A year ago I met my second Czech friend in Los Angeles. The way we met is actually kind of strange, mainly because it is related to my very good stalking skills (I call it a work of a publicist). It was the week of my birthday in the middle of July and I was supposed to celebrate at Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood. Not knowing what to wear, I went on Instagram and using #chateaumarmont, I looked at how people dress when going there. On a picture of two girls I noticed that one of the tagged people had a Czech name. Being very social and knowing that I have nothing to lose, I texted her and we started to talk. Few months later we found ourselves sitting at her friend’s apartment in West Hollywood, watching Emmy Awards 2015, doing an interview about her being a Czech actress who is trying to make it in Hollywood. Please meet Alena Doláková.
Alena is 27 years old. She actually just celebrated her birthday few days ago. This very bubbly actress is originally from Brno (Czech Republic), but her love of acting and adventure brought her to Los Angeles. So how and why did it all happen?
Me: When did you start acting?
Alena: I was 3 years old and I played the wonderful part of a doughnut (in Czech called Koblížek) in a fairy tale in my kindergarden because no-one else could learn all the lines. I took the pleasure of leading this fantastic play (she is laughing while explaining this). When I was 4, I joined the drama club and I also joined the Ballet School of National Theatre. So I started very early.
Me: How did this progress? When has it become more of a profession than a hobby?
Alena: I wanted to go to dance school when I was 10 but then I decided for a language oriented classical grammar school, which I attended for 8 years. Then, the decision was made when I was 18. I was accepted to study Psychology, Journalism and Diplomacy. These are 3 great subjects that I was really interested in…and acting. It would have been logical and realistic to go to study Psychology, Journalism or Diplomacy but I followed my passion and that’s when I decided that I will take acting as my profession.
Me: Once you were in an acting school in Czech Republic, how did you get the “real job”?
Alena: Well, I was very lucky to get into theatre in my first year…in the National Theatre in Brno. And through school I go my first long-term contract with the company that I worked for 3 years in Prague. Because they came to see my school show. But TV and film, I think I was just signed up in some agency and they picked me up for a big audition for this movie of Oscar-wining director and I happened to be the director’s favourite. I don’t think my school had anything to do with that.
Me: What director was that?
Alena: It was Jan Svěrák.
Me: What was the movie?
Alena: It was called Three Brothers. It is a fantasy fairy tale musical, co-produced with Denmark. And it is a comedy…it was a lot of fun…there was some signing involved, which I was terrified of. But at the end it was a great experience.
Me: What was your favourite Czech project to work on?
Alena: Well, definitely Three Brothers and a play called Terminus. It is an Irish play where there are only 3 people on stage and it is basically 2 hours of monologue. Something between blank verse, poetry and rap. So it is very filthy, street language combined with those nobel words. It is a great play but it was the hardest experience for me as an actor, to stay on the stage by myself and lead the whole thing. It was also the most satisfying because you shared great themes on a very intimate level with life audience.
Me: What made you decide to go to the USA…Hollywood?
Alena: (laughing) Curiosity. Sense of adventure…a need for change and I always loved travelling and I studied English at school so I was missing actually using English language. And so I decided to combine speaking English and travelling and of course I would miss acting, that’s my life, so I decided to try it. To give it a shot.
Me: What were your expectations coming to Hollywood?
Alena: I am going to say it in words of a character that I invented for this occasion (the occasion being her moving to Hollywood). It is a Russian prostitute. I created this character because I wanted to make fun of myself because there is so many millions of actors that are coming to Hollywood every year and they have these huge dreams and expectations of becoming famous and well-known and appreciated actors. They have all those big dreams and you know, I come from Eastern Europe (my comment inserted here: I did not interrupt her, but being Czech as well, I strongly believe it is Central Europe) but when you tell someone that you are from the Czech Republic, they automatically assume it is somewhere near Russia (so true!). And also when you say you are from “Eastern Europe”, they can consider you to be little bit cheap, I would say. So I created the character of Russian hooker that is going to America and who wants to become a big star. So my expectations are to become (and now she stars talking with a very strong and authentic Russian accent) really famous, well-known and make my dad proud, make my mom proud and make my country proud!
We are both laughing at that moment.
Me: What steps have you taken to accomplish that dream?
