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 CEE
Operation Sabre: The actors talk
 10 Jun 2024
In April, the Serbian thriller Operation Sabre had its world premiere at the Canneseries Festival and also won the Special Interpretation Award of the Festival for its superb cast. In this interview, CEETV’s Yako Molhov talks with the top cast of the production – lead actress Milica Gojković, and lead actor Dragan Mićanović. The interview with the creators can be found here.

The series will make its TV premiere in Serbia on RTS1 this fall.


Dragan, you play the role of Zoran Đinđić in Operation Sabre. He is a pivotal figure in Serbia's recent history, tell us more about how you got the role, and did you have any concerns when accepting to play such an emblematic politician, how did you prepare for the role?

For me, this represented a real acting challenge. I watched everything I could find about him over and over again. I was trying to discover the emotions that moved him to speak. In agreement with the directors, we didn't want to go for imitation, and at the same time, we didn't want to lose that quick thinking and speech, his infectious energy and the overall cheerfulness that characterized Zoran Đinđić, even when faced with significant societal problems.


In a TV interview for RTS you talked about the warm reception of the series at Canneseries, with emotional ovation and people approaching you after the premiere and that this has been one of your biggest acting challenges. What are your expectations of how the Serbian audience will accept the series and what were the biggest challenges for you as an actor playing the former PM?

Personally, it wasn't easy for me to return to that tragic time, and it was especially difficult to shoot the scene of the assassination at the location where it actually happened. His assassination, in broad daylight, at the entrance to the government building, represents a great collective trauma for the entire society, the consequences of which are still felt to this day.


Đinđić was in power for less than two-and-a-half years and his figure is not as known as that of Milošević outside of our region. Did you feel a special responsibility when portraying your character in the series in the sense that many people abroad will learn about him from Operation Sabre?

Two words that best described Zoran Đinđić as a politician were: modernization and accountability. He wanted to bring Serbia closer to democratic countries and to establish accountability for taken actions. I think this is a very significant series that will remind some, and perhaps introduce others for the first time to a difficult, tragic, and complicated time in Serbia, not so long ago, at the beginning of the new millennium.


Do you think Operation Sabre will spark new debates in Serbian society following its premiere in Serbia?

The event we presented in this series is part of our history, an important part of our history, there is no reason to run away from it. Regardless of the effects and the debates it might sparkle, or resurrect. Politics does tend to meddle into every aspect of our existence, and while this is a delicate topic from our recent history, I don’t think we should constantly entertain the viewer, we cannot do that. We must delve into subjects that had an impact on us directly, subjects that we paid too high a price for. Therefore, I don’t see why this theme shouldn’t be filmed and broadcast - here, or anywhere else.


Milica, you portray the young journalist Danica who investigates the assassination of Zoran Đinđić. How would you describe your character, how does the killing of the PM affect her life?

The role of Danica was written in a way that portrays a working single mom struggling to both raise her daughter and do her job professionally. Being a daughter of a former journalist herself, she grew up watching her ambitious mom struggling the same way, making it almost impossible for Danica to separate her private life and her work. Hungry for success, Danica’s main goal was to improve the quality of work at the TV station. She wanted to change the approach, to tackle serious topics, and when she finally got the opportunity to do so, she failed. Determined to climb the ladder, and prove that she was capable of more, she presented some poor, unsupported evidence in her report, criticizing recent actions of the Prime Minister which were false. Learning that he was killed she felt deeply devastated, ashamed, and responsible in a way.
You can definitely see how this event changes her path dramatically. Despite being banned from taking any actions, fueled by the sense of guilt, ambition and passion for work, she independently decides to investigate and discover in her own way the real background of the assassination and reveal what had truly happened. That specific quest for the truth led her to discovery of deep state involvement. Danica's most notable qualities are perseverance and sense of justice. She is the type of person who will not back down so easily. She even puts her own life at risk as she discovers incriminating facts about some extremely powerful people. But that’s a sacrifice she is willing to take, as she believes that it is her civil duty. So I might say her strength lies in her ambition, in her understanding of her obligation as a journalist, which requires to be an independent thinker, to always dig deeper in order to unearth the truth. So, to me, she represents a strong female voice in a very male dominant world.


Did you do your own research about the facts surrounding the real events from 2003?

There was nothing easy about telling a story such as this one, but that makes it even more important to tell. And because Danica’s character is based on several real-life female journalists, I was even more inspired to play this role. When I first read the script it instantly took me back to 2003. At the time I was just a kid, but I remembered every single detail surrounding that specific event. I didn’t understand much about what was happening at the time, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that the atmosphere in Belgrade and the mood of the people that I care about had changed in just one day. I felt helpless. After reading the script, I found myself reliving those emotions all over again, but I knew that this time, I can finally do something about it by bringing this role to life. I wanted to say so much through this character. It was a really intimate and personal journey where I took a deep dive into researching as much as possible about the true people and events of the show.

It was important to me to honor Mr. Đinđić, and all the journalists who have done so much in the investigative field not just back then, but also during the ‘90s which were very difficult times for journalism in Serbia.

That was my way to thank them and say they will never be forgotten, as they have done so much for our society.

During my preparation for the role I watched some TV shows, read tons of interviews, as well as some books. I noticed that all those journalists had several things in common. They were so dedicated to their jobs, they were all persistent in order to unearth everything they discovered. They were tireless, brave, they never backed down from a fight, and the thing that impressed me the most was how they all behaved when they faced different threats from some of the most powerful people in the country. They were scared without a doubt, but they never showed it. The thirst for the truth kept them going and gave them courage to continue in their mission. This was incredibly inspiring to me and I remember thinking that this was something I needed to incorporate in the role! It was a privilege to portray REAL heroes of the time.


Tell us more about your experience at Canneseries when presenting the series, did you have the opportunity to discuss the series with critics, fellow actors, and members of the audience?

It's a great honor for every actor to be a part of such an important and recognized festival. This was an incredible adventure and we had a chance to meet a lot of colleagues, share experiences, and talk about other series that were presented. For me, the most important moment was after “Operation Sabre” was shown and we received standing ovations from the audience. It lasted for what felt like ten minutes, and to be honest, in the first couple of seconds we were a bit confused but after we realized that they were applauding us, we were overwhelmed with emotions. We felt such love, and acceptance from everyone in the Lumiere auditorium. It was hard to believe that such a story, that was of course, a big part of our history, something that is in a sense very intimate and personal to us, was received and understood by people who maybe didn’t even hear about that specific event. That was truly such a heartwarming moment and I will forever be grateful to everyone who was a part of it.
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