Sally Bee from the Heart with Christian Vit
Christian is best known on our UK screens as Italian cardiologist Matteo Rossini in Holby City, the doctor who won Jack Naylors heart…almost! And of course, we remember him on horseback in Game of Thrones.
Christian Vit and I spent an afternoon playing cards and speaking from the heart.
SB. How did you come to live in London after growing up in Italy?
CV. I grew up in the north of Italy but lived in Rome for 8 years where I started my career as an actor. It was going quite well but I never managed to have a proper chance there – I never felt very connected to that city. I found it tough.
SB. Perhaps that was your age at the time? Maybe you would have found life tough wherever you lived at that stage in your life?
CV. Maybe, but it should have been fine. I found myself in a situation where I participated in a lot of productions, some major ones, I was in a relationship, I’d been together with my girlfriend for two and half years. We were running a food business together, so life was busy but something wasn’t quite right. I had a break in the summer where I went to LA to study some acting techniques I wanted to master and practise my English. I was away for just one month.
I left Rome in peace and came back to an explosion!
My relationship had ended, my business was not going well and I was getting some unwanted attention in the shape of indecent proposals from a man that was supposed to be taking care of my interests.
SB. I can see this upsets you. What happened?
CV. This man sent photographs of himself and told me if I wanted the spotlight to be on me and for my career to progress, I would need to go out for dinners with him and then perform in a certain way.
SB. Was this man older than you?
CV. No, about the same age. I was a grown man, 35 years old, but it wasn’t about age, it was about power.
SB. So you went from what you believed to be a successful life to one of trauma and uncertainty. Do you believe in the universe having a plan for you and speaking to you?
CV. Of course. The signs from the universe we so absolutely clear because the things I thought I had and the people I thought I could count on the most, were in fact not. It was the universe telling me I was not in a good place. Actually the signs had been there for a while I think, maybe I didn’t want to see them. But this time, there were messages coming from all directions. Rome was not a good place for me to be.
SB. I get the impression you are confident and strong willed and happy with your own company, so I find it difficult to imagine you feeling lost and afraid.
CV. I don’t think I was afraid, I had an inner strength but I realised that it was the foundations that I was standing on that were weak. My life was resting on tissue paper – it was thin, soft and very fragile. I just knew I had to leave.
SB. What was the part that made you feel like that the most?
CV. The harassment for sure. People think that unwanted sexual advances affect only women, but it can happen to anyone, in any situation. The man that did this, had power over me, so to take control back, I needed to be as far away as possible. I needed to not need him!
SB. It’s often in tough moments like these that we get the opportunity to properly look at our lives and be honest with ourselves about what is missing or needs changing. They say we have to reach rock bottom, to lift ourselves back up. Did you feel that? What was the catalyst that made you pack your bags?
CV. That year was the saddest New Years Eve I have ever experienced. I didn’t have any friends I felt I could call. So I visited a neighbour who was like a grandmother to me and we sat together to toast to the New Year. The whole night I kept thinking about the gravitas of my situation and how every part of my life in Rome was causing me pain.
SB. Who did you blame for your situation? Did you feel sorry for yourself?
CV. No actually I didn’t feel sorry for myself but I did feel I was to blame. I thought I should have made the move earlier; I should have listened to the signs the universe was sending me. But thankfully that night I did listen… and London was clearly calling me.
SB. So, you have just made a dramatic exit from Holby City, within an hour you and your onscreen wife were packed up and ready to make a new life in Amsterdam. Was your departure from Rome similar in any way?
CV. Sadly not. In reality, it took me 3 months to get everything closed down properly. I wanted a completely clean break. At that point, I didn’t feel that I would ever want to revisit Rome again. And arriving in London didn’t go too smoothly either. I arrived on February 14th, Valentines Day, 2014.
SB. The perfect day for an Italian man to arrive into his new life?
CV. Oh yes, I planned to give myself a romantic arrival unfortunately it was the worse trip I have ever had on a plane. When I left Rome, it was sunny and perfect weather but just as we approached England we were battered by high winds and needed to be diverted from Heathrow to Stansted Airport. People were screaming and yelling inside the cabin and this lady was holding my hand shouting, “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die!” I thought to myself, Oh my god why do I always have to complicate my life like this…
SB. Did you worry you were still being sent the wrong messages? Maybe you had come to the wrong place?
