Lynn Van Royen: “As an actress, I want to be sincere in what I do, I have to believe in what I do”

When Flemish-born actress Lynn Van Royen was asked if she would be interested to become the Master for the upcoming Ostend Film Festival (FFO—Film Festival Oostende) later this year, at first she was very honored and nervous, especially considering the long and impressive list of previous Masters the Festival up until now. But when she looked for an appropriate theme she would focus on, she knew right away what she wanted: her choice of ‘Leading Ladies’ was pretty evident, simply by emphasizing on women. Not strong, not powerful, not sexy, not smart, but women who know what they want, do what they think is the right thing to do, and push their own boundaries, while nobody else—no man, no woman, nor society—influences her decisions or comments about it. Sometimes their decisions and choices make them pioneers in their field, others prefer a low profile, but time and time again it was their decision. They are all leading ladies.

Actress Lynn Van Royen during the FFO press conference. Photograph: © Leo/Film Talk

For the films Ms. Van Royen picks out for her Master Selection, two titles are available so far: Jason Reitman’s “Juno” (2007) starring Ellen Page as a precocious 16-year-old facing an unplanned pregnancy and who decides to deal with the situation herself, and Theodore Melfi’s “Hidden Figures” (2016) with Octavia Spencer, about three female African-American mathematicians who were instrumental for NASA during its early years of the U.S. space program. ‘Hopefully the film will inspire women and people of color (and hell, men too) with its gentle assertion that there’s nothing unusual nor odd about people besides white men being good at math,’ American critic Odie Henderson wrote in his December 20, 2016, film review. Both films justify Ms. Van Royen’s statement of leading ladies.

As a 29-year-old leading lady herself—an art gallery owner, author, mother of two, and an actress on stage, television and in films, and now FFO’s youngest Master ever—she rose to prominence when she did the TV series “Beau Séjour” (2016) which earned her a Best Actress Award in a TV Series (drama) at the Festival de Télévision de Monte Carlo. By March 2017, the series was picked up by Netflix. Ms. Van Royen has been one of Flanders’ busiest actresses in recent years, she’s one of the country’s most gifted and youngest ambassadors to promote her craft internationally, and she was in Ostend recently when the outline of the 2019 FFO was announced.

Lynn Van Royen, right, with film director Anke Blondé whose film “The Best of Dorian B.” will be screened on the Festival’s opening night. Photograph: © Leo/Film Talk

Ostend will host the 13th edition of the Festival from September 6-14. Anke Blondé’s “The Best of Dorien B.” will kick off the annual event.

Ms. Van Royen, eighty years after George Cukor made “The Women” with an all-female cast, including several of MGM’s leading ladies, you choose the theme of ‘Leading Ladies’ for the FFO…

…it’s not because I’m an actress that I’m an expert on film and film history [laughs], although I asked a few people if they could give me a number of films that I really should see. So right now I’m catching up. But the point that I’m trying to make is that a woman should be looked at as a person, and not just because she’s smart, or how funny she is, how beautiful—whatever. Instead of saying, ‘Okay, this is my limit, I can live with that,’ she must be able to look further, what is behind or beyond there, you know? That’s what a film like “Hidden Figures” is all about: you didn’t get to see those wonderful women, they were not in the limelight, their contribution wasn’t covered in the newspapers, but they were extremely crucial for NASA.

You have played several leading roles, especially in TV series for Flemish television. Does this particular view also influence your choice to accept or turn down a role?

Yes, but in my case accepting a role is strictly by intuition, and so far [knocks on wood] that has worked perfectly for me. Sometimes when I have my doubts—should I accept it or not—I usually turn it down, which is a luxury of course, I’m very much aware of that. But as an actress, I want to be sincere in what I do, I have to believe in what I do. That’s the reason why I like to be on my own when I read a script for the first time. In the evening, when the children are asleep, I really take the time to go through it entirely, paying a little more attention to the part I’m supposed to play, but without getting too attached to certain images or whatever your own imagination brings to it. Because in the end, a script often changes as you go along, so you need to be accessible to new or different approaches when you’re preparing or shooting a scene.

And how do you work once you’re on the set?

Before we start shooting, we usually go through the scenes without paying attention to the camera or sound, so we are free to do what we want until it feels right, and then the camera steps in and minor adjustments can be required. Depending on what set we’re on, usually the actors come first, and then we’re joined by the crew. And then we really collaborate in both directions.

Are there any specific scenes that are difficult to play?

Emotional scenes always need special attention, and sometimes you need multiple takes to get it right. But you never know. In “Beau Séjour,” when Kato is pulled out of the water while Kato and her mother are watching, what you see is the first take we did. And when you watch that scene, it’s very honest, you see her crying and you really feel her pain.

