In the Disney+ TV series The Mysterious Benedict Society, Marta Kessler plays one of the lead characters Constance Contraire alongside a cast including Tony Hale, Emmy DeOliveira, Mystic Inscho and Seth Carr. The series is a screen adaptation of Trenton Lee Stewart’s children’s books, with Series 1 having a worldwide release in 2021, with a second series due for a 2022 release. Amongst Marta’s many screen roles, she plays Lena in My Horrible Sister, Diana in feature film Row 19 and she was directed by Mark Pellington when she played Young Jane in Survive, with Sophie Turner playing the older Jane. Talking with Marta, she answered our questions about playing Constance Contraire in The Mysterious Benedict Society on Disney+, working on the screen adaptation of Trenton Lee Stewart’s children’s books and her other projects including My Horrible Sister and Survive.
What is Constance Contraire like to play in Disney+’s The Mysterious Benedict Society and can you tell us about the show and your character?
The Mysterious Benedict Society is by far my most significant and favourite work. As for Constance, I’m immensely grateful that I got such a character, it’s a real adventure to play Constance Contraire. I can’t say that Constance and I are alike, on the contrary, but she is a rare person who you don’t meet very often in life and so it was not the case that I had to play myself, it was more of a character of resistance, but one that I really enjoyed.
What’s it like working with the rest of the cast and how is the experience on set?
My cast became my family in its second season! COVID restrictions were a little easier than the first season, it brought us even closer, we could spend more time together! The only reason we were a little sad was that the kids cast rarely had the same shooting days as the adults, we really missed Tony (Hale), Kristen (Schaal), MaameYaa (Boafo), Ryan (Hurst) and Gia (Sandhu), we even joked that it was like we were on different shows. But we did have a few filming days together, it’s an incredible joy to watch their professionalism and talent and learn from them!
How did you feel watching the completed Series 1 for the first time and what’s it like seeing the fan response to the show?
You know, to be honest, I’m always worried to look at myself, I’m a very self-critical person and I’m always afraid that I’ll be disappointed in my work.
But the first season was so good and fascinating that I relaxed and didn’t even pay attention to what I could have done better, and I can always find something to complain about.
I was incredibly pleased to read the praise for our show on social networks and in the press, every actor puts a piece of themself into the project, and when it resonates with the audience, it’s happiness.
How is it being part of the screen adaptation of Trenton Lee Stewart’s children’s books and what did you know about the novels before auditioning for Constance?
To be part of a bestseller is a great privilege, but also a responsibility. This book is read by millions of children and they read this incredible story and already imagined the characters, and of course, we were very worried if we did not look like the illustrations in the book, but thank God we were well-received. There were so many pictures on Instagram from fans of the series, and they even did cosplay. We have amazing costumes for the first and second season, I hope to see more people in The Mysterious Benedict Society costumes this Halloween.
I hadn’t read the books before I auditioned, I only found some out when my mom and I Googled who Constance Contraire was after they sent us the first audition scene.
We even had Trenton come to set when we were shooting Season 2, it was amazing to see and talk to the person who created the story!
Is there anything you’re enjoying most about filming for Disney+ and being a regular character in one of their new series?
My favourite thing is when we go to a new location we have never been to before. This season we had the most amazing locations – a huge ship, a historic train station, a Disney farm, we shot at big studios like Warner Bros, Universal Studios, I had goosebumps when I realised that I was in a place where so many famous movies were shot!
How has it been developing the character throughout Series 1 and 2 and have you had a favourite scene to work on?
Oooh, the development of my character in Season 2 is a gift for any actor, our show runners and writers did a great job on Constance’s lines, and I am incredibly grateful to Todd Slavkin, Darren Swimmer, Matt Manfredi, Phil Hay and everyone else who came up with new adventures for us.
I can’t give you all the details right now so as not to give spoilers, but I can tell you for sure that Constance is in for a big transformation in Season 2.
Series 2 of The Mysterious Benedict Society will be released later this year, why would you recommend watching it and who do you think it will appeal to?
I recommend watching our show for both children and adults, I believe that everyone will find something interesting in this story.
In the second season, there will be more action, more dangers and surprises, but we won’t lose our good essence!
If you want to have a great time with your family, laugh, cry and enjoy the incredible story of four orphans, you have to watch The Mysterious Benedict Society, and those who haven’t seen the first season will be able to watch it in one go before Season 2, I love watching episodes in a row non-stop so I don’t have to wait a week for each new episode.
Can you tell us about playing Lena in My Horrible Sister?
The filming of this movie took place in the very beautiful cities of Saint Petersburg and Vyborg, I had a great time there and had time to walk around these beautiful cities. I love it when there are children on the set, it was a family comedy, I didn’t have to play anything complicated, everything was easy and relaxed!
You played Diana in last year’s feature film Row 19, what was this like to work on?
Row 19 was filmed entirely in the hall, a specially-built airplane cabin with wider aisles and spacing between the seats was used for 90 percent of the filming there. It was fun when we shot the turbulence and the special devices shook us and the oxygen masks popped out, it was really scary. You know, I saw the trailer just when I had to go to LA to shoot The Mysterious Benedict Society and after watching the trailer I was too scared to get on the plane, my mother and I never saw the movie because we were afraid we would get airsick.
I love to watch the special effects and complicated makeup.
Over your career so far, you have worked on many other projects including Cosmoball, Gogol and The Bloody Lady, can you tell us about some of them?
Yes, I have a lot of projects under my belt, I don’t even remember all of them, there are small and large major roles, each of them is an adventure, in the Gogol Project I played a little witch, and I even had a ponytail.
In The Bloody Lady, I played the famous landowner Darya Saltykova as a child, she was very cruel and the episodes from her childhood showed why she had become like that. There were a lot of difficult scenes, and they also dyed my hair black.
Of the memorable projects, I could mention Survive, I played the lead character as a child, played by Sophie Turner, we even had flashback scenes together. And also on this project, I was lucky enough to work with the famous American director Mark Pellington.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you get into it?
My mother is a ballet dancer and my father is a musician, so I think I definitely would not be a scientist. I was at my mother’s Bolshoi theatre backstage since childhood, I watched all the performances, I did not want to go to ballet because I do not have enough plasticity for it, but I always liked the acting part of ballets. Sometimes my mother took me on tour, I was in Paris, New York and London. In London, I even appeared on the stage of the famous Covent Garden Theatre, I was a little Parisian in the ballet Flame of Paris, I was four years old and I waved the French flag.
That’s probably why I became interested in trying my hand at film and theatre.
Do you have any favourite films and TV shows to watch?
I watched Shang-Chi, Home Before Dark, Stranger Things, The Queen’s Gambit, Upright, and Arcane – I really liked them.
How do you like to spend your free time?
In my free time, I like to draw. I think up different characters and draw them, and in general I like to think up different stories in my head. My mom says that I need to write it down, but I do not do that yet, only sometimes I tell it to my younger brother before going to sleep, maybe somewhen I will start to write it down. Also, I love to be in the ocean, and I’m happy to live near the ocean now. I also love going to the pool with my roommate.
What upcoming career plans do you have and what do you hope the rest of the year brings you?
My family and I moved to LA this year, which is a big deal for all of us. I’m going to keep going and developing myself in my acting career, I’m surrounded by people who are helping me in this and I’m very grateful to them. I believe that everything will work out.
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