What kind of woman signs up to be married to the Master of Magnetism? Well, her name is Carolina Bartczak, and she plays Magda in the current superhero hit X-Men: Apocalypse. Bartczak is a Toronto-based actress with credits including the TV series The Listener, Covert Affairs, and The Mysteries of Alfred Hedgehog along with movie appearances in Smurfs 2 and Brick Mansions, but it was, in part, her Polish ancestry that made her a good choice to play Magda, the Polish woman that builds a life and a family with Magneto (Michael Fassbender) in 1980s Poland in Apocalypse. In our conversation with Bartczak we talk about understanding Magneto, dealing with high expectations, and how sometimes kissing Michael Fassbender is both fun and professional.
Nerd Bastards: My first question, and it might the most important one, but were you an X-Men fan before you got the role?
Carolina Bartczak: One hundred per cent! I had seen the original one back in 2000, and I had seen the first three, and then I fell in love with the reboot. I loved how dark it got, I loved how human it got, I loved the way that they approached prejudice, and weaved in all those crazy images from the Holocaust. Those versions made me understand why Magneto’s so grumpy. His storyline is so heartbreaking.
NB: I guess understanding Magneto was definitely an asset to the role you ended up playing in X-Men: Apocalypse.
CB: Yeah. With Michael Fassbender’s character, with his Magneto, it’s so important to understand the anger, and hatred, and hurt that he had been feeling, but also to understand that there’s a good person underneath all of that. We see him try to be a good person in this movie, try to be a normal person, and a good father, and be a husband, so it was really great to try and compare those two versions of who he is.
NB: To get this out of the way early for people who may not know who you are in the movie, you play Magneto’s wife Magda. So could you describe your character and how a nice girl ends up marrying the X-Men’s most persistent enemy?
CB: [Laughs] I know, they met on Tinder and she swiped right – or whatever direction your supposed to swipe to. After he has that whole White House debacle where he tries to kill the president, he goes into hiding. I don’t know exactly how they met. Michael and I came up with a narrative, but it’s interesting because one of the lines in the film is “I told you who I was the first night that we met,” so it must have been a fascinating circumstance. “I’m the most wanted man in the world, do you want to hang out?” and she says “Yes.” I think it was that his honesty and his integrity came out in that moment where he told her who he was, and she saw something beautiful and good in him. The way Charles Xavier persistently sees something in Magneto.
NB: I think part of the appeal of Magneto is that you can see his point of view. He may go to a radical extreme, but the way you see some of the human characters react to mutants in the films you go, “Huh, maybe Magneto has a point.”
CB: I think so too. You’ve seen the trailer where Apocalypse is like “We’re going to destroy the world!” and what’s amazing as that as I was watching this film I was thinking, “I’m kind of supporting Apocalypse.” That’s good writing right there, when you’re watching someone do something so evil and then you’ve kind of like, “No man, I get it.” And that’s the genius of Magneto, you see his past, you see how he’s just constantly being hurt and having his loved ones hurt, and yeah, I’d be really pissed off too.
NB: Now because I write for Nerd Bastards, and we try to appeal to obsessive audience, we should note that your character does appear in the comic books, but its a different interpretation of the character. Just so fans know, you are not Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s mom like she is in the comics, this is almost an entirely different character with the same name.
CB: Yes, yes. She’s the same character in the same sense that she’s married to Magneto and she has a child with him. She comes from Poland too. But I am not Quicksilver’s mom in the movie. That’s Zehra Leverman, she’s amazing! But yes, he had a love child with another woman. I’m not jealous!
NB: When you’re coming into a comic book movie though, there’s usually a lot of pressure attached, especially when you’re playing a pre-established character, so there must have been a sense of liberation for you that you weren’t coming in with any baggage that you would if you were playing some like Storm or Jean Grey let’s say…
CB: Okay, I would not be equipped to play Storm or Jean Grey. [Laughs] I mean that mohawk, come on…
NB: But still, people love their characters, and they immediately gristle when there’s any sense that the directors and writers are changing things…
CB: Well they don’t have to worry in this movie because Alexandra Shipp and Sophie Turner kill it in every way. They do such a good job.
NB: Working with Michael Fassbender must have been a trip because when you’re thinking of the great actors today, if he’s not at the top of the list, he’s definitely in the top three.
CB: He’s on the top of my list, but yeah, it was terrifying! And what’s worse is he’s the nicest person ever, so I couldn’t even say, “I don’t care what you think!” [Laughs] He was my favourite actor from the moment I saw him in Inglourious Basterds, I was like, “Who is this human being?” He can convey anger, vulnerability and seven different emotions in one look and I don’t understand how he does it. It was very, very nerve-wracking when I got the part because on the one hand I was like, [shouting] “Yes! I can’t believe I’m going to work with Michael Fassbender!” And then I was like [shocked] “I can’t believe I’m going to work with Michael Fassbender.” It was total panic. But he’s the nicest, most generous person and actor. He welcomed me with open arms, and asked me questions, and my opinions on how I thought the scene was going, or how the history of the two characters came together. He made me feel like an equal on set, which was so generous.
NB: And that openness must be so valuable when you’re creating a relationship that you don’t see a lot of on film, but in the story, they’ve been together for years.
CB: Yeah, and it’s because of his openness, and because of Bryan Singer’s openness. I only have five or six scenes, but between those [scenes] we found two or three moments. There’s this one scene where Michael’s character fears we’ve been discovered, and he’s like “We have to run away!” and I’m like, “No, let’s not run away, everyone’s going to accept you, this is your community,” and we shot this scene like 40 times the same way. And then maybe I got more comfortable, and we were in the moment again, and I had this impulse to kiss him, as if to say “I’ll go with you” in just that one kiss, but I was too nervous to do it. Then after Bryan Singer yells “Cut” Michael looks at me and goes, “Yeah, I think a kiss would be perfect in that moment. Do it if you feel the impulse come.” And I was like, “Oh my God, you saw my impulse.” So in the next take, I kiss him, and Bryan said, “Yes, that’s what was missing.”
NB: So you at once enhanced the scene and lived the dream for millions of women everywhere.
CB: [Laughs] That’s right.
NB: As much as it was intimidating working with Michael, it must have been as intimidating coming on a project like X-Men. This is the eighth movie if you count the Wolverine movies, and there are such high expectations for it. Did you feel any of that at all?
CB: You know I didn’t until today. I had a TV interview this morning, and they asked, “Are you nervous the movie won’t do well?” And I’m like “I am now!” [Laughs] I hadn’t thought of that. But I’m very confident the movie will do well, they’ve written a great script, the performances are incredible and the CGI stuff… I mean I don’t understand how that’s all possible to make. I had one stunt and it was a fall over. That’s it.
NB: That’s not so bad.
CB: That’s not so bad, but I wanted more! I wanted to fight someone with a sword. Do something!
NB: Do you have any interest at all in maybe playing a superhero, or a Jedi, or something more action oriented like that.
CB: A hundred percent! I’d love to do that so much. I think I’m more interested in the training though because I think it would be so much fun to learn how to use a sword, or a bow and arrow, or something like that. And it’s totally out of my comfort zone too, so it would be a challenge.
NB: Well, a lot of people are going to be checking out X-Men over the next couple of days, so if there’s a non-spoiler tease you can give them in terms of what to expect from the film, what would that be.
CB: This film is an amazing culmination of hard drama, some great comedic moments by James McAvoy, and some crazy action sequences.
X-Men: Apocalypse is not in theaters everywhere.