The Soviet Terminator from 'Very Strange Affairs' spoke about the 'evil Russians', the reasons for emigration and difficulties in Hollywood
The third season of “Very Strange Affairs” - the series that beat Netflix's record for the number of spectators in the first days - is dedicated to the struggle of American teenagers not only with monsters from the other world, but also with the Soviet army at the peak of the Cold War.
The main face of the “evil Russians” was the cold-blooded killer Gregory played by Andrey Ivchenko. His image is filled with references to James Cameron's Terminator, released in 1984 year - a year before the events of the third season. TJournal talked with Ivchenko.
Attention! In the text there are spoilers for the storylines of the character Ivchenko and the Soviet scientist Alexei Smirnov, played by Alec Utgoff.
Born in Ukraine, Ivchenko lived in Russia for less than a year and emigrated after returning to his homeland and the collapse of the USSR. First to Europe, then to Canada, and then to the USA. He has already played in several notable projects such as the TV series “The Transporter” and the film “Three X-Men: World Domination”, but it’s “Very Strange Works” that have so far become the high point of his career. In an interview, he spoke about the love of Arnold Schwarzenegger, filming with the Duffer brothers, the reasons for emigration and Hollywood.
During the interview, Ivchenko spoke in Russian with some blotches of English words. We left some of them for authenticity, some were translated for readability.
Links to the hero Schwarzenegger and the very phrase
How would you describe your character in a few words?
I would say that Grigory is a patriot, strangely enough it sounds on this American side (during the conversation Andrey was in the USA - ed). Grigory is a patriot of his country, he is a soldier, he goes and fulfills this mission, in spite of any obstacles.
How much has Arnold Schwarzenegger influenced your acting career? He was your idol as a child?
Yes, of course, as for many, both here and there in the former Soviet Union. I found out about him when I was 13-14. I remember that American films have not been shown yet, but videotapes have begun to appear. Some friends got somewhere a videotape c "Terminator". One friend had a video player, we got together, a 12-13 person, and watched. Then I did not know who he was.
On the subject: 7 Hollywood stars who speak Russian
Then my friend had a familiar sailor on a merchant ship. He brought several editions of the [American fitness magazine] Muscle & Fitness. The magazines were in English, but acquaintances translated them and explained who Schwarzenegger was, where he came from and what he was doing. That is, approximately at the same time I discovered him as an actor and bodybuilder.
You say that English did not know then. Learned when you left Ukraine?
Yes. In the Soviet school, we didn’t particularly teach him, because we thought: "Why should we teach him, you will never leave the Soviet Union anyway." I think that then the majority of schoolchildren did not attach much importance to the English language.
My mother was a librarian, she brought me two large such volumes - the English-Russian and Russian-English dictionary, dictionaries. I was bodybuilding then, so I also tried to translate articles from those magazines about training programs and nutrition. I translated them clumsily, but this was my first experience in English.
I went to Israel, and then to England, where I began to learn English, because I had to communicate with the guys I worked with. Then I went to school, where I continued to learn the language. You read newspapers, you watch programs, even if you don’t understand them - this is generally the best advice for those who want to learn. You keep doing it all, and it slowly comes by itself.
Before the filming of "Very strange cases," you revised the "Terminator"?
No, I didn’t reconsider, because before I went to star in Atlanta, I didn’t even have a clue in which direction [directors, brothers] Duffers would move with this role.
When I arrived and talked with them, it became clear that the whole season, like the previous one, would be nostalgic for 1980. Additionally, as you have already seen, they took fragments of the most popular films and television series in 80's and included them in “Strange Affairs”.
In addition, I watched Schwarzenegger films so many times, so any of them that you can name for me now, I remember by heart. Therefore, I did not need.
What is your favorite movie with Schwarzenegger?
"Terminator" first. I like the second one too, True Lies, Predator. He is all good, but these films put him on the world market and made him the star, which he is now.
When did you first speak with the Duffers, what was the installation they gave you? How did they see your character? Did they tell you something more than just a “Russian military”?
There were no direct installations on Schwarzenegger or the Terminator. Interestingly, people ask this question. We just had a conversation about the course in which the series will be filmed. Schwarzenegger was mentioned, but we were only moving in that direction, since in the season there were references to his character and other films of the time that they want to include.
