitter: @albinanamaria
- Other: imdb.me/mariaalbinana
Images from the following shows: “We all wanted to kill the President”, “A Door” and “Tocate”