Interview – Kika Magalhães

Few get to follow their dreams, and even have those dreams fulfilled. Making a bold move, a young, ambitious Kika Magalhães left behind her family and home in Portugal in recent years to purse a career in acting in the United States. At first not even knowing where she would find shelter, Magalhães has since found herself out in Los Angeles, California on the verge of becoming a movie star.

Starring in several projects between 2012 and 2017, Magalhães teamed up with talented aspiring Film Director Nicolas Pesce as the leading role for The Eyes of My Mother. A film which earned mounds of praise at film festivals in 2016, The Eyes of My Mother earned distribution this year with Magnolia Pictures. Easily one of the best Horror-themed films of 2017, Magalhães’ performance as Francisca is riveting and dark. Now ready to take the next step in her career, Magalhães sat down to talk her move to America, the work put into The Eyes of My Mother, future plans, and much more. – You have been involved in a list of film projects in recent years. First, tell us briefly, what inspired you to get involved in cinema?

Kika Magalhães – Just a passion for acting, that was the first impulse to get involved. I’ve always had a passion for acting and a motivation to inspire others. I want to makes movies that have a message and make a difference. What a better way than by telling stories, right? – Absolutely. One of your biggest projects came with the film The Eyes of My Mother where you take the leading role as Francisca. How did this part come about for you?

Kika Magalhães – I worked with Nicolas Pesce in a music video. He liked the way that I worked on that music video, so he kind of wrote the role for me. When I first got to know The Eyes of My Mother, it was just ten pages of a script. That was great because being part of a project in the early stages, I saw it grow. I learned so much about the production of movie-making, how to develop a character, and how to write a script. I was involved in all the pre-production and development of the movie, which was great. – It sounds quite compelling. The film is very good, it is quite a dark, yet beautiful film. The subject matter is real-to-life and also very disturbing. What was it like for you to get into the role of Francisca?

Kika Magalhães – It was interesting, because when I got involved in this project, I was going through some stuff myself. I’m from Portugal and I moved to America to pursue an acting career. As a new person in a new country, sometimes you go through loneliness, missing my family, problems with visas, and all that. When I got involved in the project, I was going through some emotional stuff myself. It was kind of an interesting time, I kind of felt like Francisca. (Laughs) When I got involved in the project, I kind of used that whole stuff I was going through myself for the character. Then I did a lot of research on killers, I watched a lot of Horror movies. I read a lot about Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, all those people, and I was going a little crazy myself. (Laughs)

The Eyes of My Mother still. – So you harnessed your real-life experience into the character?

Kika Magalhães – Yes. – That does not get more real than that. This film falls under a variety of categories including Horror. In reality, this is really more a story of solitude and the madness one can be driven to. Do you feel that is an accurate assessment?

Kika Magalhães – Yeah, I don’t think the movie’s Horror. There’s not much gore, there’s no open bodies or anything like that. I think the movie’s just a really sad Drama, and as you said, it could totally be a real story. – Yes, and adding to the film’s effect is that it is shot in black & white. There is some really stunning cinematography here, as well. What was it like working with Nicolas?

Kika Magalhães – It was really awesome. We’d had a relationship before the movie started , so we were already close friends. It was an awesome experience. We all remained together, the whole crew. We all lived together in this beautiful house close to the set in Cooperstown. It was just a wonderful experience because the crew already knew each other; they were all schoolmates from NYU and this was the first movie for all of them. It was like just a bunch of friends working together and everyone was super friendly. I didn’t see anyone stressing out or fighting with someone else. If I was going through the emotional stuff because of the character, they would all be around me and bring me blankets and cake. (Laughs) It was just a wonderful experience. – It sounds like it was a wonderful experience, especially for being a debut feature film. You mentioned you stayed in a house in Cooperstown. These are all beautiful locations. When it is in black & white, it is hard to determine where the film was shot. For all we know, it could be somewhere else in the country or outside the country like Europe.

Kika Magalhães – Yeah, that was kind of the point. We shot in Cooperstown and, as I mentioned before, the point of the movie was that people wouldn’t really know where it is; somewhere hidden in America.

The Eyes of My Mother still. – Like you said, this really is not a Horror movie, per se: it is more a study of the human psyche. How are we to know how we would react in a similar situation? Your character was isolated, you did not know anything of the outside world. In some ways, Francisca is a very sympathetic character. Did you try to put yourself in her shoes? Did it change your perception of loneliness?

Kika Magalhães – Absolutely, the movie taught me a lot. Just like you said, it’s the study of the human psyche. In this case, she was a serial killer, but the reason she was doing it was because she was not a criminal but mostly a victim. This movie taught me a lot because we are so quick to judge other people. This person did this horrible thing, but maybe some people do horrible things because something horrible happened to them.

I think it’s really great that Nick showed the childhood of Francisca and what happened to her with her mother – her mother was killed in front of her. That depicts the whole picture of how Francisca grew up. I think that’s really important, because if we wouldn’t have seen that, we would have been like, “This person’s mad crazy,” instead of “Oh, this person has a reason she was like that.”  I think that’s just a beautiful message in the movie that everyone is a victim. – It is true. We are what we are taught, we are what our atmosphere is around us.

