What It’s Like to Be an Actress in Haiti: Nadege Telfort Speaks Out
Nadege Telfort has played more than a dozen women, and all of them have been strong women like herself. One of the leading actresses based in Haiti, the Cap Haitien-born Telfort says she got her start in the entertainment business as a model. Claire Ronalde, a cousin of hers, had a clothing store and she modeled that store’s offerings. This led to other gigs modeling for designers in Port-au-Prince. After flirting with the banking and corporate industry, Telfort says she auditioned for a hosting gig for a show called “CrazyMax” on one of Haiti’s leading television networks Telemax.
While working at the television station, Telfort was cast in La Face de L’Ombre [The Face of Darkness], then earned roles in movies like Le President a-t-il Le Sida[Does The President Have AIDS?], Player 1/2, and Vocation.
Today, in addition to being an actress, she’s also an entrepreneur, having gotten off the ground Hisbicus International Agency, a firm she calls “an alternative talent agency with a new artistic philosophy”. The agency most recently took part in the second annual edition of Haiti Fashion Week.
How did you get interested in acting? As a child watching the film Le Governeur de la Rosee [based on] Jacques Roumain’s novel. I was amazed by the simplicity of the actress Jessy Alphonse. My mother used to hide my eyes when there were adult scenes [Laughter], while explaining only the parts that I could understand. Then there was another click with Anita from a director named Rassoul Labuchin. Seeing Marjorie playing her role so perfectly—I saw myself in her [place]. I knew the majority of her [lines] by heart…but when I told my mother that I wanted to be an actress when I grew up, she simply told me: “I’d rather you be a doctor.” And the conversation stopped there. Now, years later when I was working at Telemax, I met Catherine Hubert who just asked me if I wanted to play an important character in her movie. I was chosen because of my shocking resemblance with one of her paintings, and that painting would end up being the movie poster. So, I agreed and went to the casting and the adventure begun.
So, in La Face de L’Ombre, you played a young woman who resorts to supernatural means to get what she wants. I was in front of professionals during the shooting for La Face de L’Ombre—my very first time on a movie set. After the shoot, [the Director of Photography] Richard Senecal looked at me and told me: “Congratulations Nadege, you are a one-take girl”, and I will never forget that day.
What’s your latest project? My Latest project is the movie: Mon Dieu, Mon Amour, the story of two friends who are prostitutes and who are aware of their lifestyle of debauchery and decide to convert [to Christianity].
Can you tell us how you came to be involved with this film? The main casting was already completed, but from the first scenes, the team was not satisfied with the actress who was interpreting the role of Jeannette, so Edner Jean—who was the producer—began looking for someone else for this role…a very important role. I was invited to audition by the lead actress, who is also a friend. I must say that Edner was more than satisfied.
Which actresses do you look up to? Jessy Alphonse from Le Gouverneur de la Rosée; Toto Bissainthe—she was a true and pure goddess to me. And I used to love Sophia Loren, Charlize Theron and, of course, the legendary Joan Collins.
What advice do you have for aspiring actresses? Stay positive and know that it takes time to achieve your goals. Take your craft seriously. Find acting classes to take. Study other actors/actress that you admire; stay in shape and stay positive.
What are your thoughts on the current state of Haitian movies? Personally, I think that The Haitian movie industry is fighting to be reborn from its ashes. But since the earthquake, we’ve lost all the movie theaters that we had. Production in Haiti could be better. We have good actors, producers, directors. We have good actors who have studied abroad and are back to work in their country. We have good students at Cine Institut in Jacmel. But in spite of all that hard work in filmmaking in Haiti, people are leaving their feature film [scripts] in a drawer because of the fact that we don’t have any movie theaters. This worsens the already sickly state of our film industry.
When you’re presented with a script, and you decide that you like it, and you decide to take on the role…how do you approach the whole process of bringing the character to life? The actor must discover the essence of the character and project that essence to the audience. I always use the script to help me [gather] all types of information about the character and fabricate what the script does not tell me. When an actor is playing a character in theater, TV or film, they should know their character as well as they know themselves, so they can just exist and live. As an actor you have to plant those memories, anecdotes and back stories. And sometimes I use the Stanislavsky method.
How do you handle fame? To me, fame is not the most important thing in life. I have fans everywhere, and I love it. If you are a true Haitian who really supports Haitian artist there’s a bunch of good actors and actresses, singers, musicians that you really cannot miss anywhere they go…But I wanna take advantage of my little “fame power” to draw attention to causes I feel strongly about. That’s why I decided to support women at L’Acul du Nord through the Nadege Telfort Foundation. We will work on health and education. The foundation will be operational at the end of this year.
And what should we expect from Nadege Telfort in the future? I will play lead in a 3D movie project Pour l’Amour d’un Caco. And I will also work on a movie called The Lights of the Forgotten, a 99 Ways Entertainment production, and of course, Hibiscus will have a lot of beautiful surprises.