Paris is a city known for cultivating innovative minds and inspiring artistic souls.

It comes as no surprise, then, that this is where the pioneer of modern dance Loïe Fuller found her calling, and the actress that portrays her, Soko, calls home. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk with the French musician/actress/artist/L.A. transplant about the process of getting into character in The Dancer, what she does (or doesn’t) think about while performing, and the meaning behind her name. We begin:

Babysitting was her first job.

My first job was a babysitter when I was 13 or 14. Over the summer I would just take care of my neighbor’s kids, take them to the beach. But I’ve known that I wanted to act since I was five. I knew that before I started making money with other things, haha.

She doesn’t think about the audience while performing.

[When I’m performing] I don’t think of anything but the story, what I have to do in the scene, and connecting with the director. You’re telling the story- it doesn’t involve people you don’t know. It only involves whatever and whoever you’re working with.

The meaning of her name is extremely powerful.

[Soko] is not a stage name for me. Soko was my dad’s nickname and when he died, I was five, I felt like if I heard his name all the time then he would never “die” and I would always remember him. That just became my name. That is my complete identity and part of why I make art is because I always think of life and death and legacy and what you leave behind. With Loïe [her stage name], I guess she felt like she wanted to start over and be someone else, not the farm girl Marie Louise Fuller, but the star she always dreamt she’d be.

Training for seven hours a day made it hard for her to put her socks on in the morning.

This film was all risks and challenges, there was nothing that wasn’t a risk or challenge about playing Loïe. She had been copied and imitated her whole entire life, and so it was a huge challenge for me to give the truest performance that is the most her. It was showcasing everything, like how she came up with [the dance] and how hard she trained, and how emotional it was for her and how many sacrifices she had to make in her personal life. To be able to give the truest performance, I had to just do it- which means training seven hours a day. Which means knowing what it feels like in your body after training seven hours a day, looking at your bruises, feeling achy, and not being able to put your own socks on in the morning because that means you’d have to warm up haha. All of this, you can’t cheat it. There is no way of “acting around” it.

All of these things were a part of understanding Loïe. Knowing what it feels like to get dizzy after doing her dance, and dancing in the dark on the tiniest platform with lights blinding you! These are very real sensations that, unless you do the work, you don’t know. I hope I’m giving a real portrait of an artist and show that if you’re passionate and you love something, you devote your entire life to it.

 

Gaspard Ulliel, Melanie Thierry, Lily-Rose Depp, Soko and Stephanie Di Giusto at the 69th Cannes Film Festival. Photo by Aurore Marechal/ABACAPRESS.COM

Even though it is a biopic, the role of Loïe was written exclusively for Soko.

Director Stéphanie Di Giusto and I have been friends for 10 years now. It took her seven years to write the movie for me, so I was part of the entire process. I helped with casting, every bit of it I was there with her. It’s a wonderful relationship and incredible collaboration because I inspired her to write the movie and she changed a lot of things for me. I witnessed Stéphanie become a feature film director. She started out making music videos and commercials and I witnessed her become who she truly wanted to be. She was like Loïe [in that way].

Soko relates to Loïe’s struggle.

There were some traits that were similar between myself and Loïe, like feeling isolated and being hard on yourself. She was also a multi-hyphenate, like me. I don’t like doing just one thing. I like making my merch, doing my artwork, directing my videos, making music, writing, performing, acting… I like doing it all. I’m hyperactive and need things to constantly keep me focused and inspired and challenged. Same with Loïe, you know? I felt very lucky that, by playing someone else, I could bring it back to myself knowing that I’m not alone in the struggle of putting my entire energy into something.

 

Determination is her strong suit.

You’re not anywhere by yourself. I’ve just always had the biggest drive, and it comes really naturally. I don’t force it, I really want to do all of these things. No one is trying to make me do something other than myself. Obviously, I have a great team– an amazing publicist and manager (that took a really long time to find). My label is amazing too, they’ve been helping me a lot. Acting wise, I’ve been really lucky that strong and powerful women come to me with a script and ask if I want to be the lead in their next film. Weirdly enough, they’re always women directors with one thing in common– their strength, determination, and ambition.