CV. Well, I was about to find out. After being stuck on the plane for another 2 hours while they found some steps for us to disembark the plane, I eventually managed to make my way to Brick Lane where I had rented a small room to stay for a few days. I was starving hungry and it was raining of course. I hadn’t eaten for hours but there I found a small Bagel shop open and it was like finding a little piece of heaven. It was beautiful, warm, and friendly and I ate the most delicious crème cheese and smoked salmon bagel. I still remember how wonderful it tasted!
I started to get familiar with London and hang out and meet people at the Actors Centre. I needed to get an agent, and this time everything started to fall into place. This time the universe was giving me good signs, encouraging me to settle. I felt I was where I was supposed to be.
SB. Did you find work quickly? How did you survive?
CV. I found a new agent and within 2 months of shaking his hand I was booked for Game of Thrones, which was a huge production and great to have on my resume. All my scenes were filmed on horseback and that theme was carried through to my arrival at Holby City.
SB. At this time did you miss Italy at all?
CV. I can honestly say that I didn’t and still don’t miss Italy at all. I fell in love with London quickly and each question I asked myself, about my happiness and well-being, was easy to answer. I knew I was in the right place, surrounded by the right people.
SB. We have both spoken about the universe sending you messages; how long have you been aware of this?
CV. I’ve always believed that there are a set of universal laws that work together, a sense of collective energy that surrounds us but I’ve only really started to tune into it and dig a little deeper since my bad experiences in Rome. I could have stayed there and been unhappy but I knew there had to be a different way to live and feel. I just needed to open my ears and eyes to the possibilities and then be brave enough to take the first step.
SB. The first step is the hardest, but it doesn’t have to be a great big leap; it can just be a small step in the right direction. Once you had taken that first step, everything changed for you. And your next steps? What does your dream role look like?
CV. I’m really interested in playing a historical figure, a conqueror in a period drama and a villain – I’d love to explore playing a villain.
SB. Is that because you are a good guy so, you want to play the opposite?
CV. Yes, I love the contrast. It’s so interesting to play a character far removed from yourself. I’ve always had a vivid imagination and have wanted to put opposites together. As a child I wanted to grow up to be a shepherd who drove a Ferrari. We all know shepherds’ can’t afford Ferraris, but I felt I could make that happen.
I believe in the simplicity of the complexity or the complexity of the simplicity.
SB. I struggle a little bit with depression and I use some techniques first thing in the morning to put myself in the right frame of mind before I set out for my day. Although you are so busy and in demand, do you manage to find some space inside you to be mindful about the day ahead?
CV. Absolutely, always. I make sure I do. I walk a lot as this gives me thinking time. It’s important for me to try and get some sort of isolation, so I can ask myself what do I want from this day? How do I want this meeting to go?
SB. Do you need to mentally prepare yourself before an audition?
CV. The thing is if it’s an audition, the only thing I can control is how I deliver my lines, so I can prepare by memorising the script and working out some of the possible technicalities. But what is more important is that the people in the room feel my ease. When we are at our ease – and we are relaxed, what comes out is our true self. The unique part of our self. This is the unique selling point of each of us.
SB. But when you are acting, is it so important to let people see the real you? Surely you want them to believe you are the character you’re playing?
CV. Well the point is, in the room there is a moment where you introduce yourself and you have to be confident and show a glimpse of who you are before you take on the character of someone else. It’s crucial to make a personal connection with the people in the room, before you can become believable as someone else. Every character has an element of you hidden in it somewhere.
SB. What is anything are you afraid of? Are you afraid of dying?
CV. A bit yes. Because I don’t consider myself a man who has accomplished everything I want yet. Over the last few years, I’ve been pushing and concentrating on my career, which doesn’t really work with the life of a family guy so that, has been pushed aside. I would like to have someone next to me who understands me and together we can build a family. I come from a grounded family – my parents have been a wonderful example to my sister and me, they have been together forever. The reality and the dream has an ocean between them at the moment but I am hopeful and have faith that I will one day meet this lady. If I haven’t already?…
SB. But why does this give you a fear of dying?
CV. My fear is not so much death itself, but rather that something happens to me before this stage in my personal development. I am excited about the future and I don’t want to miss it.
SB. I feel the same. From experience I know that when you die, all pain is gone and everything is peaceful. But the thought of not finishing what you set out to achieve is the scariest part. But Christian I think you will always have things you want to achieve, and that’s what will keep you hungry for new experiences.
CV. There are moments in life when you have work and not the love, and there are other moments when you have love but not work. I would love one day to experience both of these passions working alongside each other.
SB. I believe life comes in highs and lows and waves. And when you are in the right place, at the right time and in the right frame of mind, I have no doubt you will experience exactly what you wish for.