Laëtitia explains it all
Fauda star Laëtitia Eïdo opens up about her role in the hit Israeli action drama and learning lines in multiple languages as she prepares for the launch of her latest series, Apple TV+ espionage thriller Liaison.
Laëtitia Eïdo has become used to speaking other people’s languages. For Fauda, the Israeli action series, she had to speak Arabic, while on her current project, movie Dirty Angels, she has been tasked with remembering lines in the Afghani language Pashto. On another film, Belgian feature La Vierge à l’Enfant (The Virgin and Child), she also spoke some Kurdish.
The French-Lebanese actor has been sought to portray such a variety of nationalities that it has created a lot of confusion about her real background. But Eïdo says she doesn’t go looking for opportunities to speak new languages on screen.
“It’s a lot of work. I’m even trying to avoid them,” she jokes. “Every time I have played a character in a different language, it was because people chose me. They say, ‘You are the character, you’re the one I want.’”
With at least half-a-dozen film and television projects in various stages of pre-production, shooting and post-production, Eïdo’s profile is likely to rise significantly over the next couple of years. But for now, she can be found speaking her native French in Liaison, an espionage thriller that marks Apple TV+’s first European drama, with a script from Virginie Brac (Engrenages) that blends English and French.
Described as a high-stakes, contemporary story exploring how the mistakes of our past have the potential to destroy our future, Liaison combines action with an unpredictable, multi-layered plot in which espionage and political intrigue play out against a story of passionate and enduring love. The six-part series launches on the streamer today, with subsequent episodes following weekly until March 31.
Starring alongside Vincent Cassel (Westworld) and Eva Green (The Luminaries), Eïdo plays Sabine, a high-ranking official in the European security community, based in Paris. When a cyber-security issue emerges between France and the UK, she’s forced into confrontation with Green’s Alison, while she also becomes entangled with Cassel’s mercenary Gabriel.
“For me, what was really interesting and also what Apple really liked was Sabine’s evolution,” the actor tells DQ. “At the beginning of the show, she is oppressed by everything – the elements, the person hiring her, who is also her lover and they have a kid together – and the more the series goes on, the more she gets stronger and fights back. This is the way we worked on the character.
“At one point, the story cannot evolve if Sabine cannot give what she has to give. The whole thing is on her. So it was interesting to see her under all this pressure. She’s sensitive to the European community and she has to do things she doesn’t want to do. She’s seeing things she shouldn’t see. She’s an interesting character because she’s always at the crucial points of the story and she has to take action and make decisions.”
Eïdo says her favourite moments from the show are the scenes she shares with Green, while she had always “dreamed” of working with Cassel. Other cast members include Tchéky Karyo, Peter Mullan, Gérard Lanvin, Daniel Francis, Stanislas Merhar, Irène Jacob, Eriq Eboouaney, Bukky Bakray and Thierry Frémont.
“Eva’s character is always wearing black; she’s supposed to be involved in something very dark and is having a hard time,” the actor says. “I’m always full of pink, white and bright colours – there are some crazy outfits. We couldn’t believe it during filming; I was always wearing amazing stuff. We were at opposite ends of the spectrum, but we connect at one point. At the beginning, we think we are enemies, but we start to bond. We have really strong scenes together.”
Speaking to DQ from Athens, where she has reunited with Green to film GoldenEye director Martin Campbell’s Dirty Angels, Eïdo says she has always enjoyed travelling for work and finding variety in her roles. But she singles out Fauda as the project that has particularly boosted her career, even leading her to work with Terrence Malick on his Biblical drama The Last Planet.
In the series, set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Eïdo plays Dr Shirin Al Abed, who in the first season becomes tangled up with Doron, an Israeli soldier who leads his army unit on the hunt for a terrorist he had believed to be dead.
“I knew when I accepted this project that it was going to be something big – it was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so it was going to be huge anyway,” she says. Before she joined the cast, Eïdo spoke to creator Lior Raz, who also plays Doron, about the way she would like to portray her character.
“My mum is Lebanese and we have three religions in my family – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – so it was really important for me to bring something to this project that was related to my ethical points of view,” she explains. “Lior was really open-minded and he accepted my ideas. I wanted her to be half-French so she could have a foot out of the conflict and she could feel compassion for both sides. That was so important for me – I didn’t want my character to be one-sided. The only thing I wish for this region is for it to find peace, so I wanted to bring hope, love and something positive, and I think this character really has for almost 10 years now.”
As her lines were written in Arabic, Eïdo was never able to read the script. Even when she auditioned remotely from LA, her lines and those of the person she was speaking to were translated into English and then learned phonetically.
“A lot of people told us, ‘There is something very intense between you and Doron,’ and I said that was probably because we’re not totally sure of what the other is saying,” she says. “We were really connecting to the other person, we were very focused on the energy. Not knowing the language very well helped us and raised the level of intensity between us.
“As an actress, when I speak in another language, it’s always a huge experience in terms of energy. I like to act in the moment, with nothing but the other person in front of me and connecting to their soul and energy. This is what I enjoy. So when the language is not there to support you, you really have to connect to the other person.”
As such, Eïdo considers her potential co-stars when identifying which projects she might like to join – keen to ensure the energy she shares with them on set can be felt by the audience at home.
“But mainly what I like is when a project also brings something interesting to the audience, something more than entertainment,” she says. “Even an action movie can bring something more. For instance, in this movie [Dirty Angels] about Afghanistan, we talk about the Taliban and Isis. A lot of people think they’re the same thing, but actually the Taliban are fighting Isis. So you always learn something.”
As an actor who is currently working on both TV and film projects, Eïdo says she doesn’t prefer one medium over another – but that doesn’t mean she isn’t selective.
“I’ve said no to many things in my career,” she notes. “For instance, I’m not really interested in cop shows. I know I could have big parts sometimes, but I think, ‘Am I going to be happy?’ Last year I refused a lead part, 40 days of shooting, because I don’t want to spend my whole day talking about murders. I don’t like that – but it’s the only thing I don’t like. The different directors I’m working with are also fascinating, and I really want to work with women more. I haven’t done it a lot, so in 2023 I’m looking forward to working with women.”
Coproduced by Ringside Studios and Leonis Productions, Liaison was led by director Stephen Hopkins (24) through a filming schedule that was completed during Covid – meaning an eight-day quarantine for anyone who wanted to leave the production and return at any point.
Despite that added pressure, “it was the best time of my life,” Eïdo says. “First we were in London, which was amazing. I spent at least three months there because the quarantine rules meant we just had to stay. Also, spending time in London while nobody was there, all the museums were open but empty – it was just heaven. The streets were empty, so I visited a lot of London. I’m sure I saw a London I will never see again. It was crazy. Then all the Londoners were starting to live again so I saw them partying in the streets.”
The actor now has her eye on taking on lead roles, whatever the size of the project and whatever the language. “I like to take the story on my shoulders, but I’m happy with everything,” she says. “It doesn’t have to only be the lead to be interesting.”
tagged in: Apple TV+, Fauda, Laëtitia Eïdo, Leonis Productions, Liaison, Ringside Studios