Five Questions with Tamara Sevunts

Photo by Danny Bristoll

Tamara Sevunts is a Canadian-Armenian actress, originally from Montreal and now based in NYC. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she is fluent in six languages. Off-Broadway credits include: “Your Alice” (BAM), “Daybreak” (Beckett Theatre), “The Good Girl” (59E59 Theatres) and “Loose Canon” (SoHo Playhouse). Regional credits include: Feste in “Twelfth Night”, Angelo in “Measure for Measure”, Hysterium in “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum” amongst others at The Scranton Shakespeare Festival. Film credits include: “You Can’t Go Home Again” (Lincoln Center), “The Real American (Listapad International Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, NYTVF…) Coming up, Tamara will be reprising her role as the Cheshire Cat in “Your Alice” at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and premiering a new work by Gordon Penn, in Paris at the Théâtre de l’Opprimé. For updates and a full list of credits, visit www.tamarasevunts.com

1. Where did you grow up, and how does your upbringing inform who you are today?
I was born and raised in Montreal, in a loving, liberal post-Soviet Armenian household. I didn’t speak French until I was three, and English until I was five. I’ve also been an IB (International Baccalaureate) kid – shout out! – since first grade, so exposure to a variety of languages and cultures has immensely shaped my sense of identity, and my sensibilities as an artist. My Winnie the Pooh was a brown Russian bear with a raspy voice, my Tom & Jerry were a cigarette-smoking wolf and clever rabbit duo; they shaped my sense of humour. And I believe a person’s sense of humour is oftentimes the purest expression of themselves…so I guess that makes me the product of Soviet-era cartoons and endless debates about québécois politics and language laws.

2. What inspired you to become an actor?

My grandmother, who taught me music and everything I know about performing… My mother, who had me in her belly when she filmed in Armenia… I also actively competed in classical piano competitions as a child and teenager, so I was on stage a lot. From as early as I can remember, though, all I wanted to do was act. I believe my theatrical debut was a Pre-K performance of Three Little Bears in which I got to play Mama Bear. I still remember the checkered pink apron I had; I was very proud of it. Many years later, [nerd alert] there was the behind-the-scenes featurette of the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. I realized then that fantasy can materialize on film and I fell deeply, madly in love. Cue music. And blushing. Ugh.

Photo by Farah Hosney


3.You speak several languages. How does being multilingual influence your craft?
Yes, I do. Six. I wish it was more! I think it’s been an advantage, so far as getting seen in certain rooms… although I can’t be sure. (Why else would a 5’3″ fleshy brunette get called in for Russian escort 2?) I’ve performed in French, English, Armenian and Russian, and always feel like I’m accessing a different part of myself. Language influences behaviour, thinking and communication, and much of my craft is reliant on exhibiting behaviour, thoughts, and on communicating with a scene partner or with an audience. You listen differently in a different language, your body speaks differently in different languages. In Armenian, common terms of endearment might be described as ‘intense’ for an English-speaker; instead of ‘dear’, we have jan, literally ‘my soul’. Goes to show I’m just more melodramatic in Armenian…

4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a typical day.
Currently, just acting. That’s it! I’m very, very lucky.

5. The life of an actor is competitive,grueling, and unpredictable. Why do it anyway?

Any industry at a high level is competitive, grueling and unpredictable. I guess it just so happens that the only competitive, gruelling and unpredictable environment I have enough patience and drive for is the entertainment industry. I’ve decided to see it as the business of storytelling (because at the core, I’ve come to understand that that’s why I love about what I do). I have found that it relieves the pressures of certain ‘standard achievements’ and it is thinking that helps keep me to my true north. Of course, there are days I’m more successful at convincing myself that that’s actually what I’m doing and that it is, in fact, purposeful and meaningful. Who, after all, doesn’t want recognition and validation?

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