Ninjababy Actor Kristine Kujath Thorp on Imposter Syndrome, Winning Awards and Breaking Taboos
Kristine Kujath Thorp never expected “Ninjababy” – her first role in a feature film and the lead role to boot – would garner quite this kind of reaction.
A niche indie project about a young woman grappling with an unwanted pregnancy, it revolves around Rakel (played by Kujath Thorp) talking to and even arguing with her growing foetus, which is animated over the live-action footage, as she realizes that she is not ready for a baby.
Kujath Thorp admits that when she started shooting the film, which had its U.K. premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday, she suffered from “imposter syndrome” and was convinced she’d be replaced on the project within her first week.
Instead, she has garnered rave reviews and, on Saturday, even won Norway’s most prestigious acting award.
Variety caught up with the actor the morning after “Ninjababy” swept the board at the Norwegian International Film Festival, with Kujath Thorp scoring a coveted Amanda Award for Best Actress alongside director Yngvild Sve Flikke for Best Director, co-star Nader Khademi for Best Supporting Actor and writers Flikke, Johan Fasting and Inga H. Sætre (whose graphic novel was the inspiration for the film) winning Best Screenplay.
What attracted you to this script?
When I was called for the casting I ran to the library and borrowed the comic that Inga Sætre had written [on which the film is based] and I just found it so hilarious, and at the same time, really real. I mean, the dialogue was exactly the way I talk with my friends and the problems [the characters] have in their life were really relatable.
It was like a goldmine for an actor because [Rakel] has so many quirks and she’s so free, but at the same time she’s so insecure and she goes through this really intense period of her life. I just thought it was so human.
And I think it was about time that, in Norway at least, we made a film about pregnancy and what is it to be a female.
What did you find the most challenging aspect of working on this film?
There was a lot of nerves and anxiety before we started shooting because this was my first feature and first lead and I’ve been struggling so hard to get that first part, even to get like a small part in a feature film. I was thinking I was cursed because I’ve been doing TV shows and a lot of short films and stuff like that. So I knew I could do it but I [had] never got a part in a feature film.
So when I got this I really got imposter syndrome. When we started shooting I was so nervous. And I was constantly thinking in the first week that Yngvild would say, “No, I think we’re gonna choose someone else” – that I shouldn’t be the one playing [Rakel]. So that was hard.
The ending is quite controversial and also to some extent ambiguous. There’s maybe a suggestion that Rakel is not sure she made the right decision. How did you feel about it?
I really like the ending and [I’m] so happy that they chose to end the film as it is and that [her partner] keeps the baby. That it’s okay to have your own mind and not just follow the masses.
She has made her choice that she doesn’t want [the baby]. But she’s not unhuman so of course she has all these feelings for her child. And I mean, there’s always doubt even though you’re so sure about the choice [you made] in your life, when it’s such a big choice you’re making, of course there will always be doubt in it. And especially when you’re confronted with [it], so intensely, which she is in the last scene.
But in my mind, she’s happy and is like, calm in her decision. I think it’s so inspiring with Rakel that she’s so strong in her opinions, and that she really sticks to them when she decides what she wants to do.
What has the reaction been to the film?
There’s a lot of girls who have come up to me and said that they’re really happy to see a film about a woman that’s not perfect at all. And to see a real woman with greasy hair and who talks about shit and menstruation. And I think girls are happy to see their own life on the big screen, or the way they act. To see a representation of their own – like, maybe a little fragment – of their life.
A lot of people I’ve talked to are really glad that the film ends as it does, and they’re really grateful to see that someone talks about this taboo thing of not wanting a child even though you get pregnant, and that it’s some sort of like, libertion or freedom in watching it and making it maybe more okay or not so shameful.
What are you working on next?
Right now I’m shooting a Norwegian film. I’m not allowed to say what it is but it’s a Norwegian director I wanted to work with since I was 18 years old. So I’m super excited about that.
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