Serrano plays the mother of the notorious YouTube prankster Vitaly Zdorovetskiy in a short film based on the comedian’s early life as a Russian immigrant in America
Russian-born comedian Vitaly Zdorovetskiy, known as VitalyzdTv to his four million YouTube channel subscribers, is famous for his over-the-top hidden camera pranks like dressing as a zombie or Russian hitman and frightening innocent bystanders. But his recent short film Why I Did Porn! — featuring Swiss-born actress Tania Serrano as his mother — shows a side of the comedian’s early life as an immigrant in America that few have known. The short film has been seen nearly 3.5 million times on YouTube, making it Serrano’s highest-profile video project to date.
In a series of dramatic re-creations, with a narration track by Zdorovetskiy, viewers see how the future YouTube star endured loneliness and isolation as a non-English-speaking young boy in a strange country. Playing his mother — who remains unnamed in the film — Serrano is seen helping her character’s son learn English with homemade flash cards.
Later, we see the young Vitaly, played by Bryson Robinson, his stepfather, played by Sean Michael Nugent and his mother (Serrano) go through a heartbreaking loss. Serrano’s whole body is wracked with grief, her shoulders heaving and her hands shaking when, as Zdorovetskiy’s mother, she reaches out to comfort him.
As the video unfolds, we watch Serrano’s character endure abuse perpetrated by Zdorovetskiy’s increasingly violent and dangerous stepfather. “I was afraid for my life,” the comedian explains, “I was really thinking…he [is] gonna kill me, or my mom.”
Ultimately we learn that the then-18-year-old Zdorovetskiy sees the big paycheck from working in porn as the way to get himself and his mother out of their dangerous household so they can start a new life in safety.
Despite playing a role with no dialogue, seen only in flashbacks, Serrano manages to make a memorable impact in the film. Her scenes with the young actor portraying Zdorovetskiy as a child contain a compelling sweetness and emotional tenderness. This makes the emotional tension later in the film even more of a contrast, as we see her character endure the unimaginable, then struggle to survive domestic violence that leaves her shaking on the floor after a beating.
“I really enjoyed working on this project,” says the actress, a resident of Los Angeles via Madrid. “As an immigrant myself, I understand how jarring it can be to pull up the roots of your old life and move halfway around the world to start from scratch in a new city. I was honored to help portray Zdorovetskiy’s mother. I hope I was able to convey what a loving and strong woman she had to be to survive and thrive here in America.”
About Tania Serrano
Born in Switzerland and raised in Spain, Tania Serrano was invited to join the “Punto y Aparte” Theater company in Madrid at the age of thirteen. She performed in a number of stage productions and was eventually awarded First Prize in the third annual Interpretation Festival for live theater in Nuevo Baztán for her performance in “Thanks Grandma” by Sebastián Junyent. After earning her bachelor’s degree in film in the United States, she returned to Madrid to finish her Masters in acting for film at the prestigious “Central De Cine” under the direction of Eva Lesmes, where she received coaching and instruction from Maria Ripoll among many others. In addition to her theater work, Serrano’s acting credits include roles in several short films, television appearances and the feature film Ted 2.
About Kathleen Hanover
Kathleen Hanover is a freelance writer and public relations consultant whose work has been published in local, regional and national newspapers and periodicals including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer and many more.
For more information about film and television actress Tania Serrano, please visit her website at http://www.taniaserrano.com.