Evgeniya Akhremenko: The script of life rewrites itself every day

I am blessed to be able to work with cinema legends

Photo: HBO Evgeniya Akhremenko as Tatiana Barkova in The Pack

Human trafficking is a huge problem across Europe. While shooting The Pack (Wataha), I learnt things that terrified me, says actress Evgeniya Akhremenko in an interview to Europost.

Evgeniya, you are in Bulgaria at the invitation of HBO Bulgaria for the finale of the third season of hit Polish TV series The Pack, which airs on HBO. Is this your first visit to the country?

No, actually. I have been to Varna, but that was a very long time ago (laughs). I was probably about 12 years old. My father used to be a diplomat and was assigned to Libya at the time. We went on a cruise trip from there to Odessa with stops in Turkey, Greece and, of course, Bulgaria.

What is Tatiana Barkova, your character in The Pack, like?

Barkova is my favourite character I have ever played. Yes, she is one of the bad guys, but every villain has a story, a reason for why they are the way they are. There is a very important scene in the series - it is short, but it gives us a glimpse into her personal world. In the scene, she is in the hospital, standing over her husband's body, saying, “Do you remember how you beat me, how you did all those other things…” I think she had a hard life and went through a lot of suffering. When he dies, she has no other choice but to continue his work. No other way. She cannot completely change her life and become a sweet housewife, for example. She is already too deep into it, and it is a matter of survival. At first, she is quite scared and does not know how to deal with all those men, but she grows to like the game. She likes danger and having power and using it. She likes playing the cat-and-mouse game with Rebrow.

Some of the locations where the series was shot are pretty extreme - godforsaken forests in the Bieszczady Mountains, with inclement weather.

That is what I like best about the series. The real struggle for me was the way I was perceived by some of the locals - we slept in really small towns, where nobody wanted to talk to me. Our team was incredible. We became one big family, most knew each other from the previous seasons, but they welcomed me with open arms. We were wet and cold, but we had fun and that was the coolest thing. I visited places I never knew even existed. After I set foot in the Bieszczady Mountains for the first time, it took me three months to learn how to pronounce the name right. I loved every second of making The Pack.

Are you personally interested in the Border Guard and all those things happening at the frontier, like human trafficking?

Before the series, I had never thought seriously about what was going on at the borders and why the work that the Border Guard does is so important. One day, I and my colleague Leszek (editor's note - plays the role of Rebrow) went to have a meal together in the lunchbreak and got to talking about how everything we were filming was inspired by real stories. Everything you see in the series is a reflection of real life and is pretty scary if you really think about it. Human trafficking is a huge problem across Europe. Leszek met with a lot of border officers and some of the stories they shared with him made me terrified of what is really happening.

The series is an HBO Europe production and can be viewed on HBO GO. Are you a fan of the channel and its productions?

Of course! I think that HBO is developing in the right direction, and I would be happy to work with them again.

You have a new film which premiered recently - General Commander, in which you partner with Steven Seagal.

That is right. To be honest, until that point I had only heard of Steven Seagal, knew how he looked, but I had not seen any of his films. Old-time action films are not my favourite type to watch. But I was really excited to work with him. He is a legend! He tuned out to be not only an amazing professional, but an exceptional human being. He lives in Russia and I got the chance to have dinner with him and his wife one time. He is a family man and loves the people closest to him. The two of them look madly in love with each other. They have found the balance that so many people look for unsuccessfully.

You have also shared a film set with Gerard Depardieu.

He is a legend too! We shot Philippe Martinez's film Viktor together. Over 300 actresses auditioned for my role. But the team did not like any of them. The casting director, who is a friend of mine, thought of me, but because I had just had my second child, she simply assumed I would say no, and that I must be double my normal size, which is what happened with my first pregnancy. But because I went through a really stressful period, the weight had just dropped off. So she saw a picture of me on Facebook and called me. She told me about this film, starring Gerard Depardieu and Elizabeth Hurley, and that Philippe Martinez was looking for an actress to play a cop. She told me he was so desperate at that point that he was considering changing the character to a man. She asked him to see me, which he did not want to do, of course, but finally relented. I went to an audition and was starting to get into character, when he suddenly interrupted me and told me to go remove my makeup. I felt uncomfortable because what was underneath it was not a pretty picture - sleep deprivation and stress had taken their toll. Bit I went to the restroom, took off my makeup with some soap and returned as this pale-faced creature. He just said, “Can you fly to Chechnya in three weeks so we can start shooting?” I am grateful to Philippe Martinez for the opportunities. Because of him, last month I was on set with people like Armand Assante. We filmed in Portugal and England for a Martinez project called Mister Mayfair. Armand Assante is a dream come true. I feel blessed to have acted alongside him.

You are also blessed to be the mother of two boys. How do you juggle taking care of them and professional obligations?

I would lie if I told you it is easy. But what in life is? Sometimes it is really challenging, especially now that they are more grown-up. One of them is nine and the other is six. I am a single mother and I am thankful to my father for providing them with male guidance. But he is their grandfather and they have him wrapped around their fingers. I do not know if my life would have been better if everything was perfect. I put my head down and work hard so I can support my kids and grow professionally. Also so I can spend time with them. The script rewrites itself every day.

What do you like to do together?

We like to watch films. We go out to dinner. That is what I am used to because when I was a child my family lived all over the place, and we tried all sorts of national cuisine. Perhaps we should stop eating out so often because when I do cook the boys try it and say, “We could go out and have sushi.” We like strolling when the weather is nice. My father has a great house outside the city and we often go there for a dose of fresh air. We have a boxing instructor who trains the entire family. The kids love it. I never take them to film sets. They are too young, it would be too exhausting for them.


Evgeniya Akhremenko was born on 12 April 1975 in Beirut, Lebanon, to a father who was a Soviet trade representative there. In 1994 she made her cinema debut with a small part in the Russian-Israeli film Coffee with Lemon, directed by Leonid Gorovets. That same year her family moved to the US and Evgeniya enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles in the class of Anthony Hopkins. After graduating in 1998, she appeared in small roles and commercials and taught in a private acting school for problem children. Her acting career took off following her return to Russia, where she secured roles in dozens of films and TV series.

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