There were a lot of happy tears shared across 7,000 miles this morning as shocked Maria Bakalova, living in Los Angeles, found out that she was a first-time Golden Globe nominee while on Zoom with relatives and friends in her native Bulgaria. Staying true to the proverbial “Balkan temperament,” the group ran the gamut of emotions, from crying to screaming to laughter, and Maria’s mom told her how proud she was of her.
After devoting half of her 24-year life so far to acting, Bakalova has been rewarded with top Hollywood awards for her fearless performance as Borat’s daughter Tutar in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. She is nominated in the Golden Globes category for Best Performance By an Actress In A Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy alongside “actresses I have admired since childhood,” Bakalova says about the field, which includes Oscar-nominated actresses Michelle Pfeiffer and Rosamund Pike, Kate Hudson as well as another rising 24-year-old, Anya Taylor-Joy.
“A person dreams and dreams and dreams but things are so unpredictable,” Bakalova says. “”It’s incredible what is happening, I’m speechless.”
Bakalova is the first Bulgarian actor to get a Golden Globe nomination and a rare actor from Eastern Europe to receive the recognition since the area was formed post-World War II. (The only other example I could find is Polish actress Ida Kaminska who was nominated in 1967.)
That is a big point of pride for Bakalova, who sees her nomination as “a big step” in giving talent from countries like her beloved Bulgaria a chance and relishes the opportunity to open the Hollywood doors for others from the region.
“What excites and motivates me the most is the prospect of many Eastern European actors and filmmakers being noticed and finding opportunities in Western cinema where they have not been represented; people who have an accent and may not be speaking perfect English but are working really hard on that. They could finally be given a chance to play multi-dimensional characters like Tutar.”
Bakalova thanked her Borat co-star and producer, triple Golden Globe nominee Sacha Baron Cohen, the film’s other producers, distributor Amazon as well as the HFPA for the recognition.
“To be able to build a character like that you need a great script and brave producers willing to get behind you and believe that you can do it,” she says.
Bakalova, who has a strong drama acting background, has not settled yet on what her next project will be after Borat.
But she knows that whatever she does next “would have a message, would be something that reflects the times we live in,” Bakalova says. “Life is so fleeting — we are on this earth for 60, 70, 80, 90 years at the most — but the art we create could live on forever as a document of what happened.”
Would she revisit Tutar in a Borat followup?
“Why not,” Bakalova says. She notes that every project Cohen has tackled has had a mission, “rebelling against an injustice and showing how we can make the society better,” and, if he takes on a new one, “it will also have a strong message.”
To find out more about Bakalova and her improbable journey from her home town of Burgas to Borat, read Deadline’s profile of the young actress.