Keep calm – INTERVIEW with the stars of the Netflix series: Boczarska Lichota Oleksyn

“Keep calm” is the second, after “In the depths of the forest”, Polish adaptation of Harlan Coben’s novel, prepared by Netflix. The story begins with the mysterious disappearance of the central couple’s son, which leads to a variety of surprising situations. I talked to the main actors of the project: Magdalena Boczarska, Leszek Lichota and Krzysztof Oleksyn about how to build a reliable family relationship, without many common scenes, about the issue of trust in one’s own child and about the reasons for the popularity of Harlan Coben’s prose.

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Michał Kaczoń: “Keep Calm” is the second Polish Netflix project based on the prose of Harlan Coben. What do you think is about this author’s novels that make them so popular and so easily adaptable to different countries?

Magdalena Boczarska: I think that the main point is that, as recipients, we like very much how these works affect us and what emotions they evoke in us. Additionally, we can in some way participate in solving the secret hidden for several episodes. It is not without reason that Agatha Christie is one of the most-read writers, and new adaptations of stories about Dracula or other monsters appear on the screen every now and then.

Leszek Lichota: In addition, we also like to play detective ourselves. We choose the solution to the puzzle at an early stage and we want to be smarter than the writers. I also agree that crime fiction and thrillers, first and foremost, give us emotions. We like cultural works to create tension in us.

Krzysztof Oleksyn: Often times, works that are globally successful talk about universal and topical social problems. This makes it easier for us, as recipients, to identify with the heroes and the topics undertaken.

Magdalena Boczarska: Yes, the heroes of Harlan Coben are constructed in such a way that their problems are easy to see. I also like the fact that they have an inner depth of character derived from drama. In these novels, the moral layer and these little secrets that we hide from our loved ones are very important. I have the impression that the driving force behind these novels are often family secrets that destabilize the lives of the characters. Coben is able to skillfully use the expectations of recipients and plays a game with them. Anyway, it is now such a name, even a brand, that readers and viewers immediately know what to expect.

Leszek Lichota: As for the fact that Coben’s prose is so easily adaptable in different countries, I think this is due to a certain universalism of these stories and the fact that he presents a vision of the world that is easy to understand in the Western world. I am not sure if it would be so easy to adapt his creations in Asia, but we are left with a wide area of ​​America and Europe where we do it quite well, based on the adaptations so far.

Keep calm - a frame from the series


photo: Netflix press materials

You play family on the show, but you only really have a few scenes together. So, I wanted to know how did you build your relationship to be so believable on screen?

Magdalena Boczarska: Then maybe let Krzysztof start, because he messed up the most here.

Krzysztof Oleksyn: Yes, that’s true (laughs). My hero only messed up the events of the series, but his disappearance had an impact on the way I build this character. I have the impression that the few scenes we shared strongly influenced the tone of my protagonist’s dilemma. He really needs this contact with his parents, but he doesn’t know how to ask for it, he doesn’t know how to get the right attention from them. Our lack of contact on the set had a very creative effect on me and allowed me to build up the longing expressed by my hero.

When it comes to building this relationship in the shared scenes, I have to admit that from the very first rehearsal, we felt mutual understanding and chemistry with Magda, and we felt that it was something that simply works.

Magdalena Boczarska: That’s true. I remember that our meeting on the set was preceded by rehearsals, during which we checked whether this report would work at all in our performance. And it surprised me how much Krzysiek took me with his sensitivity. I also did not expect that he would provoke me so, almost to cry, with his approach to this account. I remember that he told me something that later influenced my thinking about this heroine and building the character in general. The point was that we show a moment in the characters’ relationship where the dynamics between them changes. That this is a situation in which they have been the whole world for each other, but suddenly they cease to be so, because the child grows up and changes his view of the surrounding reality. In my opinion, this beautifully shows the wider phenomenon of adolescence and the sense of loss that has to be dealt with. Such a loss of a certain vision of reality in which we are the whole world for the other person and the only point of reference. When this change occurs and we begin to see reality more broadly, both sides must realize that this relationship will not come back to such an extent that the dynamics of this joint contact will completely change. Probably Leszek will tell us more, because he has children growing up himself, but I would like to add from myself that I feel that we managed to write very well in terms of character. Thanks to this, we didn’t have to “play” much in front of the camera, we just were there together and felt that closeness. I felt very safe in this company. I think we had a lot of scope for interesting emotional exploration.

