CANNES, France — Up-and-coming French actress Clementine Poidatz is rolling off a breakthrough year with roles in Farren Blackburn’s “Shut In,” the thriller which opened at Venice, and “Mars,” Everardo Gout’s high-profile docudrama which world-premiered on Monday at Mipcom.
“Mars” was directed by Gout, the Mexican helmer of “Days of Grace,” and produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment and RadicalMedia for National Geographic Channel, as part of the U.S. cabler’s push to attract more millennials with science-related premium content. The six-part one-hour series blends scripted drama with visual effects and documentary footage, including interviews with scientists and space technology innovators.
Poidatz stars as Amelie Durand, a flight surgeon and psychologist who embarks, along with a crew, on the first manned mission to Mars in 2033.
“When I first heard about the project I was so clueless about space and astronauts, and I thought it was science fiction. But in fact everything about the show, from the decor to the costume and dialogue, is ultra-realistic,” Poidatz told Variety.
Due to its hybrid format that mixes drama and documentary, “Mars” was a unique experience for Poidatz, who also starred opposite Naomi Watts in “Shut In.”
“The script was a permanent work in progress; it was being updated with the latest intel and research provided by scientists, so at times I was getting five new pages to learn for the next day,” explained the actress, who is repped by Gregory Weill and Florence Charmasson at Adequat, the talent agency whose client list includes Tahar Rahim, Leila Bekhti, Lea Seydoux, and Marion Cotillard.
Like most foreign actors getting hired on international productions, Poidatz got the part thanks to a self-made audition tape.
“I had four scenes, and I had to improvise. They wanted me to play up the human, empathetic aspect of my personality, not act like a basic scientist because my character in the series has a strong maternal instinct,” said Poidatz, who was particularly excited about her experience working with Howard and Gout.
Speaking about the scale and scope of the project, Poidatz noted: “In France, there are not that many roles we can get playing an astronaut because we just don’t have big enough budgets to work with.”
The 35-year-old actress, who got her first significant role in Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” was also drawn to the international aspect of the production. The show gathered an international cast comprising Jihae (“Fallen Nest”), Alberto Ammann (“Narcos”), Anamaria Marinca (“The Missing”), and Sammi Rotibi (“Django Unchained”).
“Juliette Binoche, Lea Seydoux, Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tautou, or even Melanie Laurent have opened the door for other French actresses to work abroad and get important roles. On a personal level, seeing their international careers has galvanized me,” said Poidatz.
“It’s exciting to travel abroad and venture off our borders and comfort zone. I don’t think anyone in France would have offered me to play a doctor and given me so much technical stuff to learn,” added the actress, who’s perfectly fluent in English.
A fan of Hollywood movies ranging from “Apollo 13” to “The Godfather,” Poidatz is now looking for more compelling international roles. “Working on American films or shows is so energizing. Working hours are longer — people work 12 hours a day there — and we don’t have time to think, so we’re already in an action mode,” she said.
“Mars” was introduced at Mipcom on Monday by Courteney Monroe, the CEO of National Geographic Global Networks, who said the show was a “premium science-fiction venture” which illustrated the cabler’s ambition to “push the limits of storytelling for docudrama” and “a turning point in (its) transition.”
The premiere screening received only lukewarm applause. It was followed by a roundtable with Gout, Poidatz, and other cast members.