by Sherif Awad
My name is Alexandra Dragnea, and I was born in a small town in the South of Romania, near the Danube and the border with Bulgaria.
I have an older brother and a big extended family, with whom we were very close. Because both of my parents had demanding jobs I went to live with my mother’s parents.
I had a wonderful childhood, growing up in the countryside with my grandparents and being very connected with nature. That experience gave me a strong sense of freedom that stayed with my throughout my life and was a major influence in all the important decisions that I have ever made.
No one in my family had any artistic background, and acting wasn’t something that I saw as an example. It just came to me naturally, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do ever since I can remember. As a child I would love to entertain my family and my friends and make them laugh and the satisfaction that I was getting from that was amazing.
I found it fascinating that you could make a career from what I thought of as “playing” and I wanted to be part of that magical world.
I was always a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, one of the first movies that I can remember seeing was Titanic, and then in my teen years I started to appreciate more and more actors, Ingrid Bergman, Robert De Niro, Marion Cotillard, Meryl Streep, Emma Stone are just a few of them.
I was also a big fan of Mexican and Brazilian Television, since I used to watch those with my grandma when I was 3-4 years old, and she would read me the subtitles. That’s actually how I’ve learned to speak Spanish and Portuguese.
-During middle school and high school, I kept a close contact with acting, and I was part of the school’s theatre groups, but after I graduated I was feeling a bit lost, because there aren’t that many opportunities for young actors in Romania and I didn’t really know what to do and which way to go, so I decided to take a gap year and travel the world. Then, I went to University to study Journalism, but I soon realized it wasn’t what I was looking for, and it left me with an emptiness inside that I couldn’t fill with anything, but I’ve decided to finish what I’ve started and in 2017 I got my Bachelor’s Degree.
-Only then, I finally got the courage to follow my lifelong passion for acting. I moved to Los Angeles in 2018, and I started the Two-Year Conservatory Program at The Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute. The experience was life changing in so many ways, but I think the most important one was that I found myself and for the first time in my life I felt like I belonged. That was the place where i finally understood what acting is about and how much hard work and dedication it requires turning in into a craft and, eventually, into a career. That is also how I found my love for theater. Before starting my training, I always had the preconceived idea that theater was not for me, that it was too difficult and nerve wreaking. But the moment I stepped on the stage in front of an audience, I knew that there’s no better feeling in the world than connecting with the people watching you l, on such a deep level. The school was amazing because their approach is very practical, and you start working from day one. Besides theater and film work, you also learn about everything else that has to do with the industry such as the audition process, commercials, self-tape as well as dancing, singing, movement and voice work.
-So far, I believe it is satisfying in the sense that I get to do what I love and work towards my goal, but i am definitely just starting out, and I have many achievements in mind and high standards that I’ve set out for myself. Stardom is not something that I am interested in, but i do want to be proud of the legacy that I leave behind.
-I think things are starting to get better regarding gender issues, although there is definitely a long way until we will be able to say we achieved gender equality. Luckily I wasn’t affected by this personally, but I do know actresses who had to deal with misogyny, sexual harassment or pay discrepancies.
-Unfortunately, the situation of the creative industry in Romania is not very satisfying, even though things are evolving slowly, and it has definitely improved over the last few years. There isn’t really much work for actors, especially when you’re just starting out and the roles offered to you are mainly superficial. The main problem actually starts in school, because I feel that children are not encouraged to think creatively and develop their artistic side, on the contrary it’s usually looked down upon and not being taken seriously. But it is better now, than when i was growing up.
-I think every actor has a love-hate relationship with the casting industry, or at least it is like that for me, and it really is one of the most difficult parts of being an actor. You have to learn to accept rejection and not take it personally, otherwise you won’t be able to “survive” in the industry. During Covid-19, much of the audition process happened online, through zoom or self tapes, and that gives you a bit more freedom in preparing for it, but also takes away the pressure from being in the same room with the casting director.
The best approach to it, in my opinion, whether you do a self tape or a live audition is to try and put on your best performance and then forget about it.
-I always try to do jobs that I will look back upon and be proud of. I want to bring to life characters that are complex and have rich inner worlds, real human beings. The temptation is huge, especially in the beginning to take anything that’s being offered to you, but I try to remind myself that I got into acting because I wanted to express myself and I can only do that by staying true to my art and my ideas.
-I am proud of everything that I did related to acting, whether it was while I was studying or after that, because they were all learning opportunities and each step brought me where I am today.
-I love travelling; it is truly is my favorite activity, besides acting. And i believe they are somehow related, since acting is about portraying the human nature and what better way to study that, than getting in contact with as many people as possible from very different backgrounds. It opens up your mind in ways that you can only dream of. I also enjoy cooking, reading, sports and anything that helps me be creative in some way or another, really.
-There isn’t really a clear line between my personal life and my profession, because I don’t see it as a job. Acting is my life, and everyone around me knows that and respects that. There’s a saying that goes like this: Find a job that you don’t feel like taking a break from.
-At the moment, I am working on a short film that I’ve written and directed with a few of my friends, and I am very excited to finally put it out there and share it with the world. For the future, I look forward to working in both European films, and in American cinema, and I am trying to audition for as many parts as possible. Now that we are finally starting to see the end of the Pandemic, I think more, and more opportunities are going to arise.
-The best piece of advice that I can give someone that is just getting into acting is to never give up. Be true to yourself, know the reasons why you want to do it, decide if you truly love it and make a conscious decision to work towards your goal every single day. You have to give it you're everything, but if you keep going, the reward will come sooner or later and nothing compares to that feeling.