From 3rd October, French Riviera authorities are undertaking extensive work to modernise the water networks on Avenue Jean Jaurès, in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, the main access road located to the east of the Principality, and it is going to cause major traffic disruptions.
The operation means that road traffic on Avenue Jean Jaurès in the direction of Monaco will be reduced to one-way, from the Quatre Chemins roundabout to the Saint Roman interchange.
The work is due to last for 18 months, and will see a one-way traffic lane on avenue Jean Jaurès, from the roundabout to the intersection with avenue Louis Laurens.
In the direction of Menton, a diversion route is being created by avenue Varavilla, avenue du President Kennedy and Notre Dame de bon voyage for light vehicles.
The major works mean that journeys of local residents, public transport users and cross-border workers will be heavily impacted, particularly in the Monaco/Menton direction.
Bus users are encouraged to check the updated schedules of their lines, while on line 100, the ‘Les 4 Chemins’, ‘La Boucherie’, ‘La Tranchée’ and ‘Saint Roman’ stops, in the Monaco-Menton direction, will not be served from 3rd October and for the entire period of the works.
Monaco Life, in partnership with the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, is proud to present a monthly series highlighting the lives and artistic work of the Princess Grace Foundation-USA’s illustrious Award winners. In this month’s exclusive interview, Princess Grace Foundation-USA’s Director of Programming Diana Kemppainen catches up with Princess Grace Award winner James Udom (Theater 2017).
James is a classically trained actor known for his roles in Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Sandman, Judas and the Black Messiah. On stage, he was most recently seen in The Taming of the Shrew, opposite Deborah Ann Wolf, directed by Shana Cooper (2010 Princess Grace Award). He received his Princess Grace Award in 2017 while he was at the Yale School of Drama (now David Geffen School of Drama).
A rising star on both the stage and screen, James shares his love of Shakespeare, what it was like to work with Denzel Washington, and his choice to take a pause on a successful acting career to attend Yale School of Drama.
Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired you to become an actor?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an actor. Growing up as an only child, I used my imagination a lot. I wasn’t the best at sports, but I was really good at using my imagination – and often to get out of things.
I remember the first time I realised acting was a thing; I was seven-years-old and I went to see Titanic in theatres with my aunt. I was devastated when Jack died, actually inconsolable, and my aunt had to sit me down and explain that was acting. When she explained it to me, it unlocked my world and I knew I needed to do that.
When I did my first show, there was a sense of community and belonging. It felt like home and it was so addictive.
I come from a strict Nigerian family; being an actor is not a reality unless you get to a certain level. I was their worst nightmare because I dropped out of undergrad to pursue acting and it wasn’t until I got into Yale School of Drama (they have a non-degree program) that they felt like I made it.
I remember your letter of nomination from James Bundy (Director of Yale School of Drama). He said you were the most obvious choice to nominate for the Princess Grace Award in almost 20 years, and he also noted that you had already seen success as an actor. What made you choose to go to Yale?
First and foremost, it was the longing to just be really good at this. I love storytelling and transformation, and I just want to be really good at it. That was the catalyst underneath, and there were a few things that put me on the path.
I was doing a show in Massachusetts, and Lupita (Nyong’o) had just won her Oscar. Watching an African woman win an Oscar for going to a school that I didn’t even know had an acting program was incredible. I was working in Massachusetts at the same place where Yale’s Head of Acting was working. He saw the show I was in and encouraged me to audition. But my career was picking up, and I was already working with some amazing talent.
I went to see a show that John Douglas Thompson was in (Obie and Drama Desk Award winner, Tony Nominee), and – he transformed in this way I’d never seen a black man transform on stage. I waited 45 minutes in the cold to meet him and we chatted for a bit. Two weeks later, I received a call that he submitted my name to be in his show and I joined the cast. One day we went out for lunch and I offhandedly mentioned Yale. I mentioned my hesitancy because my career was picking up, and he stopped me in my tracks and said – “if you have the opportunity to go to Yale, go to Yale. You’ll sacrifice three years, but you’ll jump 10 years ahead because of the experience.”
And my dad said the same thing. It was a combination of those three things that made me choose to go to Yale.
Do you feel like your choice paid off?
Yes! It’s hard to know what my other multi-versal self would be doing. The opportunity with Princess Grace was life changing if I’m honest.
What draws you to a role?
First and foremost, it’s the question, “Do I love the story?” It has a lot to do with the message of the story; do I believe in it and what is it saying? Even if the character I’m playing is a bad person, can I shine a light that shifts a pendulum? Also is it different than what I’ve done before?
Once you’ve landed the role, what is your process to develop the character?
I’m a huge empath, so as soon as I sign on to a role, that person is me. While I’m not a method actor, the character holds a place in my heart. I constantly think about them non-stop; about how they would handle an experience, and how they would navigate the world.