The duffers have trusted me to make my own choice about this character. I understood that there should be a reference to the “Terminator”, but Gregory is not a terminator, he is a man. I wanted to leave this image, but bring in a little bit of human.
Therefore, for example, during a dialogue with David [Harber, who plays the role of sheriff Jim Hopper], Gregory sometimes smiles, sometimes he has such a mocking tone.
Last on "Terminator". Didn't you want to say at some point: “I'll be back”?
I thought about it. If you remember, in the scene in the basement, they very seriously clicked on "Die Hard." Therefore, at one point I thought: “Maybe they will do and activate some kind of dialogue from the“ Terminator ”.” But this did not happen.
On the subject: How do our actors live in emigration
I said “I'll be back,” but that was after the camera had stopped rolling. When they [Hopper and Joyce] ran out of the basement, jumped into the car and started to leave home ...
You started shooting ...
Yes, when I went out and started shooting. It was a night shoot. We’ve finished filming somewhere in 3 in the morning. And in 6 or in 6: 30 in the morning I had a scheduled flight to Los Angeles. [I had to fly away] for a short period and then return.
When they said that “I wrapped”, it was almost the end of the shooting day. Each director shoots two episodes, at the end everyone applauds him, there was a wrap for the director, a wrap for David, Winona [Ryder, who played the role of Joyce Byers]. Then there was a wrap for me: the team meets and applauds. But before leaving, I turned and said: "I'll be back." Everyone was so excited, they started screaming. That is, I had the opportunity, and I used it, but, of course, not on the screen.
Casting unknown where and change the script for Ivchenko
Did you follow “Very strange things” before you got there?
From the first season. I don't even remember how I started watching. Someone told me or I saw an advertisement somewhere. Looked at the trailer, it looks fine. I think we should give a chance. And from the very first season he became a fan. I watched the first, then waited for the second. Then came the second, watched the second. Like most viewers on Earth.
How did you get on the show? Did Netflix find you? Or did you yourself seek this role?
Maybe you know, here in the States there is only such agents for managers and managers. Breakdown Services is called. My manager came to this site in the morning, as she does during the week. Began to watch what roles are. There is a basic list, and with a margin in small print, other options are written in a very general context.
That is, there is even the name of the series, probably not?
There was nothing at all. Simply stated that Russian actors are required for a large variety of projects, films and television series in 2018 year. Everything.
Many agents and managers do not pay much attention to this, so some actors miss opportunities. And my manager sent there all my data. They accepted and said that before such and such a time we need to make a record and send it to the office. What I did.
You usually have one day. If it's two days, it's a luxury. We were given enough time, and then we waited a couple of weeks, maybe a little less. The casting director called my manager, after which I went to the office and did the same.
All this time you didn’t know what you were listening to?
Did not know at all. I'll tell you more, I just missed this moment. They sent two audition. One was a villain, no, they called the interrogator, that is, the person who interrogates. And the second was such a laboratory assistant, that is, such a nerd.
So you also tried the second part played by Alec Utgoff?
Yes Yes Yes. But I knew that I would not get the role of lab assistant. I went into the room, 240 pounds (108 kilograms), and I see that there are little guys sitting there who, unlike me, look like a professor. I made [demo tapes] two roles, but when I received a call back, they told me that in the office I had to portray only the interrogator.
At what point did you find out why all this is happening?
Four or five days passed. My manager received an email stating that I was taken on the role.
What was your reaction?
She called me and said: "Guess what happened now." I say that I do not know, and she answers me: “They took you to this role, and this is“ Very strange things. ” I was shocked. I asked her again, saying: “Are you sure?”. Of course, I was very happy.
At first we were told that the role would be only for two or three episodes. Then negotiations began with my lawyer, the manager. But the Duffers liked me so much that they crossed it all out, returned to the script, rewrote it and included me in seven episodes. After that, I just waited for the shooting to begin and I will be cured in Atlanta.
Have you already watched the third season?
I looked the third season somewhere else two or three weeks before the release. Netflix made special codes for the whole team and sent us so that we could see what product it turned out.
Filming: Eleven, Hopper and Starcourt
What impressed you most about working with Netflix?
