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Hélène Cardona Interview for FashionMag42

Hélène Cardona is an international actress &  writer born in Paris, France. We had opportunities to watch her in amazing roles in Chocolat, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Star Trek: Discovery, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,  World War Z, Jurassic World and more. Hélène is very lucky to be part of the The Actors Home platform.

MAG42: What attracted you to begin a career as an actor?

Hélène: When I was around ten years old, my school interrupted its regular teaching schedule and offered some experimental classes for a week. Acting was one and I tried it. Then the bug was left dormant until much later.

When I was fourteen, we moved from Geneva to Paris. The Paris cinemas offer a lot of classic movies, from all over the world. That’s an education in itself. I would go and watch all kinds of movies. We also had subscriptions to the Comédie Française, the Opéra and many theatres. I remember feeling completely transformed after watching Lorenzaccio and Life Is a Dream. That’s when I felt that this was the life I wanted to live, through characters.

I think if you’re an artist, you’re born with this desire or drive to create, and you have to honor it. I grew up playing the piano and dancing. I was also a math and science major in high school and loved studying languages and literature. Eventually I had to make a decision. I had just written my thesis on Henry James on the Search for Fulfillment in The Wings of the Dove while working as an interpreter for the Canadian Embassy in Paris and realized I had to fulfill my own destiny. I took flight and moved to New York to train at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in order to pursue acting professionally.

The AADA is a two-year conservatory. It’s one of the oldest drama schools in New York and one of the most prestigious. There I studied Shakespeare, dance, singing, stage combat, and of course, scene study.

I have a magical anecdote to share. After I graduated from the American Academy, I trained at the Actors’ Studio. My first teacher there was Ellen Burstyn. I was incredibly lucky because she only taught two workshops and I got into one of them. She taught it partly at the Studio and partly at her home in upstate New York. On the last day she placed different objects on a table and asked each of us to close our eyes and pick one. I picked a pin that represented a beautiful dove in flight. I felt I had come full circle.

Hélène Cardona Chocolat Still

MAG: We remember you from the movie Chocolat. I was thinking about your character in the movie. Did you change anything in the process of playing the role? 

Hélène: I loved playing Françoise “Fuffi” Drou, the hairdresser and beauty shop proprietor in Chocolat. It was a delightful experience.

I first flew to London to meet with the heads of the wardrobe and makeup departments, before going to France. We filmed on location in the small village of Flavigny, near Lyon. After that, we filmed at Shepperton Studios and also in Bath, in the West country of England.

When I arrived in London, Naomi Donne, the hair designer, surprised me by suggesting we change my hair color to red, since all the actresses were brunettes. I loved the look she and Norma Webb, the makeup artist, created for me.

When Carrie-Ann Moss and I rehearsed our first scene, during blocking, just before shooting, she had trouble saying “Françoise” and suggested “Fuffi”. Lasse liked it and it then became my character’s nickname!


Hélène Cardona Chocolat Still.

MAG42: You appeared in a lot of famous movie titles. Which is your best
role so far?

Hélène:  Chocolat was a dream come true. It happened unexpectedly. I had auditioned for a small role for Lasse Hallström’s The Cider Rules and didn’t get it. But he remembered me and offered me the role of Fuffi in Chocolat. And it happened the same week that I became an American citizen! 

The whole experience was truly magical. Lasse is wonderful filmmaker, very generous and easy to get along with, and the whole team was fantastic, cast and crew. It was fabulous to work with and be around Juliette Binoche, Leslie Caron, Lena Olin, Judi Dench, Carrie-Ann Moss, Johnny Depp, Alfred Molina, Peter Stormare, Antonio Gil, John Wood, Ron Cook, Hugh O’Connor, Élisabeth Commelin, and the kid actors.

They were all so giving and caring. It was teamwork and such a friendly, jovial atmosphere. Chocolat was a small film, nobody knew it was going to take off the way it did. Everybody was treated in the same way. We all got along fantastically. Everyone made me feel welcome and that I belonged there. I felt so at home. I never forgot that feeling. I stored it.

The year before Chocolat I filmed Mumford for Lawrence Kasdan and had a very similar experience. Both brilliant filmmakers, at the top of their profession. They treated me and everyone with such respect. Mumford had an amazing ensemble cast too, and just like with Chocolat, I was struck with everyone’s goodwill and professionalism. The atmosphere on set was delightful. I was very lucky to have these extraordinary experiences that showed me how cinema works at its best.

I’m also lucky in that I can put my languages to use. I do a lot of voice roles, voice acting, with all my different languages, and I love working with actors from different countries and backgrounds. It’s a lot of fun. I’m so grateful for it.

For Serendipity, I co-wrote with director Peter Chelsom and composer Alan Silvestri the song Lucienne, which I also sang. It was a beautiful, magical experience. Peter and Alan are sublime.

Chocolat poster Spain

I had a fabulous experience working with Michael Apted, recording the role of Darcelle with him on the sound stage for his movie Enough. He’s very specific and a great pleasure to work with. It was such a gift.

