Woman Who Starred In Romcom With President Zelenskyy Reveals Difference Between Him and Russian Crew
A woman who starred in a romcom movie with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has opened up about what he was like, including one key difference between him and his Russian crew.
As you well know, Zelenskyy has gained supporters around the world for his incredible leadership during Russia's invasion of his country. But before he became the Kremlin’s number one target, Zelenskyy was a national treasure and comedian who had appeared in multiple films and TV shows.
That includes a 2009 romcom titled either No Love in the City or Love In The Big City, depending on the translation.
UNILAD spoke to writer Jessie Asya Kanzer who had a minor role in the film, something she admits she didn’t think too much about until Zelenskyy’s remarkable rise to power. However, Jessie does recall how the current Ukrainian President was on set, and why he stood out from his counterparts.
But first, the former actor, now 40, described the plot of the film, which is everything you could hope for in a romcom.
“The movie was about a group of Russian expats, in Manhattan, in the city, and they were getting out of hand and dating too many women – Zelenskyy was one of these men,” Jessie explains. “They spend their time partying and seducing women, until they’re cursed with impotence in a bid to teach them about true love.”
For Zelenskyy, this was one of his first major films, with Jessie saying: “It was an ensemble cast, so he wasn’t the only main star. All of them were nice, but Zelenskyy was particularly professional.”
She goes on to explain that much of the cast were Russian, as were the producers who she said were ‘very loud, very chatty, drinking champagne and asking things like where to shop’. Zelenskyy appeared different, adds Jessie: “He stayed in his own lane and seemed to keep to himself a bit more.
“What’s so sad is that all of these people worked together, and I’ve seen a lot of the Ukrainian stars now appealing to their Russian counterparts. They all existed in the same line of work and now their countries are at war with each other, and this is a sign of the bigger workings of the government because none of them have any problems with each other – neither side supports the war.”
Although it didn’t seem significant at the time, Jessie recounts spring of 2019, when her brother texted her: “You do know you were in a movie with the new president of Ukraine?” Certainly he had caught her attention as she had been in a film with him, but what really struck her is that he’s a person who takes unlikely scenarios and makes them happen.
“For example, he’s the first Jewish President in Ukraine,” she explains. “Half my own family are from Ukraine, so I know about its history of anti-semetic policies. Obviously there has been evolution since then, but even so he didn’t let that stand in the way, and garnered all of this support from all of these people based on the show.”
The show being Servant of the People, the acclaimed comedy series that helped to launch Zelenskyy’s political career.
Created and starred in by the 44-year-old politician, the plot follows his character’s life as a normal teacher who becomes President out of the blue after his rant against corruption goes viral on social media.
Servant of the People ended its run in 2019 when life imitated art and the former sitcom star and comedian decided to run for President, even naming his political movement after the show.
Since he was elected, Jessie - who was born in Latvia with Russian as her mother tongue - rewatched all of his old material, saying: “He is legitimately funny - quick, spot on and witty. As is the case with any creative venture, what really makes someone good is their honesty and humanness, and that is also what sets Zelenskyy apart from all of the other politicians.”
Jessie describes the parallels between Zelenskyy’s journey with her own, having overcome huge struggles when her family escaped the Soviet Union and moved to America when she was just seven years old.
“When you look at Zelenskyy’s history, he’s the grandson of the one surviving brother out of four who went through the Holocaust. There’s a survival instinct in him but also a brilliance which is perhaps honed over generations,” she says.
“I feel such a strong connection to this part of him, as my own grandfather was a WW2 hero, and just like Zelenskyy’s grandfather there was a sort of heroism that was passed on in our family. It’s so ingrained in him and is what makes him able to do what he does with fearlessness, and it’s helped me to heal.”
Jessie eventually left the world of acting, and is now an established writer for a range of publications, as well as her new book Don't Just Sit There, Do Nothing: Healing, Chilling, and Living with the Tao Te Ching.
While the book does, in fact, include a chapter focused on Zelenskyy, Jessie is now planning another based on the spiritual teachings of the Ukrainian President. “In watching Zelenskyy, I’ve noticed some amazing quotes that apply to our lives, – he might not even know it, but I think there are a lot of spiritual teachings that can be derived from his insights. So that will be my next project - the spiritual teachings of Zelenskyy.”
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