Actress Valery Danko hailed as a ‘young Grace Kelly’ for her role in ’97 Minutes’

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British-Ukrainian actress Valery Danko has a scene-stealing role in the upcoming action film ‘97 Minutes’, alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Alec Baldwin. The gripping film is about a hijacked aeroplane that has 97 minutes before it runs out of fuel. Its producer, Pavan Grover, said: “Valery has incredible charisma and screen presence. When she is on screen, you can’t take your eyes off her. She reminds me of a young Grace Kelly.” Valery has also appeared in 2021’s ‘Deadly Perfect’, the period drama ‘Final 45’ and TV documentary ‘The World Stripped Bare’. Here she talks about her multicultural background, coming out of her shell and how being a tour guide is great practice for acting. 

What was it like acting in the new film ’97 Minutes’?

“I was a dialect coach on set and then I got a part in it as well. It felt like being in a summer camp – everyone was on the same wavelength and it was great to be surrounded by the incredible cast. It was really exciting to work alongside the leads, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, MyAnna Buring and Alec Baldwin.”

Tell us about your beginnings in the film industry?

“I started acting in Shanghai 12 years ago, in commercials and as an extra. I didn’t take it seriously, and only considered them as fun summer jobs before going back to university. Later on, I was offered a speaking part in a Chinese-Italian martial arts film, but I refused and went back to Kyiv where I was studying journalism. I’d rejected this part of me.” 

Photo credit: Leo Stakhovsky

What happened next?

“Years later, when I’d moved to London, I received a message on Facebook and it was like getting a letter from Hogwarts! A documentary producer asked me to audition for his project after watching my tour-guiding videos. [Valery owns an immersive tour company, Pigeon Tours.] My first film in London was playing a dancer in a short crime film. Guiding tours was a great foundation for acting, as well. I learned how to make people react through storytelling.” 

And then you got the acting bug?

“Yes, that producer convinced me that I had to start acting. I never had the courage to admit that I could be an actress as I was too self-conscious to come out of my shell. I buried that wish so deep that I needed someone else to unlock it. I was often bullied for my appearance in the past, so it took time to fight those prejudices. The perception of me was always that I’m just another pretty girl. I am not what people think I am, I am someone else. I am an artist’s soul in a female body. Acting allowed me to channel stories through myself.”

What’s your favourite project to date?

“I think that first documentary about energy from space is the dearest to me, because that’s where everything started.”

Photo credit: Michael Shelford

And what was your experience of filming ‘Deadly Perfect’?

“Playing Tory was challenging, because she is so removed from me. She has secrets that even her best friend learns about at the last moment. She is an attention-seeker and is up for any challenge that will bring views to her social media.”

Which upcoming projects should we look out for you in?

“As well as ‘97 Minutes’, ‘Deadly Perfect’, ‘The World Stripped Bare’ and the documentary ‘Valery Danko Discovers Energy From Space’, I might be going to Australia this summer to shoot a new documentary about rainforests!”

Featured photo credit: Leo Stakhovsky