I enjoyed very much playing Mrs. Russell opposite Cindy Williams and John Heard in Stealing Roses, written and directed by the extraordinary Megan Foster. It was her first film, full of humanity and great humor, and she was amazing. She’s a very giving director, with a great ear for dialogue. I look forward to working again with her. The whole cast was incredible.

I love using my languages. I voice a British Computer in the series Heroes Reborn, the French Engineer in Star Trek: Discovery, the French Newscaster in the series The Romanoffs, a French Weather Reporter in Murder Mystery 2, an Austrian Backpacker in Spider-Man: Far from Home, a Spanish Operative in the series Nikita, a German Doctor in The A-Team, a Greek Party Guest in the series Daisy Jones and the Six, the French Announcer in Jurassic World, BBC Reporters in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and World War Z, and an Italian Tourist in the forthcoming movie My Spy: The Eternal City, to name a few. Some favorite voice characters include the Cerebro in X-Men: Apocalypse, as well as Happy Feet Two and Muppets Most Wanted.

Fun fact: Sydney Pollack based the Nicole Kidman character in The Interpreter in part on my life by making her a Sorbonne linguist and a musician. I also voiced a French Interpreter in the film.

Hélène Caralique Laurels

MAG42: What is the first thing you do to research and approach a role?

Hélène: I always start with the script. I read it and reread it several times, make annotations. I get associations for my character, the places where I connect, the feelings and emotions that get triggered, the images that come to me. Then it depends on the type of script or role, whether it’s drama or comedy, whether there’s a rehearsal process with the rest of the cast and so on, if there’s research I need to do, depending on the period etc. But at the end of the day, I always remain open, on the day of shooting, for what the circumstances bring. I’ll be reacting to the other actors, and I won’t know until that moment what they’ll do and what the director may want specifically. So, I know what I bring in, but I let it go when it’s play time. I think the key is to remain flexible and trust the process.

Hélène Cardona Idyllwild Film Festival

MAG42: How much has your life changed after so many Awards?

Hélène: I’m deeply grateful for the recognition that awards bring.

MAG42: Why is it good to be part of the Actors Home Platform?

Hélène: I feel very lucky to be part of The Actors Home. It provides a wealth of information (including events, interviews with industry guests, the Book Club, Film Club, Luci’s Cookie Time, and wonderful courses, among many offerings), in addition to being an amazing networking place, where we all learn from each other. Luci Lenox is incredibly supportive of actors and her expertise is invaluable. I also took a fantastic class with Luci at her Frank Stein Studio. I’m so grateful for her generosity, insights, and empowering positive outlook and spirit, and for the actors, coaches, and filmmakers I’m meeting at The Actors Home.

Hélène Kali Caralique

MAG42: Any upcoming projects/roles you can talk about?

Hélène: I just wrapped filming the role of Detective Jones, one of the leads in the crime thriller The Dead Woman, written and directed by the fabulous Dianna Ippolito. I’m absolutely delighted for this opportunity as it’s the first time I’m playing a detective. The whole experience was sheer fun. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Dianna and my co-stars Susan Lavelle and Mark Anthony Cox, as well as the whole cast and crew. The movie is now in post-production and will then make the festival rounds.

Thanks to Luci Lenox, I met actress, writer and director Bryerly Long, who offered me to voice the role of the Spanish Landlady in her movie L’Envie. We hit it off and I recorded it for her, and the movie is being edited as we speak.

I also star as Arlette in Caralique, for which I won four Best Acting Awards, including Best Actress at the wild Festival of Cinema. It recently came out on Amazon Prime and Apple TV in the US and hopefully will find distribution in Europe soon. In this mother daughter story, Arlette Linstrom, a successful fashion designer who has fallen on hard times, does everything in her power to help her daughter Caralique succeed in fashion and have a better life. Arlette is the heart and soul of the movie, its emotional core. The audience connects with her right from the beginning, through her creativity and passion for fashion, her resilience, her immense love and sacrifice for her daughter, until the very end. 


I loved working with the fantastic child actress Kali Funston, who plays Caralique in the first half of the movie. We were able to create a world completely our own. It was Kali’s first role, and a lead to boot. I was so impressed by her professionalism. She’s bilingual English/French and a gymnast and dancer with the world-renowned Mather Dance Company.

I was very fortunate to work on the miniseries All the Light We Cannot See, based on Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. I highly recommend it, it’s so beautiful. It just came out. It takes place in the final days of WWII and follows the paths of a blind French girl and a German soldier as they both try to survive.

I was also very lucky to work on the new original Apple TV+ series, The New Look, which just came out in February. It’s a historical drama about the rivalry of fashion icons Christian Dior and Coco Chanel and it allowed me to reunite with Juliette Binoche.

Hélène Detective Jones

On TV, I’m currently recurring as Monique in Season 2 of the Amazon Prime series Upload.

And I co-wrote the original screenplay Primate with my partner John Fitzgerald, based on his novel.

I’m also a poet and translator, with seven award-winning books published. I’m invited to read at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 21st. It’s the largest book festival in the country. 

Thank you! Hélène Cardona

Photo credits:

Private archive H.C.
Chocolat stills: David Appleby
Caralique stills: Angelica Reyn


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