“Plan B”, the science fiction drama of TF1, continues this Monday evening with two new episodes. Julie de Bona tells us what upset her in the series, her very strong bond with Kim Higelin, and her internship on the radio to prepare for her role.
AlloCiné: What did you like about the Plan B script and the role of Florence when TF1 offered you this adaptation project for a Quebec series?
Julie de Bona : When I read the pitch of the series, with this woman who has succeeded in everything, and who loses her daughter and manages to go back in time to save her, I had chills. I thought to myself “If that’s what I’m imagining, there is the possibility of some pretty crazy emotional power behind this pitch”.
I was curious to see what the Quebecois had done and to see how Gaumont had adapted it for France. So I devoured the Quebec series, I didn’t breathe until I finished the last episode (laughs). I was so upset that I didn’t hesitate to accept the role. My answer was obvious, because such a strong story is rare. And reading the script for the French version, I was in tears. Once again. This series is crazy. I don’t think viewers have a clue what to expect in the last few episodes (laughs).
And then such a trip, with a character that I play over ten years in the end, that too is very rare for an actress. I even lived two lives with this character because along the way I changed his life. It’s a real life journey, and I find it rare to go into a character to this point. It’s a series that touches on something very intimate. And I’m delighted to see, through the first reviews that have come out on the series, that I’m not the only one who has been upset.
Plan B questions, among other things, the complexity of being at the same time a woman, a mother, a wife, and someone professionally accomplished in today’s society. A theme that is ultimately not so often treated in fiction. Was that aspect of the script an additional motivation for you?
Completely. You understood why I said “yes” to this series. It’s amazing to be able to talk about this. There are questions that every woman asks herself, like me, and we don’t have the answers, we struggle, we constantly seek harmony. I think we’re a little lost. We have this mental load that is too strong, this kind of sword of Damocles of perfection, this need to succeed, it all hovers above us.
Today we advocate harmony and happiness. Yes, okay, but how? It’s hard. And this question is always with us. And Plan B really comes close to that, even if there isn’t really a ready-made answer. This is also what is beautiful, everyone can make their own answer. But I find that the series explores this subject extremely well. Quebecers are hyper advanced, hyper modern on these issues. I say thank you for giving us such a series at the start. And that doesn’t surprise me, when you look at the place of the woman there, she is much more advanced than us.
The series multiplies emotional punches, twists and twists. This is proof, finally, that we do not necessarily need a detective story to be totally caught up in what we are told …
Totally. I was fed up with police intrigue. Well, I see that viewers still like it just as much given the HPI scores (laughs). But personally I was fed up, I wanted to explore other worlds. Because as an actress I needed new challenges.
But there is still this inner investigation. It’s a kind of investigation anyway, with questions and a real introspection, like a psychoanalysis. It’s super rich. We question the repercussions of each action. Why did I do this? If I change such and such an event, will it change the future? It is a real psychoanalysis. Accept the mistakes of the past or try to modify them so as not to repeat the same mistakes. There is a real psychological suspense which grows over the episodes and which is as strong as an investigation.
And teenage suicide is very mysterious, it’s something that escapes us, that scares us. It does not spare us. And even when you think you’ve done everything right, you don’t know why it ends up twisting.
This is your first time playing the role of a teenage mom. Did it make you weird, whereas in life you are a very young mother?
It was a bit of my challenge (laughs). In the Quebec series, the heroine was older, she was 50 years old. I had a big discussion with TF1 and Gaumont on this subject. I was afraid I wouldn’t be up to the task of playing this very mature woman. And suddenly they decided to rejuvenate the character, to make a woman who had young children. And that reinforced the perfect woman side at the start, who handled everything. Even young children.
But my big challenge, personally, was that I had to give credibility to all this because in life I don’t have a teenage child at all. It had to be successful, because otherwise I would screw up the show. I was nervous and I worked a lot on that aspect. I worked on Florence’s way of speaking, her confidence, authority in front of teenagers. I worked a lot with Kim Higelin, Lou’s interpreter, who is extraordinary and who was very generous. We did improv sessions together so that I could find and understand the conflict between mother and teenage daughter.
This mother-daughter relationship is really at the heart of the show and I find it very successful. In life, Kim and I have had an incredible connection. It was a real gift. It is the magic of the meeting between two actresses, it cannot be explained. We could have fallen by the wayside. Kim, this is her first “first role”, she had only had small roles before, and she is incredible, it is a real revelation. It is a rough diamond, it is thanks to her that the series is successful. Without her performance as an actress, Plan B would not have this magnitude.
Kim Higelin and Axel Auriant have incredible ease and naturalness. Did they wow you on the set?
Yes really. I was flabbergasted. Me, at 20, I didn’t play like that (laughs). I did not have their level. They are extremely professional, they ask a lot of questions, they are curious, they want to learn. They are rough diamonds, I want to accompany them until it hatches divinely well for them. Like a mother a bit (laughs). They are so talented. I hope they have the great career they deserve.
You did a radio immersion course to prepare for the role of Florence, who is a star host. Can you tell us a bit about this experience?
It was really for the fun side, to get into the character, who is passionate about radio. It’s his element, it’s part of his DNA. I had to understand her passion, her reason for living as a woman, because it plays an important role in the story over the episodes. And so I was like “I’m going to go to the radio to get into my character’s boots.” To find my radio voice too, because it’s not easy, and I only had a few clips in the series to show it.
And Hélène Mannarino offered me an internship at Europe 1 with Philippe Vandel. I did a week’s internship with them. I observed a lot, I immersed myself in the universe, the atmosphere, and I tried to bring out the essence. Most of what I understood. I also spoke with Alessandra Sublet, who passed on a lot to me. And with Sophia Aram too, who made me listen to her chronicles at France Inter.
I went to explore it all and felt immense pleasure. It helped me to find the self-confidence that Florence had at the beginning. Because my interpretation to me is that a radio host has the information before everyone else and divulges it to listeners. It’s super exciting. This relationship with listeners is quite strong, it creates a very intimate bond with them.
After Plan B, you will soon start filming the Les Combattantes series for TF1 always. What can you tell us about this new historical fiction?
I find Audrey Fleurot and Camille Lou, as well as the director and producer of Bazar de la charité, but for a new series, which is not at all a sequel. It’s just the same team. We play three different characters, in different times. It is a series on the place of women during the First World War. We talked about it very little in the end.
We stay on four different women’s destinies, with Sofia Essaïdi who plays the fourth central character. Each of the heroines has its own trajectory, its own curve. But there will be a little more interaction between us than in Le Bazar. Vaguely more I would say (laughs). Because in Le Bazar my character was locked in this house, with Josiane Balasko, so apart from Camille who came to visit me twice, I didn’t see anyone else.
There I will have a little more interaction and I am delighted because I really wanted to tour with Audrey and Sofia. But it is really with Camille Lou that I will have the most scenes because I play a nun and Camille plays a nurse who works in my convent.
And before Les Combattantes, which will only hit the air in 2022, I will be seen in two TV films that I have already shot. I like it to lie, on M6, with Samir Boitard. A romantic comedy that I really enjoyed shooting because it’s really another register, lighter, it feels good. And the TV movie Mise à nu, for France 2, on revenge porn. It is an important film, very strong, which is quite uncomfortable and which should make people talk.
The Plan B trailer, which continues this Monday evening at 9:05 p.m. on TF1: