Go-See Interview

Marianna Palka

Images and Video by Jan-Willem Dikkers 

“It’s fascinating to be an empowered female in the mainstream.
I knew it was going to happen, I just didn’t realize
it was going to happen for me. It’s great to be getting to do your dream.”

Marianna Palka

Marianna Palka
Director, screenwriter and actor Marianna Palka is from Glasgow, Scotland. Her critically acclaimed films include Good Dick (2008), The Lion’s Mouth (2014), and most recently, Bitch (2017). She currently stars in the ensemble cast of the Netflix series GLOW (2017).

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Marianna Palka moved to New York at 17 to study at David Mamet and William H. Macy’s Atlantic Theater Company. Palka went on to receive the New Director’s Award at the Edinburgh Film Festival for her debut film Good Dick (2008), which she wrote, directed, and starred in. She has since worked on a variety of short films, including a personal documentary about Huntington’s disease, and stars as a female wrestler in Netflix’s hit series GLOW (2017). Palka wrote, directed and stars in her newest film, Bitch (2017), a dramedy about a woman who snaps under life’s pressures and assumes the psyche of a dog.

Marianna Palka

Marianna Palka

Birthplace:
Glasgow, Scotland.


Ambitions:
Studio movies, baby, and motherhood. I am ambitious for womankind across the globe.


Favorite Movie:
Neds, The Big Blue, Tootsie, Some Like It Hot, Thelma & Louise.


Turn ons:
Direct affection, fearless passion, love letters, white flowers, a lover in the sunlight in bed, listening.


“My mother never made me think about
what I looked like from the outside.
She made me think about who I am inside
and how to be a great person.”
— Marianna Palka


Turn offs:
Nothing turns me off!


How do you like to spend your time?
Cooking for friends, being a good girlfriend, being kind, drinking matcha lattes with coconut milk.


What was your first break?
Directing Good Dick—the film that went to Sundance when I was really young—and writing, producing and self-releasing it. We really got to go all out with that movie. It went around the world. It was amazing. I’m very proud of it.


What have you been in?
Peter Mullan’s Neds, which is a really important film about Scottish youth. It’s a backroynm: Non-Educated Delinquents, and it’s kind of a swear word in Scotland, so quite a provocative title. That movie was fabulous. I’ve been in Scottish Mussel, a conservationist comedy directed by Talulah Riley. And also Girls. I played Jessa’s sister, and I gave Adam [Driver] my root chakra as part of the movie. He was like, “Whoa.” Why did I say “movie”? It’s a TV show but felt like a movie. Everything feels like a movie.


How do you feel about this career?
I feel really blessed to get to do my dream every single day. It feels like a gift to be able to do something that you want to do. It’s incredible to be on GLOW, the TV show on Netflix, because we’re 14 women and our dreams came true simultaneously. It’s fascinating to be an empowered female in the mainstream. I knew it was going to happen, I just didn’t realize it was going to happen for me. It’s great to be getting to do your dream. Everyone out there should do their dream, whatever it is.


How did you decide to become an actor?
I just knew it in the embryo. My mom was pregnant with me, and I was like, “I have to do acting.” I have never not wanted to do that. We had no television when I was a kid, so we only watched movies and went to really good theater in Edinburgh. I knew that I wanted to do what those people were doing, which was being in their bodies and being artists and caring about the work and being able to heal life and people through stories.


How would you describe your specialty or type?
Like nothing you’ve ever seen before. A Polish person who’s also a gypsy, Roma-blood person—who’s also basically Russian. It’s very interesting to have that blood but also be born in Scotland and then to have Polish be my first language. There’s not a lot of people like me. I never had an example like, “That’s who I can be like.” I had to just blaze my own trail. Now I’m a wrestler though, so I guess that’s my type.


Who is your favorite actor you look up to?
So many, but I love all the women on GLOW. They’re such great actresses. I’ve always looked up to Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett. I love Ryan Gosling. Talk about a really great female actress. Ryan is my favorite. I look up to him so, so much. I feel like he is knocking himself out. Every time he does something, he is just trying to impress himself. I love actors. People think acting is about lying, but it’s actually about telling the truth.


What would your ideal job be?
What I’m doing right now. GLOW on Netflix, that’s my ideal job.


Do you consider yourself to be lucky?
Yeah. But I also worked really hard. We did Bitch recently, and I directed and wrote that. I felt very lucky on that set but also like a hard worker. I’m very serious. I like to prepare. I don’t drink or do drugs or anything. I sleep, and I do this, and that’s it. That’s my life.


