Gaite Jansen is on a mission to reclaim the role of actor as artist. "I'm not looking to become famous," swears the 23-year-old thespian during a stopover in London this past October. "I don't have a Hollywood dream, but I do have a dream to work my entire life."
After a swift ascendance in her native Holland, including a Best Actress nomination at the Netherlands Film Festival for her turn as a deaf teenager in the groundbreaking 2011 drama 170 Hz, Jansen is now making the leap to the global stage. First up is a role in the third season of the BBC period drama Peaky Blinders, a fictionalized account of a razor-blade-carrying gang roaming the streets of postwar Birmingham, England. "The English make the best period pieces," says Jansen of what first drew her to the show. "Layered and beautifully crafted. Plus, this isn't exactly your average story line." While little has been revealed about her character, she plays a Russian and has tackled the accent to the degree that, along with her auditioning for British and American roles, "I kind of get confused when speaking as myself."
The actress's chameleonic side stems from a childhood spent in the performing arts: acting classes starting at age 6, short-film sets at 15, and drama academy at 18. "I remember watching Sesame Street and desperately wanting to be the people in it," she effuses. "While I love Holland, it's a very small country with only a few directors that I think are really promising—and it's not like they poop films out." Her wish list of directors is more art-house than blockbuster: Xavier Dolan, Alfonso Cuarón, and Lars von Trier. "He messes with my mind," she says of von Trier. "Sometimes I think he's gross and a complete idiot, and sometimes I think he's a genius. That's what interests me about the nature of this job."