Leszek Lichota: I have a feeling that my starting point for building this relationship is a bit different. My character takes off from a point where he doesn’t care much about Adam’s life. He lives in the conviction that everything is fine, everyone finds themselves in their role and everything works in this family as it should. So everyone can just do their own thing and not worry a bit about the others. However, the situation forces him to change. I have a feeling that in the course of this story my protagonist learns more and more to think about other family members, and not only about himself. He is more attentive and focused on the needs of other people.

Keep calm - a frame from the series


photo: Netflix / Piotr Liwic press materials

A very important thread in the series is the question of trust and its lack. What do you personally feel about what your heroes did? I mean spying on my son. What would you find a solution to the situation in which you are so worried about your child?

Leszek Lichota: Maybe I will actually start, because I have children of a similar age. However, what I will say is mainly that this is an extremely difficult situation and it would be extremely difficult for me to decide what to do. I would not like to be faced with such a choice. Because on the one hand it is clear that I would do anything to ensure the safety of my child, but on the other hand I wonder if the cost of such loss of privacy is worth doing. And isn’t such action more focused on providing yourself with greater comfort? I also cannot answer this question unequivocally. I have the impression that this is too complicated a matter to be able to answer it just like that at the table.

Magdalena Boczarska: I think that is also very interesting about this show. This is the issue of morality and trust in the age of digitization and social media. Life accelerated and the world offered us new tools. This is a double-edged sword. Our parents did not have such opportunities, so there was no question of possible spying. Now that we have such solutions, it is harder to say what we would have done in a crisis situation. It is more difficult to say whether if we had such a solution on a tray, we would reach for it or not? Digitization has dramatically changed the dynamics of our relationships and the way we communicate with each other.

Leszek Lichota: Definitely. When we were kids, we left the house every day, we were gone for a few hours and that was the norm. After all, you also went on trips with friends for a few weeks and at most you sent a card to your parents, which would come after our return. You didn’t even call it all the time, because you often didn’t have a phone. There might have been some concern in the minds of the parents, but there was also consent. Allowing us to be cut off for a while. They also had to believe that we could handle it. Now that contact is so quick and easy, we need it more and more and require the other party to give us an immediate response.

Magdalena Boczarska: On top of that, as we also see in the show itself, everyone is on their phones almost all the time, so this lack of response is a matter of their decision, not of obstructed access.

Krzysztof Oleksyn: I fully agree with you, Leszek. I have the impression that to trust is to take a risk. If we want to build trust in a relationship, we must also take into account that we can fail. I come from a home where I had a lot of freedom, for which I am very grateful. It made me more responsible for the mistakes I made. I cannot imagine a situation where I could be spied on by my parents. It seems to me a shortcut, a half-measure. Such an easy solution that does not require time to build a relationship and trust in these most important aspects.

Keep calm - a frame from the series


photo: Netflix / Piotr Liwic press materials

Is there a moment or scene that you are especially proud of and can’t wait for viewers to see it on the screen?

Leszek Lichota: I don’t have such a scene because I haven’t had a chance to watch the series yet. I remember what we did on set and I am very happy with it, but I know that the art of editing can do a lot of good with it. Also, as a viewer myself, I am very curious how I will perceive this series and what will captivate me in it.

Magdalena Boczarska: I love the scene with Krzysiek in the car. Because the creators took a risk and allowed us to improvise a bit, which strongly influenced the way we build this relationship and our characters. The rest is producer cinema, where we stick to the script and the pages of the novel quite tightly. In this scene, however, we had a bit more freedom and we were able to explore the relationship even more broadly. From the very moment of casting we felt that this was a critical moment in building this story, so I was very pleased that we could explore it so widely. We felt that this scene, in a sense, deserves a lot from our heroes, and if anyone is to believe in this bond between a mother and son, we must find the moment to show this exchange in all its credibility.

Krzysztof Oleksyn: For me, this scene also seemed the most important from the very beginning, and I felt it was very much about my relationship with my mother. I don’t know if Krzysiek was missing something like that, or maybe the character of Adam himself, but the very fact that this scene shows how these characters simply stay together was of great importance to me. Being able to see, not even how they talk to each other, but how they behave in their presence and what their relationship looks like, was, in my opinion, key to building the credibility of this series. Thanks to it, we know where we start from, what is the stake and who actually these heroes are for ourselves.

Magdalena Boczarska: Yes, this scene is a driving force for our characters and not only makes the characters’ motives more credible, but also allows us to see their mutual bond. I especially like that there was some kind of clash and deep understanding between them, and that it was only recently that something happened that changed this dynamics. They themselves do not even know exactly what it is, but they already sense it under the skin.

“Keep Calm” series now available on Netflix.

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