Though Tatiana Szpur has been building a résumé by having appeared in a host of horror films, she is actually an accomplished, wide-ranging actor. Born in Ossining, where she remains a resident, Szpur studied drama at the highly competitive Trinity College in Dublin before starring in The Vagina Monologues at Mamaroneck’s Westchester Sandbox Theatre, as well as in the short films Bonsoir Luna, The Banshee, Opera of Cruelty, Fallen Angel, and Through the Wide Gate. In 2020, Szpur had her biggest break, as a heart-stopping ghost in the frightening feature film A Deadly Legend, in which she appeared alongside Hollywood vets Judd Hirsch, Corbin Bernsen, and Lori Petty. We caught up with Szpur, who shed some light on her past and promising future.
What first attracted you to acting?
I have always been interested in the performing arts and tried out all kinds of creative hobbies when I was little. But when I did a sixth-grade play, it was one of those instances where everyone said, “Oh, you were wonderful,” and I had so much fun doing it that it just really stuck as an interest. So, that was when I decided I wanted to be an actor — when I was 11 — and I still want to do it now.
How did growing up in Westchester contribute to this passion?
I think the proximity to the city is kind of what drew me into acting as a career, because from a young age, we used to go in and see Broadway plays, around Christmas. I was very fortunate for that. I also see local [performances] all the time, and I was a huge fan of the Westchester Broadway Theatre.
Was making A Deadly Legend a different experience from the short films?
Yes, it was a very different experience. It was my first time in a feature film, so I was on-set about two or three days a week for five weeks. Usually, when I do a student film or short film, the most I would be on-set is one week. So that was a huge difference. The movie was filmed in Sullivan County [NY], and I was reporting to all kinds of locations across the county. I don’t have a feature-film experience to compare it to, but everyone on the set felt like a family member, and we treated one another as such.
How did you approach your role in A Deadly Legend?
I had this idea that because she is a ghost, I wanted her to have this creepy, ethereal voice and movement to match that — so definitely a soft voice, but a strong personality too. I definitely dig into personal memories a lot for emotional scenes, and there is a way to safely do that, which my acting teacher goes through with our class, about training your system to realize that acting is play and not the same as experiencing a thing in real life. In real life, we have to close ourselves off so much, so I really love acting because I get to explore and use these different emotions.
How do you feel about the film now that it has been released?
I feel so thankful that I had that experience in a feature film and that I got to do a scene with Judd Hirsch, which I never thought would happen so soon in my career. I’ve been pursuing acting or five years professionally. That may seem long to some people, but you never know in this industry: You could be at it for 30 years [before catching a break]. The movie is being received pretty well, and I weirdly think the pandemic was kind of helpful, because people are home watching things now. So, we were very happy to get distribution this year, because the industry is kind of on hold, and were able to get it onto Amazon Prime and a lot of other services.
What lies ahead for you?
Lately, I have done a few things with friends for fun, such as short films and some taped plays, since taped theater is a big thing right now. For me, acting has always been really important — and it’s not about money or fame, because most of the time I do other things to pay the bills anyway. For me, acting is really about that creative and emotional release, and I think I am always going to have it in my life for that. If I can be in more movies, I would love that. That would be the ultimate goal — to be in films or even in a show on HBO or Netflix — but I think I am always going to find a way to do it, no matter what.