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Meet the Cast & Crew – Ali Bastian: ‘Alice stands for everyone in search of happiness’

Not playing the part, but being the part. Actor David Fahm described this as his passion for the craft of acting, but he’s not the only one. Ali Bastian plays the leading part in Who is Alice, the story of a young woman looking for her true self. That search for happiness continues whenever the camera stops rolling, she tells us open-heartedly.

Could we have seen you someplace before?
“Yeah, I was an actress for several television series, and in 2009 I reached the semi-finals in the show Strictly Come Dancing. I think my role as Becca Dean in Hollyoaks, and that of Sally Armstrong in The Bill are probably most widely-known.”

The Alice-filmproject must be something entirely different for you. How do you consider this experience?
“It took me a while to take it all in. I never played a part which I felt so connected to. I remember when I first read the script I was seized by an odd sensation. ‘This is my part’ I immediately perceived, and the rest was pretty much a coast downhill…”

Tell us more about that coast…
“It’s actually a funny story. In the first instance I read the script as an outsider, as I was helping a friend to get a role, a different role than that of Alice, by the way. Nevertheless, I felt so connected with the narrative, that I made a last-minute audition tape and sent it to Paul Smit. Really, you should have seen that tape: it was late at night, I looked like shit, with a big mug of tea in my hands.”

Still, Paul saw something in you…
“That’s true. Well at least enough to audition. However, it was the toughest audition ever, as Alice is a character that is going through a roller coaster of emotion. She is a character with a very diverse personality, which is extremely hard to demonstrate within the short time span of an audition.”

Yet you made it. How did you perceive the cooperation with the rest of the cast?
“That was really something special, as every character in the film has a huge impact on Alice. Furthermore, as every actor has a different way of working, I learned from them every day. Lee Brace for instance, has a lot of humour, and was amazing to work with. Patrick Holland in contrast triggered me to learn more about the craft of acting, and David Fahm taught me a lot about improvising.”

How did you experience working with a Dutch crew?
That was not a problem at all. I was provided with a lot of support from them. I think we as British cast were extremely fortunate with this team. Each and every one had such a warm personality, and worked for the film so enthousiastically.”

Speaking about the film – and about your character in particular: who is Alice actually?
“Alice stands for everyone who is in search of happiness, and who keeps looking for it in the wrong places. Alice and I have a lot in common. We both come to a point in life in which we think: ‘Yeah, this is it, now I know!’ – only to discover that we actually know very little. Or nothing, really.

So did this role and the Alice-project impact you more than your other productions?
“Maybe it has. I must say that it was very confronting at times, because I recognized pieces of Alice in me. You’ll feel vulnerable, and at times I was seized by strong emotion.”

The movie references a lot to the nonduality of life. Is that something that you are interested in?
“Yeah, and since the shooting of Who is Alice, that interest has only grown. Partly because of this film, I gained more insight in myself. Now sometimes I can take some distance and perceive the rat race that we’re in on a daily basis, continuously in search of the next thing that will make us happy.

What is ‘happiness’, according to you?
“This might sound a bit cliché, but happiness is not something separate: it lives in you. Though we often seem to think: ‘when I reached that goal or when I gained that thing, then I’ll be happy.’ Funny, makes me think about a snow globe. If you shake it, all particles fly around, and shift their position. In a way, that is how I think of the Alice project: this experience has stirred up a lot of old opinions and beliefs of mine, and put them in a new perspective.”

But if happiness is inside you, do you still have ambitions outside of yourself?
“Of course I have. I want to do a lot more features, but not only acting, as co-writing scripts is something that I aspire as well. I hope that curiosity about life will never stop – and that it will lead to more self-reflectivity.

To conclude: suppose there will be a sequel to the Alice project. Would you like to play a part in it again?
“Definitely! It’s a beautiful film, a good story and an amazing team. By the way, Paul has some seriously brilliant ideas, so I already know that a sequel would turn out incredible.”

Interview: Jeroen Schalk
English translation by: Judith Boeschoten
Photography: Hans Tibben

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