In today’s times, we are finally starting to see progress regarding diversity and inclusivity in Hollywood. We are seeing more African Americans in roles after the Oscar Strike of 2018, and we are watching Asian Americans in leading roles in Hollywood blockbusters. We are finally experiencing the start of a big change as the gap of inclusivity begins to close. However, there’s still a gap that is not filled for Eastern Europeans. As the world is very influenced by Hollywood, this is still a real problem.
We sat down with Katarina Van Derham, who is a minority actress in Hollywood known for her roles in “Entourage” and the movie “Unbelievable!!!!!”, to get her take on Hollywood today.
Katarina, you have been in Hollywood for about fifteen years. Has Hollywood changed a lot since you started acting?
I think it has changed a lot for women, in general; however, it didn’t change much for minority actresses, for example ones from Eastern Europe who you don’t normally see in leading roles winning an Oscar.
You are a publisher as well as an actress. How do you balance both careers?
When I launched VIVA GLAM Magazine seven years ago, that was when I decided to leave acting. The reason why I decided to leave acting was because of the stereotyped roles I was getting offered. When you come from Eastern Europe with an accent, it doesn’t matter whether you are pretty or not, you will end up playing a Russian. If you’re pretty and have an Eastern European accent, you will end up playing some sort of sex object.
Why do you think that is?
It’s due to a lack of education as well as the education in the US being purposely misconstrued. Because Russia as a country has always been treated as a threatening entity to the US, Hollywood always portrays this in its movies. It’s always the Russians who get killed in movies. They are never the heroes, when you think about it. Because of this, other Eastern European countries get easily overlooked by Hollywood since the focus is always on Russia. Then, people like myself, actors and talent who are form Slovakia (now Central Europe), get thrown into the Russian category. Therefore, no roles for people like myself get created.
So, if Hollywood created a role about a Slovak woman, who would she be?
A Slovak woman in a movie would be a good-hearted, caring, loving, beautiful woman who puts her family above everything else. She would be a hustler providing for her family and be an amazing cook. These women live in the US, but you never see that character on TV. It’s the same way the huge Russian population in the US is made up of good-hearted, loving people, but you never seen these people in movies.
Speaking of Slovakia, do you ever recall seeing a Slovak character in any movie?
The only time I, personally, recall seeing anything to do with Slovakia was in the movie “Eurotrip”. There was a scene where a dog ran by with a human hand in its jaw in an area that looked like it was run by a dictatorship, and Slovakia looked like a third-world country. I grew up in Slovakia. I’ve never seen a dog run by with a hand in its mouth. Also, Slovakia is not a third-world country, we are a first-world country. So, when Hollywood portrays these types of countries and its people this way, you can imagine what that means in terms of travel, education, and opportunities.
You just wrapped up working on the movie “Crypto Heads” where you played the character Alena. Is she a Russian character?
Actually, I believe the writer had a Russian woman in mind for this role. However, after casting me in this role, he edited the script to include a phrase where I got to say that I am a proud Slovak woman. While I’m still playing a badass femme fatale character, it is a step in the right direction to at least mention a different nationality other than Russian.
What’s also cool about my character is that not only do I play Slovak, but I also play a vegan, which I am also vegan in real life.
How do you think we can close this particular gap in inclusivity to make sure people of other nationalities are included?
Creators of movies need to have more experiences with different cultures, which can be easily done with travel- to not only fancy places such as Paris and London but by going to other beautiful parts of the world. Then, hopefully these moviemakers will see different characters in these nationalities and create roles for them. As you know, we always promote how America is a melting pot of different cultures, and the USA is the first to always admit that this country is built on immigration. And that means all nationalities. All nationalities need to be represented in Hollywood movies regardless whether or not they are represented by smaller or larger communities.