Debuting at a young age, the Brazilian-born actress Desirée Popper has since been making a name for herself within the Italian entertainment industry. The talented actor is now premiering her latest role in the German/French television series Sopravvissuti (Survivors), a suspenseful and thrilling story about the unexpected return of a lost ship. Popper steps into the unpredictable plot as Lara, a dynamic and powerful character. Schön! speaks with Popper about her career, self-love journey and of course, Sopravvissuti (Survivors).
You established yourself within the industry at a young age. In your view, what has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?
With every new character and every new project comes new challenges and new highlights. So I’d say growing and discovering myself throughout my art is the real highlight of it all.
You were born in Brazil. What is your favourite part about Brazilian culture?
I am proudly Brazilian, so of course I love every single inch of it and the culture, of course. But I think what I love most is their way of living. The Brazilian way of being happy with so little. Brazilians are generally optimistic and light-hearted; they might not have enough food on the table but they sure know how to enjoy it, and they will always find a way to share that little with you.
What’s the most interesting part of being an actor to you?
I love the fact that I can travel the world speaking to thousands of people through my art — can you imagine that?! Touching people’s hearts or even changing their lives, giving them hope just by performing. I feel like it’s a superpower!
Aside from acting, you also have a passion for fashion. Who are some designers you’re interested in at the moment?
Even though I love fashion, I am trying to be more conscious about the environment and our planet. I’m trying to only buy from brands that are respectful to the cause. It’s not a big deal, but I really do believe we can do a big change starting with small steps.
You began documenting your fitness journey during the pandemic. What’s your current workout routine like?
It really helped me to get through the hard times with ease. I love sports — I don’t actually have one specific workout routine. I’m always trying something new. The important thing is to never get bored; it shouldn’t be about losing weight, but having fun. We should care about our mental and physical health. [Being in] good shape is a consequence of your consistency.
You have been open about your struggle in finding the right balance between your femininity and masculinity. What would you tell someone going through a similar self-love journey?
It’s been hard for me. It can be confusing, especially at a young age. It’s a paradox, because if someone would call me pretty I’d feel terrible, like I was an object — but then if someone else called me ‘strong’ or ‘androgynous’, I’d also feel sad because I didn’t want to be judged by my appearance. It’s like people need to ‘tag’ you and put you in some sort of box that you don’t want to fit in.
Now I’ve learned to be comfortable and at peace with being both. Let’s say I consider myself an ‘androgynous female’; I’m just high in both masculine and feminine traits. And frankly I love to be both. I do carry that with pride. I’m endlessly in love with this new version of myself, and just want to keep on growing. So my advice would be to start seeing your uniqueness as your currency, and to embrace that. You might love what it does to you.
Let’s move on to your latest series, Sopravvissuti (Survivors). What were your thoughts when you first read the script and description of your character?
Frankly I didn’t know if I was more scared or excited about the whole project. I remember feeling like facing a tsunami and being thrilled about Lara’s character at the same time. I knew from the first moment I was going to live an adventure of a lifetime — and actually, it’s been exactly that! Again, playing Lara helped me to cope with both sides, ‘stiffness and the sweetness’, and it’s been the best journey so far.
Why should our readers watch Sopravvissuti (Survivors)? What makes this series special to you?
Survivors is a universal story about human behaviour in extremely rough circumstances. People like us, struggling to survive whilst each one battles their own demons. I love how it cruelly shows us what a person is capable of when in survival mode. Hopefully it will make people think about what really matters in this life, and to realise that we should never take anything for granted — especially life itself.
The plot of the series is highly unpredictable. What are you most excited for the viewers to see?
I just love the way it turns out. It plays with the viewers’ minds and expectations; whatever you believe you see, you’ll later find out it’s completely the opposite. I love the fictional way the series tells the reality of human behaviour, and how we never know when life will stab you in the back.
How did you prepare for this role? Did you have any techniques to help you get into character?
I wanted to live this experience as deep as I could, so I decided to do all the stunts. It took me a lot of work to play Lara. The character is strong, very dynamic, and it required a lot of action, so other than losing weight I also took swimming and freediving classes. She is also Italian, and since I was born in Brazil, I had also prepared for the role with an Italian accent coach.
You have incredible chemistry with your cast members. What was your favourite memory from being on set?
The story takes place on a boat — which means 12 people in the same place for months of filming — so if you don’t have that chemistry, you might be in trouble. I remember one day coming on set dressed and ready to shoot. Looking around, I realised that we were all somehow bonded, like a team. I looked around and I was stunned, because I could see every character actually there. I was amazed by the work of the casting director and costumes and make up; it was so real that we couldn’t not actually be in the moment and have fun.
Do you have any goals for the new year?
I never liked the mantra ‘new year new me’. I feel that there is a lot of pressure when it comes to starting a new year. I think the process of growth and becoming a better person should be all year long.
What are you looking forward to right now?
I am now training physically and researching for a new project, so I am mostly concentrating on that now. I am also trying to become a more self-aware, ‘soul minimalist’ kind of person. I love the process of self-growth, and becoming a better human being is my priority.
Sopravvissuti (Survivors) is set to be released globally in March 2022.