– Don’t forget to check the links after the interview –
Can you just tell us a little bit about the character and Moominmamma’s role within the Moominvalley story?
Well, Moominmamma is a very warm, loving, capable Moomin. She is mother to Moomintroll and wife to Moominpappa and she is the sort of beating heart of the Moomin house, which is the centre of Moominvalley. It’s a house where all waifs and strays are welcome, all kind of creeds, faiths, whatever, whoever you are, you’re welcome under her roof. She’s an embodiment of warmth and tolerance, but she has anxieties too, she has a tremendous need to be needed.
There’s an anxiety as to what your role is when your children fly the nest and you’re no longer needed. Moomintroll, in our series, is on the cusp of growing up and is wanting to explore although he still needs his mother very much. Moominmamma is also dealing with Moominpappa who is a complicated man, again, someone who feels perhaps that he’s not quite satisfied with life and he’s always searching for something more. Moominmamma has an amazing ability to make a home wherever she finds herself. So, she’s very practical and she’s able to make a garden grow, she’s able to put food on the table, make food out of nothing, decorate, make something feel cosy that isn’t cosy, and whether that’s camping or their adventure on a remote island, she’s the one who kind of makes the warm glow that we associate with the family of Moomintroll.
Do you think the complexities of her personality help her to keep control of Moominpappa and deal with Moomintroll’s ever changing need to want to fly the nest?
Yes, I think one of the very beautiful things about Moominmamma is, she reads people very, very well. She’s incredibly observant and she has a deep empathy, and she recognises flaws in other people, but she’s never judgemental, she can be amusing and quite sarcastic at times in her way. But there’s no aggressive or mean bone in her body, she’s an embodiment of tolerance. It’s her observant nature that makes her such a wonderful person, because she sees people very closely and that makes people feel recognised and that’s why people feel comfortable in her presence I think.
What do you think are the main thing audiences can learn from her?
I think people are going to feel something very comforting in the values that are embodied in the series. It’s the kind of show that I would want my children to watch before going to bed. I feel like the world of Moominvalley, although there are scary things, is ultimately one of protection and comfort. There’s a spirit of adventure, but there’s a balance in the world, although I suppose there are things that are troubling, I think there’s no character in the series who doesn’t learn to deal with their fears or their worries. I think we watch people cope magnificently with what’s put in front of them and adapt to change.
Do you think now is a good time for the series to be coming back?
Yes, I think in terms of where we are with immigration and fear of others, and of other cultures, I think this wonderful world of tolerance is a very beautiful thing and we’re not trying to bash people over the head with it, but I think it’s just there in every pore. I think it’s who Tove Jansson was, I think she was very embracing of people, however she found them. Not that she couldn’t be wry and humorous in her analysis of people, but she did accept everyone.
Can you tell us about some of the adventures that Moominmamma goes on?
I really liked the relationship with Mrs Fillyjonk who lives next-door, because I think Moominmamma is very happy in her own sort of cosy chaos, it’s not a sort of pristine environment and there’s a neighbour who can make her feel very insecure about her ways, because the neighbour is a total perfectionist and can’t bear a speck of dust. So, Moominmamma goes through an anxiety attack of feeling very inadequate and I think parents will recognise that. But, of course, the perfectionism only comes from a fear of its own, and I think Moominmamma comes to realise that and has a wonderful, exuberant joy in finding who her true self is, remembering that being who she is is just fine. All the stories are very thoughtprovoking and they work on many levels, that’s the beauty of it, it’s lovely for children and then there’s this wonderful recognition of something for adults too.
What originally attracted you to playing a role in Moominvalley?
I’ve loved The Moomins since I was a child, I found comfort in the world that I’m describing, I felt there was something essentially so good and wholesome and happy-making about The Moomins. I just found them very appealing in their characteristics. I was an only child and maybe there’s something in the relationship between Moomintroll and his parents that I recognised and enjoyed, because it is very close. I just loved their adventures; I loved the idea that these people, although they seemed quite domestic, also have this wonderful spirit of adventure in them, these creatures.
Did you have a lot preparation to do for the role or did you feel that it came quite naturally because you were aware of the stories and Tove Jansson?
I thought it came to me naturally, I have to say, I felt lucky in that way. I think I obviously thought about a voice and thought about all the qualities that I wanted her to embody. I talked to Marika Makaroff [CEO of Gutsy Animations and executive producer and creative director of the Moominvalley series] a lot about the particular traits of the Finnish, and I think it was very, very informative. I also looked a lot at the pictures, at her expressions, because Tove Jansson drew very clear expressions on the Moomin’s faces, the worry that crosses her brow and the sense of peace, but then also anxiety. All of those expressions are in there, you’ve just got to look hard enough.
And did working with director, Steve Box, help?
Steve is wonderful. It’s an unusual process in terms of other animations I’ve done just because normally I’m bouncing off other actors, not the director, but Steve, he’s got such joy in him and such love of all these characters. It’s wonderful to do it with him because it’s like working on something where you both care as much as the other about this character, getting her tone just right. And there’s always plenty of time to find it and play, it’s lovely, I love doing it.
Did you feel that there were any parts of Moominmamma’s character that you could relate to?
Yes, I think I aspire to be a kind of Moominmamma type in that I’ve always loved the idea of the open house. I don’t know that, on the practical side, I’m so good at actually engaging with it, but that’s sort of my dream. I’m just never at home enough to be able to manage it, but the idea that people are welcome and there’s always a conversation going on round the table and the kitchen is the heart of the house and all of that, I love that, creating an atmosphere for children to grow up in, particularly. I’ve got sons so I feel the mixture of protectiveness over them but also wanting them very much to be their own person and to find their courage to try things out without you, to be able to be free in their own person, but, obviously, wanting to be protective too.
The Moomins are a global phenomenon with enduring popularity across all generations. Why do you think that is?
I think a large part of it is the image of them, I realise many people say “I love the Moomins” and they’ve never actually read the stories, they just find the characters so appealing. There was something in the way she drew the Moomins themselves that have a tremendous presence. They’re very arresting figures and they create a strong presence. I think the stories deal with the big and the small in a very beautiful way and you feel this very secure world where the values are things that we should all aspire to and yet there’s also this spirit of adventure there; a will to see beyond and to go further and to push yourself and have adventures. I suppose tolerance is a good foundation for that. There’s an innocence there too; I think there’s not a lot of stuff being made these days where innocence is a quality that’s valued.
Big thanks to BradfordZone
Moominvalley premieres in Finland on Yle was in February 2019 and in UK on Sky One and Sky Kids in April 2019.
Moominvalley has benefitted from Business Finland Audiovisual Production Incentive