It was the best set I worked for. I filmed for almost seven months. We had to finish in five, but because of the weather in Atlanta — it rains in the fall — a little extended shooting.
[Left] only the best experiences with Netflix. The whole team immediately took me to the family. The duffers are very ... I have not worked before with people who are so fanatically and so closely perceive what they are doing. When you're not on the set, they are very relaxed, jokes, jokes. But at work they immediately become very focused and very seriously control the process.
For example, we filmed an episode with a fair, there were two teams. The coordinator, who was in the second unit, came to the first and checked on the monitor what was taken and how. He said: “This is good, and this we absolutely will remove. Wait, when we have time, we will come and we will control this process. ” They are very professional even for very small matters, very small details.
Very small matters - this is well said.
Yes, I made a reservation. They very carefully select what they like. When you watch a show, maybe you don’t even pay attention to it. But they notice it and say: "We will re-take it all again, because this little detail was not done as we wanted."
On the subject: Famous actors who disappeared from the screens
What Netflix did with Starcourt Mall and the Russian base is phenomenal. It was incredible to look at it: how much money they spent and how amazing this finished product looked.
What did Starcourt look like with your eyes?
How do you see Starcourt Mall in “Very Weird Things,” as he was in Atlanta's 80s. There went families, shopped, watched movies, it was a very popular place.
Then he became obsolete: more popular malls opened around Atlanta, and people lost interest in him. Netflix found and restored most of this mall: all these shops, fountains, cinemas. This is phenomenal, this is the most expensive set that Netflix generally made.
In public, for example, in Beyond Stranger Things, child actors look very relaxed and open. What are they in real life?
Exactly the same. I think that they are not even very different from their characters in "Very strange things." They are just as relaxed, liberated, they talk to you and joke. And they are not the same children as they were in the first and second season. Now they have grown, they are teenagers, they have other interests. But the personality remained the same.
What was it like working with them? Though they are children, but already incredible stars.
I did not have direct scenes with them, but I communicated with them. They are excellent, educated guys, they know manners. It is easy and pleasant to talk with them, despite the difference in age. They think like little adults.
Millie Bobby Brown is also no longer a child?
Already a young lady like that.
Did you give her any advice or she to you?
No, we just talked outside the set. And they didn’t even talk about the production of the film, so talk about nothing.
The one with whom you had a lot of scenes was with David Harbor. Can you call him your best friend on the court?
Of course, we have such a good bond formed. We became friends. He is a great guy, high class professional. Suppose if he didn’t like something in his scene, he says: “Let's make another take”.
We spent a lot of time with him on the set and talked about many things. He analyzes the role for a long time, in ideas with Duffers he puts forward ideas, tells them: "I would do it this way." And even if the Duffers say: "Or maybe we will go the other way," he replies: "No, let's try this option, and if it doesn't work, we will make yours."
Brett Gelman, who played a private detective and conspiracy therapist Murray Bauman, really learned to speak Russian for this role?
Yes, he worked with a tutor to speak Russian. And he, as you saw, did a very good job with this task.
Hollywood, unfortunately, often chooses Americans to play Russians. And when many American actors try to speak Russian phrases, it turns out to be gibberish, you know, abracadabra. As a result, the Russian audience does not understand what they want to say.
I told Brett at the afterparty after the premiere that he coped perfectly, because almost every word that he spoke in Russian, I understood without straining.
Did you talk with Alec Utgoff during the shooting?
Yes, we had a lot of scenes together. We talked and still sometimes correspond with each other, but he is in England, and I am here.
He is not offended at you for the fact that you killed him?
So many people actually took it to heart. Many people joke, but many people write to me on social networks: “We hate you because you killed Alexei” and all that. I hope that most understand that this is just a game, but in real life we are very good buddies.
Evil Russians and the role of stereotypes in “Very strange deeds”
Did you tell any film crew how cranberry were some parts of the storyline about the Soviet Union, about the Cold War?
I told. There was a lot of consultation with the Duffers. Regarding clothes, I also gave a lot of advice, too: that Russians love, that in 1980's was popular in the Soviet Union. We also discussed some clichés with the Duffers. I gave advice on the behavior of Russians, on how Russians behave in a given situation. Suppose they would smile at this joke or not.
