Three Great Things: Noémie Merlant

The French actress, who's currently starring in Baby Ruby, on the people, rituals and animals that bring her joy in life.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the current release in theaters and on demand of Baby Ruby, the new psychological horror movie starring Noémie Merlant and Kit Harington, the French actress – who broke out in 2019’s smash hit Portrait of a Lady on Fire – shared some of the things that give her life meaning. — N.D.

Living with My Friends
I love to be with my girlfriends and one of my most perfect days is one I spend with them. When I was in Marseille and in Berlin, where I was shooting TÁR, they all came and stayed with me. Before production started, we had a lot of conversations about the movie we are writing right now. When we’re together, it’s a mix of conversations and working together, and then we all cook and watch a movie. We try to be together as much as possible, sometimes as much as five months a year, and it’s one of the things I love most. It’s a lot, but we need these moments together to feel good, to have a space to talk and to create. They’re all actresses, but they write theater pieces and they help me write my movies. We have an unbelievable creative dynamic together.

We’ve been friends for about a decade. We met at theatre school. Initially, we bonded over acting, but friendship is just like love. There’s something magical about it. You find your partners and you go through a lot of things together. When we graduated, two of them got into a big acting school and I didn’t get in. Now I’m working a lot, but we’re tighter than ever. There is never any jealousy and we always try to help each other with whatever we’re working on. It’s very sane, very positive, and we share a vision of life and a sense of humor.

Since we met, we all wanted to not only be actors, but also to write, so we all push each other to do our projects. The first short movie I did, Je Suis #unebiche, was for the Nikon Film Festival in France, and I was not secure at all about being a director. But I made it with one of my friends and she made me feel comfortable about myself as a director and, at the same time, I helped her feel more secure as an actress. My friends are all amazing actresses who deserve to be in the spotlight so much more. We write things together for each other to act in, to show what I see every day of how good they are.

A lot of people see us and say, “You are always together. How do you do that?” People are maybe not used to seeing a group of four or five women who are more than 30 years old living like they are teenagers. But we just choose to live life like this. I’m also happy that I’ve found a boyfriend who gets why we do this, and sometimes has the same impulse. Maybe it’s a little bit different, but I’m happy and the group is happy, so I don’t care. It’s just the way I am.

Hanging Out, Smoking and Having a Glass of Wine
I don’t smoke a lot, but having a cigarette and a glass of good white wine is one of the best things. I don’t do it alone, it is just a ritual I have with my friends. I don’t really want to say good things about cigarettes and wine, but I just know that when we do this, nothing else exists. We are in a bubble and, at the same time, we are more open.

Noémie Merlant and company. (Image via Twitter.)

Even if it’s cold, we go outside with a glass and a cigarette, and sometimes we don’t need to talk. We just share a moment, and nothing else exists. We’ll talk about anything, even stupid things. When you’re with friends, you don’t have to be perfect. When I do interviews, I’m always scared of saying stupid things, but with my friends, I’m not scared of that. A few years ago, nobody knew me and I could say anything. People didn’t care. But now I have to be careful what I say. When I’m with my friends, it’s a safe zone, because I can be spontaneous and make mistakes and look stupid, and it’s OK.

Walking My Dog
I’ve had my dog, Gino, for three years. He’s an American Staffordshire Terrier and I love walking him, either alone, with my boyfriend or my friends. I love dogs, I love nature and I also love to just walk on the streets and see the houses and the people in there, living their life. I don’t think about anything, I just look at other people.

When you have a dog, you have to take more time to walk. And you’re not in a rush, you just have to walk your dog for at least one hour a day. Now I’m working so much, it’s important to take the time to just walk and do nothing and empty my head by being with my dog. It’s precious time, and dogs don’t judge you.

When you feel bad and you don’t understand yourself or others or the world, you can find solace in the simple connection between animals and humans. There is something magic there. Most of the time, Gino comes with me when I’m shooting a movie. If I can’t bring him with me, there’s a very nice place where he stays with a lot of other dogs, which is like his second family.

I had a dog when I was a kid and I always knew I wanted a dog again, but this is a new thing for me as an adult. What’s interesting is Gino is a big dog and in France is considered dangerous, so he has to wear a muzzle. It’s the first time I’ve experienced walking alone in the streets at night without being scared. When I’m with my dog, I can dress how I want and I will not have any problem because I am with my dog. My dog is nice, but people are scared of him. I don’t know how to say no to people, but when you train a dog, you really have to have a strong character. You can’t say yes to everything, so I really had to learn to say no to Gino. It was very interesting, actually.

Featured image, showing Noémie Merlant with Kit Harrington in Baby Ruby, is courtesy Magnolia Pictures.

Noémie Merlant currently stars opposite Kit Harrington in the new psychological horror Baby Ruby, which is out now in theaters and on demand. Merlant is known for her breakout role in the 2019 film Portrait of a Lady on Fire, directed by Celine Sciamma, for which she won the Lumières Award for Best Actress and was nominated for the César Award for Best Actress alongside her co-star Adèle Haenel. Merlant began her career as a professional model before attending the Cours Florent acting school in Paris. Most recently she starred in the current Best Picture Oscar nominee TÁR, opposite Cate Blanchett, and Jacques Audiard’s drama 13th District. Merlant has directed two short films, Je Suis #unebiche (201700 and Shakira (2019).