Lynn Van Royen in Ostend. Photograph: © Leo/Film Talk

In “Beau Séjour” you gave a tour-de-force performance, didn’t you?

It was a wonderful series to do, I am very grateful I was able to be a part of it. Directors Kaat Beels and Nathalie Basteyns had told me that the screenplay was written for me, they had me in their mind to play the part of Kato when they were writing the script. Isn’t that incredible? So when that happens, there are no doubts and you accept it right away.

What’s coming up next for you?

In the summer I will do the second season of “De Luizenmoeder” [for Flemish television, a remake of the Dutch TV series], and then in September I will be here in Ostend at the Festival.

Is it easy for you to plan that far ahead and be sure you will be available during the Festival?

It is. By then I will also be rehearsing in Antwerp for a new play, but while I’m here at the Festival, we’ll rehearse in Ostend during the day. That’s no problem, we’ll just do it!

As an actress, does it make any difference to you appearing before a camera or before an audience?

At this moment, I feel more at ease before a camera because that’s what I’m used to. I’m not that familiar with appearing on a stage, but I look forward to doing it, it’s an incredible challenge. And whenever I do something, I always do it to the best of my abilities. The play is “Henry Darger” and I will be doing it with Peter De Graef; Thomas Janssens is the writer and director. We’ll be touring for a few months in Flanders, starting at the end of September.

But what if Alexander Payne calls you next week and asks you if you’re interested to make a film with him later this year?

Well, then I will first google Alexander Payne…! [Laughs.]

Ostend, Belgium
April 25, 2019

FILMS

DE HELAASHEID DER DINGEN, a.k.a. MISFORTUNATES (2009) DIR Felix van Groeningen PROD Dirk Impens SCR Felix van Groeningen, Christophe Dirickx (novel by Dimitri Verhulst) CAM Ruben Impens MUS Jef Neve ED Nico Leunen CAST Valentijn Dhaenens, Kenneth Vanbaeden, Koen De Graeve, Wouter Hendrickx, Johan Heldenbergh, Bert Haelvoet, Gilda De Bal, Natali Broods, Pauline Grossen, Charlotte Vandermeersch, Steven Van Herreweghe, Tom Audenaert, Lynn Van Royen (Rostje)

LITTLE BLACK SPIDERS (2012) DIR Patrice Toye PROD Antonino Lombardo SCR Patrice Toye, Ina Vandewijer CAM Richard Van Oosterhout ED Damien Keyeux MUS John Parish CAST Charlotte De Bruyne, Dolores Bouckaert, Line Pillet, Ineke Nijssen, Nathalie Marie Verbeke, Romy Lauwers, Sam Louwyck, Lynn Van Royen (Vicky)

FOLLOW (2013) [segment ALLES KOMT TERUG] DIR Eva Cools PROD Declan Lynch SCR Eva Cools, Jill Tersago CAM Jonathan Wannyn Ed Declan Lynch MUS Reinhard Verbergen CAST Lynn Van Royen (Lena), Joren Seldeslachts, Anemone Valcke, Lotte Diependaele, Loes Carette,

OFF TRACK (2017) DIR Sander Burger PROD Charlotte Scott-Wilson, Trent SCR Bastiaan Tichler CAM Sal Kroonenberg ED Manuel Rombley MUS Bart Westerlaken CAST Vanessa Recalde, Lynn Van Royen (Sacha), Reinout Bindervoet, Reinout Scholten van Aschat, Matthijs van de Sande Bakhuyzen

COOL ABDUL (2020) DIR Jonas Baeckeland SCR Jonas baeckeland, Fikry El Azzouzi, Wouter Van Haver CAST Lynn Van Royen (Sylvie), Nabil Mallat

TV SERIES

180 (2008) – 5 episodes
CODE 37 (2009) – 1 episode
VERMIST (2010) – 1 episode
DAG & NACHT (2010) – 1 episode
DUBBELLEVEN (2010) – 2 episodes
WITSE (2011) – 1 episode
ONTSPOORD (2012) – 1 episode
DE RIDDER (2013-2018) – all 46 episodes
ASPE (2014) – 1 episode
MARSMAN (2014) – all 8 episodes
VOSSENSTREKEN (2015) – 1 episode
SPITSBROERS (2015-2017) – all 20 episodes
BEAU SÉJOUR (2016) – all 10 episodes
TABULA RASA (2017) – all 6 episodes
DE DAG (2018) – all 7 episodes
CONNIE & CLYDE (2018) – 1 episode
THE TEAM (2018) – all 8 episodes
DE LUIZENMOEDER (2019) – all 10 episodes
DE TWAALF (2019)