Actor Darya Moroz speaks to DQ about her role in Russian series Gold Diggers, presenting modern-day Moscow on screen and her journey behind the camera to become the drama’s showrunner.
As an actor from an early age, Darya Moroz has appeared in dozens of films and TV series. So it’s notable when the award-winning Russian star says Gold Diggers (also known as Russian Affairs) has opened a new chapter for her career both in front of and behind the camera.
“I have been in lots of shows, lots of series, and some of them are quite popular here. But for me, Gold Diggers has been a new experience because it’s really famous. Some people have started to look at me only as Lena, my character, but that’s great,” she tells DQ. “I’m trying to grow as an actress; to get something new inside me and give the audience something new in each project.”
Now in its third season in Russia, Gold Diggers is set in present-day Moscow, where Dasha (Sofya Ernst) arrives with dreams of making it big in the city. Her friend and former classmate Marina (Mariya Fomina) will be her guide to life among the social elite – but when Marina is found murdered, police detective Lena (Moroz) must go deep into this seemingly glamorous world to solve the case.
Produced for local streamer Start, the show has been sold to Amazon Prime Video in Germany, France and the Netherlands, while it arrived in the UK earlier this month on non-English-language drama platform Walter Presents via by distributor Oble Entertainment.
On home soil, the series has been met with huge acclaim and equally impressive viewing figures. “People enjoy it and it’s getting great reviews. Fifty-five million viewers is absolutely amazing for Russian television and Russian streaming platforms,” Moroz says. “It’s a top series and it’s really amazing because it’s the first case in Russia where a streaming series has had so many viewers.”
The actor puts the show’s success down to several factors, not least its relaxed, open attitude to sexual content. “It’s real and so natural. That’s one of the main reasons,” she says. “This series opened up the subject of sex in TV series in Russia. After Gold Diggers, lots of series became much more open about sex and showing sex on TV.”
But the main reason for its popularity is the way the show pulls back the curtain on an elite, exclusive side of contemporary Russian society that many viewers will not have seen before, while none of the ensemble cast of characters are presented specifically as heroes or villains. Walter Presents describes it as Dynasty meets Dallas in Moscow.
“We’re looking at this piece of society – rich people, businesspeople and government people – and we can see them so closely,” Moroz says. “But we do not judge them. We’re not saying they’re bad or they’re good. We’re just looking at them, at what they’re doing and how they solve their problems. How do they talk? How do they live? That’s really interesting, and the interest in this series abroad is also based on this.
“In foreign films and series, Russia is always shown as something old-fashioned. They like to show Soviet Russia, the USSR, but not modern Russia as it is now. It’s interesting for people all over the world to see a new Russia, a modern Russia, right now, and this part of society of Russia in particular.”
Of course, before Gold Diggers launched in 2019, no one knew how popular the show – created by Konstantin Bogomolov, Darya Zhuk and Moroz’s actor, director and producer father Yuriy Moroz – would become. Darya Moroz knew Lena would be a strong, sexy and self-confident character, which she says offered her a new challenge on screen. Initially, however, she appears to viewers as a strict and straight police officer, intent on solving the murder that draws her into an unknown side of Moscow society and ultimately seduces her.
“It’s really strange for her because she didn’t want to become a part of this world but she loves it,” the actor says. “The interesting part of this totally new world is exciting and she loves to have money, to have new opportunities and to get into a new way of living each day. That’s why she stays in this world.
“She gets into this world because of the feelings she has for a businessman, Gleb [Vladimir Mishukov], but she stays separate from all the girls who just want a rich man so they can have his money and lead a fashionable life. That’s why she’s different. It’s so hard to be yourself when you get so much money and so many opportunities, but she forces it, she fights this feeling. She wants to be herself; she doesn’t want to become someone else, yet she wants to be in the middle of it.”
It’s not just Lena’s police work that is interrupted by her entry into Russian high society but her personal life, too, as her relationships with her husband and son soon come under strain. Matters are further complicated in season two, when Lena is forced to stay at home under the control of her new partner and must stifle her own personality to become someone else. But in the third season, she becomes a businesswoman and gets her character back, says Moroz.
“She’s different in each season and it’s very interesting for me for an actress. She’s always an outsider, but in the third season there’s a great change where she becomes a businesswoman and becomes part of this world. It’s like a big, cold ocean with little fishes and big sharks, and in the third season she becomes a shark. But in the first two seasons she’s a stranger – an Englishman in New York,” Moroz notes.
Working on season one with director Bogomolov, her ex-husband, Moroz knew it would be “an amazing challenge” owing to his non-traditional approach to working with actors. “In Russia, you’re always a character. ‘I am not me, I am someone else,’” she explains. But Bogomolov demands that actors put much more of themselves into the character they are playing. “In Gold Diggers, there are no good characters,” Moroz continues. “That’s the cool thing in the series, it’s not about good people. It’s about real people, and that was the hardest thing. That was the challenge, to be real, be yourself but also this character you play. Everything Lena goes through, I had to go through as her.”
In addition to her key role on screen in Gold Diggers, Moroz has an important part behind the camera. She became a creative producer on season two, which launched in 2020, and was then promoted to showrunner for the third season.
Rather than acting, it’s her production work that Moroz is most enjoying right now. And showrunning Gold Diggers meant she was involved in every stage of production, from working on the script and casting to being on set even when she’s not acting.
“While we are shooting, I’m always on screen and off screen at the same time. It’s an amazing experience. It’s really difficult but over two years I’ve learned a lot,” she says. “Irina Sosnovaya, our main producer, gave me this opportunity and I’m really grateful for it because the team at Start and Gold Diggers is the best team I’ve ever met. It’s great fun and a great opportunity. I’ve been working for a long time as an actress but I don’t want to work as an actress just for money. I want to get amazing projects and amazing roles – that’s when it’s interesting for me as a professional.”
Moroz, who is now developing original projects with Start and is also considering a move into directing, urges other actors to spend more time on set watching the process around them when they’re not in front of the camera.
“For me as an actor, that was a great experience because you can look at the other actors and understand all the mistakes and the good things they do,” she says. “You can see the dark side of filmmaking and use it in your acting career. I’ve become more relaxed when I’m acting since I became a producer because I understood that some things I worried about when I was acting were so small. They’re so not necessary, and I could only understand that when I got to the other side of the camera.
“Producing and directing are very close because you look at the whole movie or the whole project. Actors look at the little part of the process and think they are on top of the world and everything is moving around them, but that’s not true. When you’re a producer or a director, you look at the whole movie, and that’s much more interesting.”