“The next generation of artists is going to
be amazing. They’re going to be better
than us. More passionate, more interesting,
more human, more intimate. Everyone’s
scared of the internet like it’s this thing
that’s causing distance, but I think it’s
making us better people.”
— Marianna Palka


What advantages do you have?
My mother never made me think about what I looked like from the outside. She made me think about who I am inside and how to be a great person, so that when you age as a woman or lose something that’s external, you actually gain internal beauty. She was always an example of internal beauty. That’s an advantage I feel like I have as a female. And the love of my family and friends in general. That’s a huge gift, having a community of artists you can always count on. It’s beautiful to be part of a circle like that.


What challenges do you feel the world is facing today?
I think we’re finding ourselves in this weird place where we are probably as divided as we’ve ever been. It seems to be something that’s happening across multiple countries, which leads to tension and turmoil, obviously within a country but also when it comes to international policies. I think one of our biggest challenges is just communication and finding ways to treat each other better and hear each other and love each other for who we are.


What did you do before?
Nothing. I’ve always done this. I was dancing on tables and doing monologues when I was a kid. I’ve never not done this. When I lived in New York, I would go in the subway and recite this Bob Dylan poem that’s in Lion’s Mouth Opens, a documentary about my dad and Huntington’s disease, which runs in our family. I was always just getting it out. I couldn’t stop making stuff into performance art.


What do you feel about the need for instant gratification?
I love instant gratification. I’ll take it right now.


How do you feel about how interconnected the world is becoming?
I appreciate it because people who need help can get help faster. I think artistically, groups of artists and creatives are able to similarly heal each other. It’s a vital time to be alive. I’m so glad to be a director in this period of time and to make a difference out there.


What does the future look like to you?
Always very bright. The next generation of artists is going to be amazing. They’re going to be better than us. More passionate, more interesting, more human, more intimate. Everyone’s scared of the internet like it’s this thing that’s causing distance, but I think it’s making us better people.


“The world needs love and sweetness and
feminine energy and tenderness.
We have to look after ourselves and each other.”
— Marianna Palka


How do you feel about having children?
I want to have all the kids, all the time. I want 500 children, but I don’t think I can birth 500 children. So I think I have to birth, like, one or two. That’ll work for me. I’m going to be such a good mom, and my kids are going to feel great—the same way I felt great about my mom.


What challenges do you feel the world is facing today?
I don’t like that it’s getting hotter. The world needs love and sweetness and feminine energy and tenderness. We have to look after ourselves and each other. We need to think about things in a new way and listen to younger people because they always have the best ideas. I feel like a shift in consciousness has already happened and is going to keep happening. Stuff is no longer hierarchical. It’s more of a circle. It’s not about the self or the ego, it’s about being part of the community. The connectivity of humanity right now is going to heal the world. When the Dalai Lama said the world will be saved by the Western woman, I think he was talking about all the women in the West. But he was also talking about all the men in the West connected to their feminine side. I think we’re going to be okay.


What are you most grateful for?
I’m most grateful for the jobs I’ve been getting and my ability to listen to what I’m supposed to do. I love having this instrument of filmmaking inside me where I can listen to great cinema and understand how to make it. I’m so grateful for that innate skill as an artist.


What are you most grateful for?
I’m most grateful for the jobs I’ve been getting and my ability to listen to what I’m supposed to do. I love having this instrument of filmmaking inside me where I can listen to great cinema and understand how to make it. I’m so grateful for that innate skill as an artist.


“It’s not about the self or the ego, it’s about
being part of the community. I feel
like the connectivity of humanity right now
is going to heal the world.”
— Marianna Palka


What is your favorite way to communicate?
Doing interviews. Having an interpersonal conversation with a loved one that’s really hard, where you feel like you’re saying the absolute opposite from the other person, and it’s really challenging. And you want to cry, or you want to scream, or you’re angry. But instead of doing any of those things you’re listening, and you’re talking. That’s my favorite way to communicate. The non-fight, dynamic conversation in an interpersonal relationship is really compelling to me.


What is your favorite book, film, and music right now?
I love “I Need My Girl” by The National. It’s a really special song. I have it in my car on a loop right now because I want someone to sing it to me. I need someone to need me.

Last of the Mohicans is my favorite movie. Michael Mann, I love you. In that movie, he’s the most incredible character. I love men. I love eros. I love things that are about devotional lovers. I think it’s because of my dad and my childhood. Him being so connected to me and being like, “You can do anything you want to do, and I love you completely no matter what.” I love when that’s repeated in a story. It feels very real. When I look at Last of the Mohicans, I see that devotional love that a man can have and how romantic that is.

The novel I like most would be Pride and Prejudice, just because it takes them so long to love each other. It’s such a long courtship. I love Mr. Darcy. He’s like, “Even though I’m the hardest person to like, suddenly I’m the greatest love of your life!” And she needs to deal with that. I love love stories.

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