We interview News of the World star Helena Zengel about her role as a young child raised by Kiowa Indiana, working with Tom Hanks and others.
In the upcoming western World news, December 25, Civil War veteran Jefferson (Tom Hanks) is tasked with delivering a young girl named Johanna (Helena Zengel) to her remaining family members. Raised in the Kiowa tribe since childhood, she speaks little and has much to learn about the outside world.
The young actress spoke to Screen Rant about what she learned from the Kiowa tribe as she prepared for her role and what advice she received from Tom Hanks.
This has to be a tough role on paper, because your character doesn’t have a lot of communication; a lot is through your eyes. Can you talk to me about any type of training you have prepared for this?
Helena Zengel: Yes, there was a lot of training. It was three weeks; every day, one and a half hours of learning Kiowa. And then also an understanding of culture and why it also doesn’t speak, and doesn’t actually understand English. It was great. And it was also very funny to play that role, because every day on set – I think I’m a loud person and a person who likes people and being in public and also talking. It was a fun experience not to talk in the movie.
Your character grew up with the Kiowa tribe. What did you learn about their history and what surprised you the most?
Helena Zengel: I learned a lot about the history and culture of Kiowa, preparing the language as well. For example, I learned to sit in a circle and really live, as we would expect, sitting by the fireplace, singing and riding horses every day, not going to school and sleeping in tents. It’s really the way you see it in the movies, which is so interesting.
Also, to hear their story about the time when they lost land and land, which was very, very interesting and sometimes very sad. I think we should really respect them, because as white people we have taken a country that I don’t think is so beautiful. It was interesting to hear their story.
They were also on set for one part of the film. Can you talk to me about working with them and getting to know the members of the tribe in person?
Helena Zengel: It was really fun and great to meet them and also know how they live and know how they are.
You have to act alongside one of the greatest actors of our generation, Tom Hanks. Is there anything you’ve learned just by watching it work and seeing its process?
Helena Zengel: Yes, of course. One important thing is that he really showed me that I really should be good and kind to everyone. His advice was to show up on time, be kind and know your views. Also that you should not worry about the weather; just do what helps others perform the role.
Can you talk to me about the process of collaborating with Paul Greengrass, he’s an amazing director, and the novel has also adapted the script. Can you talk to me about how to work with him and how he helped inform your character?
Helena Zengel: Yes, he is a very great guy. He is very kind and affectionate. He is also someone who takes my ideas and puts them into the story and the stage if I was sure. If I was good, he was good.
Western shooting, in the past, can be quite difficult. Can you talk to me about some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced because you couldn’t control the elements and didn’t use a lot of CGI?
Helena Zengel: Well, of course, it was hard to shoot. We fired for a long time; we had hard days and long days, and also very interesting days full of learning and acting. That was great. For me, I have to say, it starts working if I have to wait. In fact, a lot of work is great for me. I always want to say longer on set, so I think it’s easy to be close to people.
More: Paul Greengrass interview for World News
- World news (2020)Release date: December 25, 2020
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