All this was said, and I explained that some scenes turned out to be cranberry. But sometimes it is simply conceived so that these scenes look exactly as you see them on the screen.
Sometimes they shoot here without even thinking about how the Russian audience will perceive something. Therefore, many American producers need guides that will explain everything.
There are still a lot of stereotypes about Russians since the 1990's: these Adidas tracksuits, leather jackets. And you are trying to explain to them that these chains with crosses, shaved heads - even criminal authorities in Russia do not look like that now, this era has passed.
I had a lot of talk with producers about how they should think with new criteria. If you want to show today's crime in Russia, then it can no longer be a criminal with gold teeth and crosses.
How does the criminal world look in Russia from your point of view as an actor?
Half of the criminals that were in 90's legalized. They have businesses, these businesses are all legal. Even the criminals who stayed criminals wear suits for 3-5 thousand dollars, Rolex rides on good cars. But all the same [with American producers] that image still prevails: they see this type of the nineties and carry it to the screen. To break this stereotype, it will take some time.
The stereotypes that we saw in “Very Strange Affairs” are an irony over the attitude of the Americans during the Cold War to the Russians. People who think so are right?
There are certain stereotypes, I will not prevaricate, but these same stereotypes exist in the Russian box office.
Yes, of course.
That is, this is a mutual action by the Americans and by the Russians. Do not forget that the production of films and television series - is, first of all, a big entertainment business.
In order to make money, what is needed? Attract as much audience as possible, right? How will you attract more audience on the American side? Let's bring the Russians to this film or series, let's make a standoff. The same on the Russian side. Let's bring the Americans there and make a standoff. But, of course, it is very important how well the story is written, what dialogs.
On the subject: Russian actors and directors in America
If part of the Russian audience sees that Americans deliberately make Russians so bad, I disagree with that a bit, because 1985 is the peak of the Cold War for a year. The battle of two superpowers for world domination on Earth and in space, each country is doing everything possible. There were also spies - one of the main elements in this game.
The cold war was in full swing, so it’s logical enough for the Duffers to bring this theme into the new season. They also wanted to show the new season in a different light.
There is no black and white, understand? Many people see the only way - either it is positive or it is negative. But this business is a bit more complicated. And you must use all the elements to make this business a success.
Did you like the fact that your story was finished that way?
All the characters I play die at the end. For some reason they are constantly being killed. Of course, I want, especially in such a television series, to stay alive and go for the next season. But the Duffers had such an idea - and I like the way they finished. How all this final fight with David, the special effects, the dialogue is done - everything is done amazingly.
Of course, I would like to stay alive. But this is sci-fi: you never know what might happen. Actually, I think that this whole season, including the ending, was the strongest of all three.
Childhood in the USSR, the army and emigration
Let's go back. Did you only live in Ukraine in your childhood? In Russia there is no?
I lived a little bit in Russia. You're in Petersburg, right?
I studied there for a bit. After eight classes I went to study, because I was very seriously engaged in sambo. My friend studied in the shipbuilding school with a construction bias on football. I and another friend of mine, a footballer, went there. I studied there for five or six months. Somehow the third or fourth year came to beat us, but everything turned out the opposite. We won this fight. And after that many students, including me, left.
You have returned to Ukraine. Remember the moment, whether in Russia or Ukraine, when you first came into contact with American pop culture in any of its forms? Movies, books, comics, whatever?
In my childhood in the Soviet Union, American films were not shown at all. Censorship, the Cold War, all these things. I do not know how these films slipped through this censorship, but sometimes we showed very old westerns with John Wayne. I remember, I watched a black and white film, it was over, time to go to sleep. And when my mother put me to bed, I told her: "Mom, someday I will live in America." And this I was five years old.
We did not have American films, but the Baltic States, the GDR and Czechoslovakia were making Western-style films. And I watched it all. When the warming began, the 86-87 years, as part of the Moscow Film Festival, American films began to be shown for a very limited time, say, a week or two. Approximately then I began to absorb this culture, walk and watch these films.
You spent two years in the USSR army, right?
Your main impression - good or bad - for these two years.
It was very hard. I served near Moscow, in Shcherbinka. They took me to the air force. Brought to the school, which was in Solnechnogorsk. I spent about five months there. Then there was the disbanding, more precisely, the "buyers" came - to buy soldiers for different parts. My father was an artist, and I painted since childhood, so one buyer took me to Scherbinka, but all these artistic abilities did not go there far.
