„Let’s just live day by day now” – an exclusive interview with actress Szonja Oroszlán

Culture Global

Szonja Oroszlán had a magical actress career in Hungary that started in 2002. A day after she had earned her diploma at the University of Theatre and Film Arts, Budapest, she started to shoot in a movie Kind of America (Valami Amerika). The film turned into one of the biggest Hungarian comedy box-office successes of all time and Szonja became a nationally well-known actress overnight. Fifteen years later Szonja felt that she reached a milestone in her life and made a surprising decision: she moved to the USA. We asked the actress about her decision, her American lifestyle and her future plans. 

Most of the actresses move to LA to get as close as as they can to Hollywood. You decided to move to Philadelphia in 2O15. And you’ve never moved to LA… Could you tell me something about the reason why you never decided to move to LA?

– I did not move to the US to pursue acting, I moved here to take a break from it. I moved to Philadelphia because it’s a wonderful city, it’s come a long way these past couple of years. It’s full of history, old buildings, museums, arts, culture and fine dining. It’s very livable and has a unique European vibe to it. I also have family here. And last but not least, it’s on the East Coast, so I get to fly home realtively often. LA was never even an option. 


What is your American lifestyle? What is your daily routine in an avarage day?

– I work at two universities at the moment (Jefferson and University of Pennsylvania) at the clinical skills department, helping teach, train and test medical students on their interpersonal communication skills. The position entails simulating doctor-patient encounters that are analized, evaluated and graded. The students also get a face to face feedback after each session. Americans take communication very seriously, there is an entire faculty and simulation center for this program to help students be better at getting through to patients, build a good relationship and create a welcoming environment even in the most difficult or critical situations. With Covid-19 I do all of my work online, in chat rooms. 


How often you visit Hungary? 

– I go home every 4-6 months. Also, I’ve done two movies in Hungary, two consecutive years, so I would spend almost 6-7 weeks at home working. It’s always good to be home. I am open to shooting more films, so anytime there is a need for me I’d be happy to hop on a plane and go. 


I’ve seen on the IMdb, that you had a busy last couple of years – you were shooting a lot in the US. Does it  mean that your American career is rising?

– Honestly, I haven’t really tried to have a carrier here. I did audition for a few theatrical plays and movies to get some work done here and get the green card sooner. I came here with an O1 Visa, I could only work in my field, so I had to find acting jobs. I was very persistent, but also lucky and had the opportunity to work both in theatre and independent films. It was a great experience and I’ve made some really good friends. 


What do you think about to be a Hungarian actress in the USA? What are your work experiences? 

– The theatrical world I would have to say is quite the same. The craft is the same, a stage is a stage, the language is different. But, my Mom, who went to school here in the US, spoke English to me when I was born and carried on for years and years, gave me the gift of speaking English as if it were my native language. Moved here are shot the same way, obvioulsy depending on the budget. But I have worked in Hollywood productions in Budapest a few times. It’s nice to have different locations while shooting. “Kecksburg”, the movie I shot here last year was shot in rural Pennsylvania in a town that somehow still has the feel you are stuck in the 1960s.The cars, the buildings, the diners, everything is from the past. It was such a fun experience. 


Have you progressed in your US-acting career as you have expected? 

– When I moved here I decided to go back to school and study something I’ve always been interested in and excited about. Animal medicine and animal health. I started a Veterinary Assistant Program that lasted two years. Got a job at a nearby animal hospital, did my extership there and got certified last year. I worked there as a veterinary technician, assisting with all kinds of procedures, dentals and other surgeries, but going on home visits, also doing lab work, x-rays etc. Working with animals has been a dream of mine since I was a child. 


You had a shining career in Hungary and when you left the country, the magazines wrote about you as one of the most beautiful, talented actress, also you had a huge fun-base. Do you miss from your daily life that fame in the USA what you had in Hungary?

– I would not use past tense when speaking of my career in Hungary. I still shoot movies ( Valami Amerika 3 in 2017 and Kölcsönlakás in 2018), hopefully there will be more in the years to come. I do a lot of interviews for magazines, radio and tv channels, online portals etc and I keep talking to people in my industry, directors, producers etc. about future projects. The only thing that is different is that I don’t do theater on a weekly basis. But, I’ve done so much in the past twenty years, it’s also nice to take a break once in a while, focus on oneself, get new impulses and grow as a person. 


However you reguraly  perform  in theatres also and the audience can see you in classic characters, in your famous role (Valami Amerika 1-3) you had to play a „stupid blondie”. Have you ever been worried to be stereotyped by this role in the Hungarian filmbuisness?

– Yes, I was type cast for several years in a row. I don’t see that as a bad thing. Valami Amerika 1 was a sensation. I barely got out of acting school and I became famous overnight. Work started pouring in. I haven’t really stopped until pretty much now. I was very lucky with all of my the roles, I wouldn’t change a thing. You grow out of a stereotypes after a while. Now I’m in the in between phase, that is quite common for actresses in their fourties. You are not the young, naive little girl anymore, but not yet the mother type. It takes time to transfer I think. That is why I am using this phase to learn and do other things. Life is full of opportunities. You don’t have to cling to one thing endlessly. 


Tell me something  that I may not know from reading your resume.

– My veterinary studies and also, I am working on a horse body work/massage therapist certificate at the moment. I can’t seem to stop schooling myself and learning new things. My goal is animal rehabilitaion. 


What sort of acting roles will you be seeking in the future? What are your future plans?

– Let’s just live day by day now. Life is full of surprises, I’ve never really been a planner and I like it this way. Right now the only thing we can really do is focus on oneself, observe, grow and opportunities will present themselves.


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