Alena: I quit jealousy, I quit negativity…or I m trying to quit these every day. I dance a lot, I sing a lot and try to be happy a lot and then trying to create a space where I can just really trust and be really happy and throw all my dreams into the universe. I think when you really think that something is going to happen, and you really wish it and it comes from very, very pure place in your heart, it is going to be fulfilled…but now really! This is how it was. I applied for my visa 6 months ago, so I was collecting all my data about my acting since I was 6. It was really tiring. I hate paperwork! Then I came here and I had to learn all the necessary stuff – how to tank gas, how not to get my Czech credit card blocked constantly (European credit cards are very suspicious here), how to tip in restaurants…you know…all the essential things! Another important thing was to find men to assemble my Ikea furniture (laugh).
Me: In regards to acting?
Alena: Well, I have been studying with amazing acting teacher, Bernard Hiller. I have been to I think 6 Master Classes with him. He is a great person who has helped me a lot with my acting, even when I was still in the Czech Republic. I love his method of teaching!
Me: How does your day-to-day routine look like?
Alena: I always start the day with a dance. I go to this place call Body By Simone. I like to get into my body a lot because Bernard says, and I thin it is true, that talent lies in the body. Here in LA, when we are doing half days of class, it is usually excises and he talks and we are doing scenes from a play that we like and then we have exercises that are meant to dare us. For instance if you are scared of singing, you do that. If you are scared of being a clown, you do that. Just overcoming your fears, which is great! I am always working on my craft, dusting, watering and feeding my acting (yes, these are her words).
Me: In what way are the Master Classes a stepping stone for you to get a role here?
Alena: You know, my teacher told me that he will bring Spielberg and Woody Allen to my house! (She sees the shock in my eyes, or was it disbelief? I can’t remember anymore!) No, I am just kidding! It is your own responsibility to go after your dream. However, my teacher is a great supportive person and friend so if I am going to get some jobs, it will be thanks to his help.
Me: What kind of outlet can you imagine yourself in?
Alena: I have done 7 years of full-time theatre and I have done some TV and some movies so I would love to focus more on TV and movies now. I see myself somewhere with like a strong female message. I don’t know why…but I am definitely in the right age and right place for that because when I am seeing the series like Orange is the New Black or the sitcom Mom…or Amy Schumer is my favourite now, I love that the women stories and issues are more and more realistic and they are out there and they are supporting just women, you know. That’s my wish.
Me: What are the main struggles for actors in Hollywood?
Alena: MONEY! That’s the number one thing. You get here and you get into this crazy…it’s like Catch 22 situation because you want to focus on your acting but then you spend your time making money so then you don’t have to focus on your acting. And so you basically live here but you can’t really put all your focus on acting. I am actually in a very lucky position now, because I can’t do anything else but acting, because of my Visa. So I can’t get into that situation. However, there is certain pressure of making money at some point and that is why I have to be very patient. And that is why I talked about all the wishy-washy things like being positive because it takes a lot of nerves to withdraw the feeling that you are not making any money for a really long time when you first get here.
Me: Have you already encountered criticism?
Alena: Me? Never! I am the best at everything I do! No, for real now! There is always something that needs to be improved. You have to be prepared to take criticism and do the best to improve it. It will happen many times that a director says: “Oh my god, this is a disaster…do this instead!” So you are constantly faced with criticism of some kind. You just focus on the work and not take it personally.
Me: You don’t take any of it personally?
Alena: No! Really, I mean, if someone was telling me for a year that I am REALLY BAD, I would still think that it is how he/she sees me. There can be 100 people who can hate my acting and there will be one person who is going to maybe love my acting and maybe it is going to change his day (my comment: or your life) and maybe it is going to touch his heart for the rest of his life. If there is one person like that I will still going to act. I know it sounds like a terrible cliché but I don’t do acting to just hear a praise of myself. I am putting myself out there so I have to expect whatever reaction there is!
Me: What is your main goal with acting then?
Alena: Good question! That is a very deep question. I like the applause (just joking!). I think I just have been showing off since I was little, I had it in my genes somehow and so it makes me happy to perform and to tell the story and to tell good stories. So whenever there is a cause, like stories of strong women or something that makes people laugh or it makes them think….I want to do it!