On the occasion of the upcoming premiere of “Keep calm”, the latest crime fiction produced by Netflix based on the novel by Harlan Coben, we had the opportunity to talk with Krzysztof Oleksyn and Agata Łabno. We could already see Krzysztof’s acting talent in the series “Rojst ’97”, while Agata played alongside Krzysztof Ogrodnik in the award-winning film “All our fears”. In the crime fiction “Keep calm”, in which the death of one of the teenagers turns the lives of the inhabitants of an exclusive estate upside down, they play some of the main roles.
At the beginning I wanted to ask you if you knew the works of Harlan Coben and read his books before you started working on the set of “Keep Calm” series?
Christopher: I studied the book a while before starting work, although of course I have heard of Harlan Coben because it’s hard not to hear of him.
Agata: I had just like Krzysztof, although I must admit that now I read crime fiction, I’m in the process of finishing “Don’t tell anyone”. Before the series, I only read “Keep Calm” first of all to know something more.
And crime fiction at all? Do you personally like dark stories?
Agata: I entered this genre on the run and I can’t recommend anything like that.
Christopher: I am generally open to different genres, but when it comes to detective stories that I have already watched, I could definitely recommend “In the depths of the forest”.
And as actors you follow the Polish TV series market, because we are becoming very strong in this genre. Are you up to date with Polish series?
Agata: I am actually a fan of Rojst ’97, in which Krzysztof also plays. In two days I watched the whole thing. It keeps you in suspense, and that’s probably what people like the most. It is a nice escape from everyday life. I like being such a detective or seeing my suspicions as a viewer wrong and suddenly everything turns upside down.
Christopher: Yes, crime fiction is a genre that people want, there is a demand for them, which is why more series are created. We like to accompany these characters, discover stories with them and weave scenarios.
And how was the casting for the role in your case? Did you have a lot of competition?
Christopher: I have a pretty interesting casting story for this production. I came prepared and excited, and just before entering the audition, the casting director came over to me and said we were changing the scene. I had 10 minutes to familiarize myself with the new scene, but paradoxically it worked great. I felt that I had a lot to offer as Adam and in some spaces he was close to me. It was great to improvise on the basis of what I had imagined before.
Coben is also very popular in Poland and, as always in the case of film adaptations of books, there will be accusations that the original was better, that the characters do not reflect the original book, etc. You are young actors, how do you deal with online hate, in general you is he touching?
Agata: It must be clearly stated that the series is not an exact reflection of the book. For the needs of the series and our Polish realities, a few changes were necessary. For example, my character – Adam’s girlfriend Kai – is not in the book at all. However, I realize that there are so many opinions that everyone will never like it.
Christopher: I cut off hate speech, I don’t read these things. I know that I did my job, I gave it my best. The tastes are so broad and so different that some will like it and not others.
You had the opportunity to play alongside very experienced actors. I wonder what the chemistry on the set looks like between young and famous names. They help you get into the roles, do you feel you can rely on them or are they a bit of a star?
Agata: I felt very cared for on the set, maybe also because of the relationship I had with Grzegorz Damięcki, because he played my dad. On the set, he helped me a lot, made me familiar with the camera, reassured me that I could think about how to play something, give myself time. He was a bastion of peace that grounded me.
Christopher: From the first castings, I had excellent chemistry with my series parents, played by Magda Boczarska and Leszek Lichota. We had a partner relationship and it was great because I expected it too. No matter how many experiences you have – at this point, on the set, we start from scratch. We have a common goal that we are trying to achieve. This approach is the essence of creating.
You’ve already had the opportunity to work on both big movies and TV series. How much is the specifics of the work different between these formats and in which do you see yourself more in the future?
Agata: It is hard to compare, they are completely different structures. For me, the bigger challenge in the series was to prepare for more pictures. In addition, photos are rarely shot chronologically, and this requires you to put together in your head what has already happened and what has already been played. You have to prepare in advance for all of this, so this is an individual work on the script. Just like in the theater – we also prepare for the role earlier, but the game is a bit different, because you are on the stage of the theater live, and in the series you operate properly in front of the camera.
Christopher: I don’t feel so much difference between building a role in a series or in a movie. Each project is a completely new space that I have to explore depending on what character I play, in how many minutes, in how many episodes and when it appears on the screen.
Krzysiek is a basketball fan in the series. And how is your hobby outside of acting? Do you have time to develop your other passions? Agata from what I read is closely related to music.
Agata: I believe that you need to cultivate your interests all the time. It is impossible to live only acting. I love cooking and singing. I even signed up for a songwriting workshop and finally I have to dare to do it.
Maybe a single in the future?
Agata: I do not exclude (laughs).
Christopher: Apart from the film world, I feel great on the stage of the theater and I cannot imagine not participating in such a vivid theatrical life. But apart from acting, I’m very attracted to analog photography. I am passionate about photography, I take a lot of photos.
Agata: Yes, just look at Krzysiek Instagram (laughs).
Christopher: I also played basketball in high school, in a club in my city, but I have been dancing since I was a child, so I am constantly looking for new ways to express myself.
Agata: I will add that I swam, I even had some medals (laughs).
“Keep calm” takes place in Warsaw, and just as I love watching Bareja’s movies and series to catch famous places in my city, in “Keep calm” we can see some iconic, but also less known places in the capital.
Agata: It was very interesting to work in the Spring estate. There were limited speaking out loud rules, we had to be relatively silent. There are beautiful, green and evenly mowed lawns. A very nice estate, although I wouldn’t find myself in such a total. The set design also did a great job, because some of the spots, such as the entertainment ones, were created for the series. And they actually look like real clubs.
Christopher: Let us add that the place of the action is a prestigious estate located in Mokotów. The creators of the series wanted these places to refer to the status of our characters. It was also very interesting to explore this less known space in Warsaw. I come from a small town in Lower Silesia, I have lived here for a year, so the production of the series was an opportunity for me to get to know some unique places in the city.
Roger: Thank you for the interview and I keep my fingers crossed for the positive reviews of the series. And for this single Agata (laughs).