Kika Magalhães – Everything she was doing was coming from a place of love. She was just desperate to find love, she just didn’t know how to express that. She was doing what she was taught. – Yes. Speaking of which, Francisca appears very close with the mother character in the film. Although, the father figure is a very interesting character: he does not show much emotion. What is the story behind that, why was his character so cold?

Kika Magalhães – Maybe one of the hidden messages is maybe the father isn’t her real father or is the mother is not her real mother? It’s just some things the audience needs to think about. I know those answers but I can’t really say. Something for you to think about and the audience, maybe those people aren’t her real parents. Maybe that’s the reason the father is cold and why he didn’t call the cops when that guy came in the house; because maybe, just maybe, Francisca was kidnapped as a baby. So he couldn’t call the cops, because then they’d find the truth.

The Eyes of My Mother still. – That is something to think about and interesting. That is a different perspective to approach it.

Kika Magalhães – Yeah, I think Nick was very good with doing that and not showing everything in the movie. You notice there is no really violent scenes. I think he wanted to make the audience think, and, yes, there’s a lot of backstory that wasn’t told, so people would be wondering and try to investigate more about the movie. That was really smart on his part. – Yes, and that is something that has been lacking in a lot of modern films today. Everything is force-fed to you, there is really no open space in many films to develop your own thought or to let your imagination run wild. That is also what makes The Eyes of My Mother so effective.

Kika Magalhães – I agree, even in a lot movie trailers; a lot of times when you see a movie trailer, it says everything about the movie. I just think it’s a smart choice of the director not to show everything, because if the movie says everything, people know everything. If there’s a lack of some information, then people will want to investigate more and learn more about the movie and storyline. – Agreed. You mentioned that you are originally from Portugal and you moved to America. You initially came to New York then you went out to Los Angeles. You have done a lot of moving at a young age. What has that been like for you and how has your adjustment to America been like?

Kika Magalhães – I guess I have that adventurous career bug in me. I love traveling so much but I’m not going to lie to you, moving to America was probably the biggest decision I ever made in my life. The reason I moved was strictly to become an actress. The reason I came to America is because I thought America would be the best place to pursue that dream.

Yes, it’s had its ups and downs; it’s been a roller-coaster. It hasn’t been the easiest journey, but I don’t regret one single second of my life. When I first moved to New York, I didn’t even know where I was going to sleep that night. Moving to America with this huge dream for one of the hardest professions to do, not knowing anyone, not knowing how to do it, not having any documentation, it was really hard. Thank God I have a green card now and all these victories happened. I guess I’ve been really blessed.

Kika Magalhães – It sounds like it is been an incredible journey up to this point.  Your role in The Eyes of My Mother is certainly garnishing attention. Are you finding that as more and more people are discovering the film,  more people are showing an interest in, perhaps, casting you for other roles after this film?

Kika Magalhães – Yeah, I’ve definitely had some interest, mostly for Horror movies. I’m just trying to be kind of selective, because I don’t just want to do one thing. I want to be that kind of actress that is able to do all kinds of role and to be a versatile actress. I had a few issues after the movie because I was waiting for my green card, so for a while I couldn’t really work. As you said, it’s been an interesting journey.

Have you ever seen The Audition (1999)? The Audition was done such a long time ago, but people are still watching it and talking about it now because it’s so controversial. I feel that’s going to be the case with The Eyes of My Mother. It’s not going to be one of those movies like everyone’s going to be like, “Wow, what’s going on with this movie?” I think it’s going to be one of those that people will slowly start to watch it. They will always have some sort of attention, because of the movie that it is and that is great. I don’t think it’s ever going to be a big blockbuster, because it really has a selective audience. It’s not for everyone.

Magnolia Pictures – Of course, it definitely does have a selective audience. Now that you have your documentation and you are settling in a little bit, what are some future projects you have ahead?

 Kika Magalhães – I’m not working with any one famous actor or famous director at the moment, but I’m working on a few independent projects. I’m also trying to produce my own content, so let’s see how it goes. I just signed with a new manager, so it’s kind of a new journey for me at the time. Wish me luck! – Good luck with all of that! You said you worked with Nicolas on a music video. What was the video for?

Kika Magalhães – The artist is IYVES for the song “Out of Touch.” It is on YouTube. She’s also an independent artist. – Everyone will have to check that out if they have not already. Last question for you. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?

Kika Magalhães – Well, I became a Horror fan working with Nick. I wasn’t that much into Horror movies but Nick was so passionate about it, so he was the one who was motivating me to watch more to get me in the mood of the character. He told me to watch a bunch of Horror movies, and I thought, “My God, this stuff is awesome!”  He told me to watch The Audition, Antichrist (2009), and Hitchcock movies. I do remember The Audition and that I was fascinated by it, and I think there’s a lot of inspiration character-wise in The Eyes of My Mother.

And Antichrist, I watched that movie the day before we starting shooting. I was like, “Now, I have to work with Nicolas Pesce, who recommended this movie, what have I gotten myself into!” That movie was so crazy! Antichrist, it’s like one of those movies that is a slow burn. Like The Audition, the cinematography was beautiful and artistically done, but it was so horrifying as well. I feel like the cinematography in that film was an inspiration, as well. Please watch Antichrist, it’s crazy!

Nordisk Film Distribution

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