Hailing from Sarajevo, raised in Germany and trained in Los Angeles, trilingual star of the stage and screen Aleksandra Kovacevic has won over audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and become a mainstay in the industry.
In the play 4.48 Psychosis, Kovacevic takes on the difficult task of portraying both a therapist and the therapist’s patient. The play has a deeply tragic history, which is as important to the plot as the actual performance. 4.48 Psychosis was written by British playwright Sarah Kane who suffered from debilitating depression herself. After she completed writing the play, Kane committed suicide before its debut. The unsettling and grim context of the story makes it that much more powerful, and Kovacevic brought that sense of emotional magnitude to her performance in the play.
“The role of the patient was a paradox, like a free spirit trapped in her own prison. She suppresses her path and tries to reflect her fate on others,” Kovacevic said of the role. “She is Sarah Kane, and still can’t accept that she is ill. If she dies both of them die. My character is basically telling her not to give up on herself.”
Kovacevic’s work is not bound by the conventions of genre; she is as at home in comedic roles as she is in psychological dramas. In the 2015 hit Netflix Original Series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, she plays a counselor who auditions for the Camp Talent Show. The series is directed by David Wain (Stella, They Came Together, Role Models), two-time Emmy Award-winning co-creator of the Adult Swim live-action comedy Children’s Hospital. The role sees Kovacevic act alongside an enormous all-star cast, including Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live, They Came Together), who plays the camp counselor and brutal camp play director Susie.
In an incredible display of her talents as both an actor and a writer, Kovacevic played the lead role in Bertilda, a film she wrote herself. As the title character Bertilda, Kovacevic portrays a marionette, which serves as a symbol for the restrictions placed on women in the past and present. Throughout the film, Bertilda gradually begins to break away from those limits. Kovacevic spoke about the ways in which she planned and visualized the production from start-to-finish.
“I started thinking about the role of the female and what I could relate to,” she said. “Things like being seen as an object, being underestimated, men thinking females can’t have a position of leadership and women being seen as the weak link. The change of the female role, now and then.”
She spent countless hours studying not only the history of women’s struggles, but also the finer details like set design and of course, the style with which she would take on the role of a marionette puppet. It takes careful choreography and precise movements to perfectly embody and portray a wooden puppet whose movements are controlled and restricted by strings, and Kovacevic did so masterfully.
“I started to develop my character in her full motion when I started to practice with strings,” said Kovacevic, who actually used both bungee cords and ropes to help her become a living puppet. “To bring this project to life, I needed to practice a lot. A puppet doesn’t have a mind, her head is made out of wood.”
Everything – from the gorgeous set, painstakingly designed like an idyllic dollhouse and overflowing with symbolism to set the mood for observant viewers, to the ‘50s style of decor and wardrobe, down to the Nutcracker-esque living doll at the core of the film – are carefully and thoroughly planned and intended to create what Kovacevic calls “a fairy tale for grown-ups.”
Audiences can catch Kovacevic in the film Bertilda, and in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp now on Netflix. Other upcoming projects include Sebudai, set to begin shooting in winter, and Animal Lovers Anonymous, a feature length mockumentary-style comedy set to begin production in 2016.