the difficult retraining of the actors of “Plus belle la vie”

While the emblematic series of France 3 ends this Friday, the question of retraining arises for the actors, who are very marked by their role.

Is there an afterlife? better life? With the end of the series, the last episode of which will be broadcast this Friday on France 3, the question arises for the hundreds of technicians who worked on the set of Belle de Mai in Marseille. But also for actors.

Because acting in a soap opera like this means inviting yourself into the French living room every evening. And agree to disappear behind his character.

“Wherever I go, the Mistral goes with me,” recalls Laurent Kerusoré, Thomas Marci’s interpreter since 2005

“They stop me and ask me, ‘Are the others not there?'” explains the actor in the journalist’s latest book Telerama Pierre Langlais, Embody a series.

“Pretty notoriety” or “golden cage”?

“Three quarters of the time when I’m stopped in the street I’m talking about the show. They sometimes call me Barbara,” BFMTV is teeming with actress Léa François, who has played Barbara Évenot since 2009 better life.

Because in 18 years of daily broadcast and 4665 episodes, the series has built a very strong bond with the audience. A pioneer on many social issues, such as same-sex marriage or molestation, the soap opera has been both a mirror of society and an engine of change.

Linked to the success of the series, the actors are very popular with the audience. “It’s quite a notoriety, a very popular notoriety,” says Fabienne Carat, who played Samia Nassri for 15 years.

Actors of ‘Plus belle la vie’ Franck Borde, Dounia Coesens, Rebecca Hampton and Laurent Kerusore pose during an autograph session November 19, 2008 in Marseille. © Gerard Julien – AFP

The series’ returning actors all point out that in such a difficult and competitive profession, such a role is, above all, an opportunity. “I know so many actors who have it complicated that it would be a shame to find it difficult when you’re lucky enough to make it work and do so much for so long,” observes Léa François.

in the Embody a series, Laurent Kerusoré also mentions this status of “privileged temporary worker” conferred by such a role. But at the same time it compares to a “golden cage”.

“Golden is relative job security. (…) The cage is that it’s screwed: I was and will remain Thomas Marci for most viewers, channel decision-makers and producers.”

A time consuming shoot

The Actors of better life are certainly not the only ones locked into a role. But they suffer from the popular image of the series, but also from the shooting conditions. And a bloated cast.

“It’s a series with many characters and actors and not really stars”, analyzed Pierre Langlais. “It’s hard to shine in an environment like this, which has a pretty small margin,” adds the playoff specialist.

A photo taken by on the last day of shooting
A photo taken on the last day of shooting of Plus belle la vie in Marseille on September 28, 2022. © Nicolas TUCAT / AFP

Many scenes, few takes… The rhythm of better life is also not necessarily conducive to acting performances.

And it’s all the more difficult to keep going as the soap opera shooting, which is very time consuming and intense, makes it difficult to do other projects in parallel. “When you’re in the main story, you can’t do anything else,” confirms Fabienne Carat.

“We get up at 6 a.m., we come home at 7:30 p.m., we have a lot of text for the next day,” says the actress. “It’s complicated.”

Actress Sara Mortensen had to give up the role of Coralie Blain, which she played for 7 years, the day she landed the lead role in the crime series Astrid and Raffaelle. Impossible to reconcile the two, the actress thanked in 2019. “The production could no longer cope with my schedule,” she explained on Instagram at the time.

Changing directors’ perspectives

For a Sara Mortensen or a Laetitia Milot now making TV movies, how many actors will remain trapped in their acting image better life?

“We cannot generalize,” says Fabienne Carat, who left the series in 2021. “There are some that will do a lot of other things and others that the label will be too strong for. It’s inexplicable. It depends on what we bring out, what we do on the side, the people we meet, the projects that will polish us differently, and also the imagination of the directors or producers who will see us somewhere else.

    Sara Mortensen, Fabienne Carat, Cecilia Hornus and Léa Francois on June 7, 2014 at the Monte Carlo Television Festival
Sara Mortensen, Fabienne Carat, Cecilia Hornus and Léa Francois at the Monte Carlo Television Festival on June 7, 2014 © Valéry Hache – AFP

After leaving the better lifeThe actress herself was confronted with this image stuck to the skin.

“I said to myself, it’s a kind of label that comes off with the sweat of my work,” Fabienne Carat still remembers. I’ve come to understand over the years that it’s not a label, that it’s a tattoo, and that’s the only way to proceed was to add more designs around that tattoo.”

The actress of research department tried other experiments, far from it better life. More than her one-woman show, her participation in dance with the starsin 2020, was crucial for her.

“I sensed something different in people’s eyes. There was a bit of admiration there.”

At the turn of the Mistral years, Laurent Kerusoré, who tried his hand at singing on stage a few years ago, is trying his hand at music again: he is currently shooting his first clip. “We are never sure of success,” he joked in an interview with France 3.

“Finding a Form of Virginity”

“The actors have to find a form of virginity,” analyzes Pierre Langlais. “To find a director who trusts you to ask you something else. Only a few manage to do that.”

At the end of October, Laurent Orry (Jérôme Belesta) spoke openly about his difficulties in entertainment television. Not without a certain bitterness. “I have problems in France. This environment is very closed. I remember a director who seemed very interested in my work, but when I told her I had acted better lifeit was all over!”

“The actors of better life are sometimes victims of ostracism,” says Richard Guedj, who directed the actors on the series for a long time.

“It has happened that during the casting one or the other actor refuses to give the answer to another because he just did it better life‘ he claims.

Léa François is more optimistic about her popularity better life a springboard more than a ball and chain. “We now know from a bit of television that the broadcasters, the producers and the directors are also a bit affine with series. And in many programs we see faces that we have seen elsewhere!”.

“You have a lot of talent. We will see them again soon,” Richard Guedj is convinced. He’s “no longer worried about technicians, little hands” – better life employs more than 600 people per year. For them, France Télévisions has promised several series shootings in the Marseille region in 2023 to compensate for “the impact of the standstill” of the soap opera.

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