At 25, he is the revelation of the France 2 series, both modern and faithful adaptation of the message of Zola’s work. At the microphone of Allociné, he analyzes the career of Etienne Lantier, leader in spite of himself in the fight of minors for their rights.
Revealed in 2019 in the Mental series on FranceTV Slash, Louis Peres, also starring in the film How I became a superhero on Netflix, holds one of the main roles of Germinal, a blockbuster from France Télévisions in this comeback which revisits Zola’s novel by emphasizing contemporary issues, while faithfully restoring the heart of the novelist’s work on the workers’ struggle. “In France, Germinal necessarily echoes the yellow vests. But all over the world, there are potential Etienne Lantiers“, he declares.
Trained at Cours Florent for three and a half years, the young actor is then followed by a coach, one of the former teachers, who helps him prepare for his roles. “In France there are not many coaches, it is a very American method. We have this vision of the actor where it is not just a question of an empty body in which we sink a character, as many Americans do, but rather a dialogue between the actor and the character “ he confided to the microphone of Allociné last January on the set of the series.
“I started filming two years ago, and from my first film I took on a coach. I kept this habit to arrive on the set being sure of myself and where I want to go; I always trust the director, but I still come up with a proposal, to try to do something together.“
Located in part a few meters from the Belgian border in the small hamlet of Marchipont, transformed into a mining town for the occasion, the shooting takes place in a relaxed but studious atmosphere, under the leadership of director David Hourrègue.
“David is very optimistic, super happy, but we have to fit in the sequences, and he is very precise in what he does. If he does not get what he wants in the image, we will not go to another sequence“, specifies Louis Peres.”On the film by Claude Berri (released in 1993, editor’s note), they filmed the four hours in 175 days. We did six hours in 73 days. So there is necessarily a need for efficiency.“
For the young actor, finding himself immersed in the scenery of a mining town in the settlements of northern France at the end of the 19th century was a dizzying challenge. “I immediately realized how lucky I was. When you read the script, discover the gigantic tirades, the speeches in front of the crowd … it’s very rare that you can have that in the cinema. The first reaction is ‘wow’, and the second is ‘shit, how am I going to do this?’ “he laughs.
His character, Etienne Lantier, is a young worker in his twenties who fled Lille after hitting his boss. Thanks to Pluchart, a friend of his, he will find himself in Montsou, a mining town, where he will be welcomed by the Maheu family. By working with them at the mine, he will realize the working conditions of the miners and the misery that undermines their daily lives.
“All this will revolt him. Little by little, he will begin to speak around him, and realize the power of speech that he has over others, and gradually take matters into his own hands and assert himself as a leader. And unfortunately, not to listen to anyone and burn your wings.“
All over the world, there are potential Etienne Lantiers
During the preparation, the director and Louis Peres looked at the reasons that made Etienne Lantier a hero, with his weaknesses and his contradictions in the face of the weight of the responsibilities attributed to him. “From the start we were very connected with David. He sent me all his ideas, his musical inspirations, costumes … I prepared my monologues in music!“
In Zola’s novel, entire passages describe the growing pride of Etiennecet, which will lead him to his downfall. “He is 21 years old in the book, and like any youngster who begins to have power, he will play a bit of the little boss. There wasn’t that in Berri’s film, it was a more rigid approach, very different from Lantier.“continues the actor in reference to the character played by Renaud, twenty years older than the hero of the novel in the 1993 version.
“In the series, the Maheu rest all hopes in Etienne, and he will tell himself that if everyone trusts him, he is the one who is right, so it is up to him to make decisions without listening to anyone. And that is dangerous“, he analyzes.”Pluchart, who is a socialist partisan, knows how to put things in perspective. Ditto for Mr. Hennebeau; they are politicians who understand that there is a gray area, an inevitable dialogue. For Etienne, it’s all white or all black, he is incapable of distinguishing between things.“
For the actor, the work also represents a timeless warning. “A leader, however charismatic, is necessarily lost if he remains alone at the top of his tower. This can serve as a lesson to us: never put power in the hands of one person, and have total trust in it by letting him decide everything.. “
To go further around the series, listen to David Hourrègue talk about the creation of Germinal in Spotlight, the Allociné program recorded during the Séries Mania 2021 festival: