An actor plays many roles in the course of a career, but Alice Dessuant is also interested in roles behind the scenes. After completing her New York Film Academy training in acting for film, Alice decided to stay on and work as a TA, and most recently she booked a role in “La Recompense” in Paris.
NYFA had an opportunity to sit down with Miss Dessuant to hear some of her insights on what it’s like to shape shift and work in so many different types of roles within the entertainment industry. Here’s what she had to share with our community.
NYFA: Congratulations on your upcoming performances in France! Can you tell us a bit about your role and the production?
AD: Thanks! So I will be performing in a play called “La Recompense” (The Reward) at the Edouard VII theater, one of the biggest private theaters in Paris. We will be on stage every day (twice on Saturday) from March 14 to July 16 after six weeks of rehearsing.
“La Recompense” is the story of Martin, a brilliant historian who is rewarded with the International History Prize. His girlfriend and his brother seem to think it is THE prize of a lifetime, the accomplishment of his entire career. Martin however would do anything to give it back: indeed, all the laureates from the past years died a year after they got rewarded.
My character is introduced by Martin’s brother, who speaks about me during the play. I then quite literally appear to Martin at the end of the play to seal his fate.
NYFA: You’ve worked both in front of the camera as an actor and behind the scenes as a cinematographer and wardrobe assistant, and you’ve also worked in several countries. What would you say is your number one takeaway from shifting position, working internationally, and seeing the industry from so many sides?
AD: I feel like shifting position on set made me a better actress. And I would recommend it 100 percent. Knowing exactly who’s doing what and how they do it on set makes you more comfortable in your own position, and makes work more fluid. As for working in different countries, I definitely learned new acting tools for me to use back home. It’s a great way to approach new methods and expand your working skills.
NYFA: Why NYFA? Tell us a little bit more about your journey in choosing the acting for film program at New York Film Academy.
AD: To be perfectly honest, it was completely random! I was spending some time in New York in the summer and I saw an add for the school at a bus stop. I’d always wanted to leave Paris and study acting for film in New York, I thought it was a good place to start. Probably the best decision I ever made!
NYFA: What was it like studying acting for film in a country other than your own?
AD: Whether you are studying, working or just spending time abroad, you always get through phases where you feel homesick, where you miss your family and friends. That was probably the most challenging for me (that and the three months of snow every winter, God I hate the cold!). But more seriously, it really is nothing compared to how rewarding it is to accomplish something outside of your country, out of your comfort zone. It was an amazing feeling to have people who barely knew me, willing to give me a chance. It definitely boosted my confidence! And the fact is, as soon as I got back to France I booked three big jobs in a couple of weeks. I don’t think it would have happened if I had never left Paris for a while.
NYFA: What has surprised you the most about your classes at NYFA? Were there any subjects that became a new passion for you?
AD: I was really surprised to have audition technique classes. In France, being an actor is still considered an art, not a business. So you learn to do the job but not to get the job. That was the most useful class for me. And I definitely fell in love with TV classes! Especially when working on sitcoms. It really feels like recorded live theater!
NYFA: How did staying on with NYFA and working as a TA change the way you understood your craft as an actor? Did your perspective on your courses change?
AD: Working as a TA made me realise how easy [in some ways] it is to be an actor! Knowing how much equipment is involved, and how much work it takes to produce anything really put my own work into perspective. Sometimes as an actor you show up on set, having worked on your character, emotionally charged, sort of in your own bubble really, and you forget the humongous amount of work it took to build the set, prep the lights, get the camera ready. Working on the other side reminded me of that.
NYFA: What was it like to be a part of the NYFA community both as a student and as a TA?
AD: I had a great experience as a student at NYFA. I felt really privileged. I absolutely adored my classmates and it felt like working with a solid acting troupe all year long. I also had a blast working as a TA. The experience was especially interesting and different for me because I went from a student perspective to working side to side with the teachers I had the year before. I found that same feeling of a troupe with the other TAs, which made the job very enjoyable.
NYFA: Favorite NYFA moment?
AD: Favorite NYFA moment as a student was probably being part of the NYFA ensemble, and getting to perform “Gruesome Playground Injuries” with my classmates.
NYFA: What’s inspiring you right now
AD: The people I am working with at the moment. Actors I have admired all my life and whom I get to be on stage with now.
NYFA: Do you have a favorite film, or favorite actor?
AD: Hardest question ever. I absolutely can’t name one movie. It’s just impossible. As for actors, Johnny Depp in “Edward Scissorhands” is the reason i decided to be an actor (after I realised Jedi and Indiana Jones were not actual jobs). At the moment I am particularly obsessed with both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Watching them act is purely the best acting class you can get. And watching them act together … I literally pause to take notes.
NYFA: What advice would you give to aspiring acting for film students?
AD: My advice is, get as many different acting classes possible. Work on different methods, with different teachers. And if you are ever offered to do another job on set besides acting, say yes.
And stay away from the craft service, it’s a trap!
Alice, thank you for taking the time to share a part of your story with the NYFA community. Break legs in your upcoming shows!