We’re at Coffee Commissary off Fairfax just north of Melrose Ave. and it’s a standard, sunny California day. It’s a bit noisy but in a good way, lots of energy and positive vibes and after taking an eternity to set up my recorder and connect to the wifi, Ekaterina Tumanova and I were ready to start the interview. For starters, she goes by Kate but I thought it would be interesting to first introduce her by her full name. On top of that, she’s the second Russian we’ve interviewed, so I don’t know if this is going to be a trend or anything but I find it pretty cool. Last, her focus is on acting through and through. When she’s not acting, she’s either modeling or working on developing new projects.
When discussing her name, she revealed that she initially went by Katia before she settled on Kate around seven or eight years old when she started traveling a lot. Why did you travel a lot, I asked expecting some complex answer. Because I could, she laughed. My parents tried to show as much as they could, she explained. We would have vacation breaks because the weather in Moscow is not great. By the time she was fifteen, she was attending university where she would get her first degree in Sociology she started traveling on her own. I wrote my thesis for Sociology in Indonesia, she said.
Her favorite place to travel to is India. I asked her what put it above the rest of her destinations and without hesitation she said, The people! They don’t have much and they’re so happy. It’s so rich in culture and its history. Another aspect she loved was the color palette that the country embraced — bold reds and yellows. It was the artistry of other countries like India that Kate admired the most, and often, would influence her to buy and bring home a multitude of items from her travels. I always brought so many souvenirs back, paintings from Dominican Republic, rugs from Egypt, et cetera. My dad was like, why Kate? Stop bringing furniture to the house, she said.
When Kate decided to come to L.A., her initial plan was to live in the city for only a year while she attended an acting program. Back home were her parents, a boyfriend, and friends but she fell in love with Los Angeles quickly and changed her plans. I got here and I was like, this is it! I’m not going back! What convinced her was the constant movement of the industry, something that wasn’t quite present in Moscow. Kate said that in L.A. she felt there was a way for her to break in even if she didn’t know anybody. There’s websites, castings, and just sort of a step-by-step way of how to be an actress for dummies that you can take advantage of. In Russia, she said in order to improve your chances is usually by either sleeping with someone well-connected or having family members already established in that industry. It’s just not as easy as it is here [L.A.] but at the same time the competition here is fuckin’ crazy.
Tumanova’s mom was a musician — composer and writer — so at an early age she was exposed to that lifestyle. I was always surrounded by those people. Music video shoots and art galleries, I was surrounded by those people who smoked cigarettes and talked about art. I loved it. I thought to myself, that’s what I want to be. Despite this allure, she wanted to go for a degree first because she’s realistic about the odds and wanted to have something to fall back on and be able to support herself if acting didn’t pan out. I picked something that I love. I love Sociology because it’s a mix of psychology and statistics and you get to learn everything. Math, politics, everything. You need to know all the ingredients to learn how society works, she said.
I had to bring up Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, who is arguably one of the greatest filmmakers of all time (yes even above Scorsese and Spielberg) but is virtually unknown to anyone who’s not a hardcore film buff. The reason for that is due to the fact that Russian cinema has such a limited exposure outside of its own borders. For someone like Kate who explained the limitations of being able to move up the creative latter in Russia, I thought it would be interesting to hear her take on his influence and what kind of effect, if any, it had on her own pursuit.
Coming from Russian drama techniques, I was always more influenced Stanislavski and Chekhov. Stage people, not film directors. And I purely think of myself as an actress. For Kate, it’s about focusing on how to make her craft better and legends like Stanislavski were influential in perfecting and mastering the art of acting. Tumanova said that in order to achieve that, she knew she needed to be in Los Angeles where the opportunity is greater than it is in Moscow.
On the topic of transitioning from Russia to L.A., Kate admitted there were some cultural differences that made it a bit of a hassle upon arrival. Everything I say always comes across as selfish and ignorant, she said. Those concepts have a different context in Russia as opposed to the States. In Russia, selfishness means you’re focusing on taking care of yourself and your family and not wasting energy on the things that affect you negatively while being ignorant is not worrying about things that are out of your control. I think people should be more selfish and ignorant, she said with a smile. If we cared more about our own business, we would have a more professionally and personally solid society. Create something of your own. She also doesn’t quite understand the pressure to be pridefully independent and that anything opposite of that one is considered “less-than”. Kate said she wants to have a husband, she wants to be home and cook and to have support from her husband. That’s what I want and I shouldn’t be shamed against that.
Kate’s parents were a big influence in her quick development into maturity. At an early age they gave her a lot of trust and as a result, she learned how easy it was to lose that trust. My mom kept a close eye on me early in my childhood and as I got older she started to let me learn things on my own. Kate said having to deal with the consequences of her actions and mistakes helped her learn to take responsibility for unsatisfactory outcomes. Along with her mom’s hands-off approach, her father was a boxer so he instilled discipline and self-sufficiency in her. If she came home and complained about anything, he would tell her that unless it was life threatening she needed to learn how to deal with it on her own. Kate says this trust and discipline has created an incredibly strong bond with her parents. When my mom left after visiting, I cried the whole day.
An ethos Kate has come to follow in life is to have fun while also caring about your health. I think the most important thing is, to be honest to yourself and be selfish the Russian way. Deep down we all really know if we want to do a certain thing or not. She also emphasized the necessity to get rid of people you don’t like and not to force yourself to be in friendships that bring stress and unhappiness. We surround ourselves with a lot of fakeness and you get a fake sense of responsibility and you end up supporting a bunch of causes you don’t believe in. Kate stated that last year was a mess and she’s taking responsibility for that. This year, that’s what I’m trying to do — do what I want.
Kate would like to give a shout out to her BFF Elena for being an amazing friend!
I would not have been who I am without her!
Trailer for American Exorcism, a horror film Kate was cast in.
Follow Kate on IG: @kate.tumanova
Article by @zachquinones
Photos by @joelfloraphoto