I served in the company of protection: we guarded secret objects in case of war. There were not enough people at that moment. And instead of working on a normal schedule, we went to the guard station for four to five days. There we had a guard, in my opinion, the five o'clock. You had to go to the guard, eat and sleep for three or four hours, and then return to the post.
I saw that a lot of guys could not stand it, and according to the psychological state they were assigned to the commission. So busy schedule was. It was hard, but I believe that every young man must go through this school, because it develops discipline. The nature of the young man becomes completely different when he goes into the army - he becomes a man and returns home with completely different concepts. I think this is a good experience.
How did acting appear in your life? Apparently, nothing is assumed.
I would not say that, you know, I have loved films since childhood. I enthusiastically watched all Soviet films and - then they were not called television series - television films, for example, “17 moments of spring”. I still had the idea to become an actor.
But I never seriously attached any importance to this until the moment when we had a teacher in high school who was an actress in a local theater. She decided to make a theater group and stage performances. I became part of this circle. For about two or three years, we played on the school scene.
After I left school and went to the army, another life began, the Soviet Union collapsed. All this disruption and anarchy over 10 years. We had to somehow survive and earn some money.
What year did you leave Ukraine?
In 1999. After moving from one country to another, I went to Canada for permanent residence, and there my thought [to become an actor] took shape in my work. There I began to do extra-work in the crowd, I worked a little as a stuntman. Then he reorganized into action, learned a little and began to play in various TV shows and movies.
In one of the interviews you said that you left Ukraine, because there was neither work, nor money. But you did not say how difficult it was for you to decide to leave. Was it a difficult step for you?
Honestly, no. The situation was so hopeless in the truest sense of the word. For example, one friend worked as a bodyguard for the director of a meat and grocery store, who, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, bought up several points and became a businessman. It's like an accessory, at that time it was very fashionable - if you have money, you have a bodyguard.
So, he worked as a bodyguard for 30 dollars a month. Do you understand how desperate the situation was? That is, when I came from the army, it was almost impossible to find a job. People could not even find work to clean toilets in public places or offices for 10 dollars per month.
Then the situation was a little balanced, but still nothing improved. Everything was so bad that no, there was no problem for me to say: it’s time to leave, because here I don’t see a future, I don’t see life, I don’t know when this will change for the better and when people will live more or less fine.
If you were now offered to return with the same fees, would you return?
No, I think I would not return. When I left, I was a different person. I came to the West and assimilated, became a part of this society. I even have the Russian language now [not at the best level]: in a conversation with you, I choose words, because here almost 99,9% of the time I speak English.
I have several Russian friends: one lives in Moscow, another - in England, the third - in Ukraine, one or two live in Toronto, we correspond sometimes. I talk to my mother every week. But for me, the whole mentality has changed.
I am a part of this society, so why start again from a clean page, move? Even with fees. I think, in Ukraine now is the same as in Russia. You know how big cities live - St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Odessa. You leave these cities, you go somewhere in the hinterland and you understand that there people make ends meet.
The life of a Russian-speaking actor in Hollywood and interference with the role of a dream
What is the hardest thing for you as an actor in Hollywood?
Every year a million people come to Los Angeles ... not just a million people, but a million people who want to become actors. Every second person you talk to in LA is a lawyer, a doctor, a salesman - they are all actors or screenwriters. I often ask myself: “Why?”. You are a doctor, you get several million a year, you have a good life. Why do you still try to be an actor? I think people think a little irrational here.
It's hard enough to get through if you just try to be an actor and you have no background in another field of activity. You take acting classes, walk, practice, focused only on this. Units make the way.
That is, the main thing is competition.
Huge, huge competition. Everyone wants to be actors or screenwriters, everyone has some projects, everyone does something, promotes somewhere. But this business is hard on its own.
For a Russian speaker [this is the case]. On the one hand, you have advantages, because you have an accent, you speak Russian - these two components separate you from the main mass. But on the other side of the scale is that Hollywood companies can take on the American role of Russian. And, as we said, it will be gibberish. The Russian audience will clutch at the head, say: "Ugh, why?".
And you ask yourself: “Should I continue to do this if they choose Americans for Russian roles?”. I had such a story, I did audition on the Modern Family ("American Family"). Do you know this show?
Yes, of course.
They needed to select two people who would play Russian gangsters. I came, I looked, and I understood that I knew all Russians there: if you walked through offices several times here, you already know everyone. Some people have Eastern European background, for example, the family moved or he. And [at the audition] there are some people who have nothing to do with Eastern Europe at all - the Australians, the Americans, the British.
I auditioned, I received a callback, I returned to the office, for the second round there was a 15-20 man. They put us in pairs, because they need two Russian gangsters. They put me with an Australian - he is so chubby, with big cheeks. He says: "I practiced Russian." We begin to work, and all his practice disappears. He gets lost and starts talking gibberish.
Nothing, we practiced, I told him how to pronounce this and that. We show this scene in front of the producers. They laugh, everything is fine. We leave and wait. Then the producers go out and say: "Those whose names I call remain." And they don't call me.
In the end, it turns out that these two Russian roles were taken by an Australian, with whom I worked, and another guy, whose family moved from the Czech Republic when he was a small child. That is, he knows a few words in Czech, but he grew up as an American. My manager calls the office, and the producers say: “We really liked Andrew very, very much, we are delighted. But we took this guy, an Australian, because he looks funny. ”
Such criteria. You do not even know how to react to it. But the situation here is changing towards the best. You know what Hollywood movies used to be? You have a Chinese story, but they could have taken a Korean, who speaks Korean, playing a Chinese role. In 80-90's, this was normal, but many did not understand this language.
Now the Chinese part of Americans will say: "This is not Chinese, this is Korean." And the Turkish part of Americans will say: "This is not a Turk, this is someone else." But the Russian part is more silent, they are not as vocal as other nationalities.
The situation is beginning to change, but many still do everything the old-fashioned way. It is very hard to rebuild. But, as you can see, the Daffers for Russian roles chose all Russians. Even people who had one sentence were Russians. Projects like “Very Weird Things” have a very positive effect on change.
Judging by your instagram, you are now at the peak of popularity. Do you feel this?
I feel it very much and I am very shocked by this. Every day now I’m gaining around two thousand followers. A lot of posts on Instagram and Facebook. When the phone starts to show all these notifications, the battery sits down.
Have you already been recognized on the streets as Gregory?
They found out, came up on the streets. I trained, a personal trainer came up and said: “Sorry, I don’t want to tear you away from training. Just want to say that you did an excellent job and made me hate your character. ”
Most of the time you play the bad guys. In an interview about seven years ago, you were asked about the role you would like to play, and you answered that you want to try everything. During these seven years, have you had any particular role for a dream?
There is no specifics, but I would still like to play a good guy who would still be alive at the end. Already tired of constantly dying, we should continue to live.
I like the action-genre and I would like to realize myself in this direction. Diverse actors one, two and miscalculated. Each has its own niche and the audience is determined to a particular genre. For example, Jason State, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Travolta, Brad Pitt.
Hollywood has already passed that moment when Asians or actors of other nationalities were only bad. Now the good guys can play people of any nationality, except Russian. Hollywood needs to go and this line. That is, I would like to play - regardless of the genre - a good guy who, I don't know, helps someone, saves the world or a child.
stdClass Object ([term_id] => 1 [name] => Miscellaneous [taxonomy] => category [slug] => no_theme)Miscellaneous
stdClass Object ([term_id] => 236 [name] => Hollywood [taxonomy] => post_tag [slug] => gollivud)Hollywood
stdClass Object ([term_id] => 10302 [name] => actors [taxonomy] => post_tag [slug] => aktery)actors
stdClass Object ([term_id] => 13337 [name] => Our people [taxonomy] => category [slug] => nashi-ludi)Our people
stdClass Object ([term_id] => 13386 [name] => our people [taxonomy] => post_tag [slug] => nashi-ludi)our people
Read also on ForumDaily:
Do you want more important and interesting news about life in the USA and immigration to America? Subscribe to our page in Facebook. Choose the "Display Priority" option and read us first. And don't forget to subscribe to ForumDaily Woman and ForumDaily New York - there you will find a lot of interesting and positive information.