If I’m on the street and I get a pebble in my shoe, I think about how my character would handle a pebble in their shoe. Would it change the way the character walks, and can I sustain that in my performance?
A lot of it also comes through rehearsing and what I get from my scene partner.
You’ve been seen in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Judas and the Black Messiah, and now The Sandman – those are very different genres of storytelling – classic Shakespeare, historical crime drama, fantasy. How does your approach shift when working in different in those different genres?
I did have a different approach for all three but I don’t know if it was a different approach based on the type of drama; it was more based on the character and the people I was working with.
For Judas and the Black Messiah, I did a lot of research. I wanted to honour Chairman Fred and the people I was working with. I didn’t know much at the start and getting to dive in and embody a gentleman who was there, I needed to do justice to this person.
The Sandman was the height of Covid; it was one of the first productions that went back to work. You had to fly and quarantine in a hotel room. It was psychologically taxing but also fantastic because I had two weeks alone in a hotel room with the characters. I struggle portraying questionable gentleman. Thankfully I had amazing co-stars and there was trust. Jamie, the director, was fantastic and watching that episode was the first experience where I was watching the art itself. I was able to separate myself and not critique my performance.
Both Macbeth and The Sandman draw on texts – and while Shakespeare may be more well known, Neil Gaiman has a huge cult following. Can you talk a little about how familiar you were with both works?
I wasn’t familiar with The Sandman at all. When I auditioned, it had a fake name. Once I learned the name, I did research. Neil Gaiman is a great world builder – he’s up there with J.R.R. Tolkien.
I’m a nerd for Shakespeare. Understanding the way he dances with the language, mocking the times, how intelligent the writing is. I was very familiar with Macbeth, as I had done it onstage two times prior.
What was it like to translate Macbeth to film, especially in that beautiful but stark adaptation?
It was really fun. For film, you have to think as the character otherwise it comes off as ingenuine. When you’re acting on stage, you’re aware of different things at the same time; your staging, the audience, etc.
In the film, my character, Seyton, has to go up Macbeth who is now the most powerful person in the nation. He’s a person that characters far above me in station are running from in fear. I took Shakespeare’s language; what’s the subtext and what’s motivating? I thought it was done in a nice way, and the director [Joel Coen] threw me a bone.
What was it like to work with Denzel and be on set?
It was Moses [Ingram] (2018 Princess Grace Award) and me. That was surreal because we did a lot of shows together at school and then we were on a Coen set together with Denzel Washington, and it was nice to have a comrade.
That first rehearsal – I’ve never been starstruck before but I was seeing him [Denzel]. He was the first person in the room, and he asked my name and where I was from, and I just blanked.
I relaxed and I got to see the greats [Denzel, Frances McDormand] at the table read. Afterward, Moses and I approached him and he sat with us for 30 minutes. He’s a man of God, and he offered us sermons and how to be a vessel for humanity. Several times throughout the process, between his takes, he would pull us aside and chat with us.
It empowered us as artists in the room, it gave me permission to think of him as my scene partner. It was so generous of him.
You mentioned working with Moses, and your co-star in Sandman was Emma Duncan (2014 Princess Grace Award). What’s it like when you work with Princess Grace Award winners?
It’s pretty amazing. You always know the talent is going to be there. And they’re just good people. I love Moses, the way she carries herself and her approach. Same with Emma. It was a difficult time going through Covid. We were the only Americans in our episode and we shared a hotel room wall. By the end we were sharing face products; Emma is so kind and so talented. I’d met her before and it was incredible to get to work with her. Through the Princess Grace Foundation, it’s great to mingle with other talent.
What’s next? IMDB lists Echo 3 with Michiel Huisman and Luke Evans as your next project – anything you can share about that series?
I can’t tell you much. It will be on Apple TV. They’re doing amazing shows, and I hope our show will be up there. It comes out later this year, and it has some incredible talent. Mark Boal is the writer; he wrote The Hurt Locker for which he won the Oscar. He’s written this incredible show, it’s very gritty and aligned with his other work. I think it will be phenomenal.
I also did Murder City with Mike Colter (Luke Cage, The Good Wife). It’s a revenge cop drama and very action based. Between that and Echo 3, I’m living out experiences I never thought I would get to do.
You just came back from a road trip across the United States; what inspired you to embark on a road trip and was there a place that surprised you?
A few years ago, I read the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and it changed my life. I started having a lot more compassion. It allowed me to really love humans and appreciate us as a collective without dividing. We’re a young species trying to figure it out. I became obsessed with our place in the universe and expanding myself as a human being. I had always wanted to do a road trip; and I had just finished a gig, and I thought why not now? I wanted to be more interesting as a person and not pass judgement on places I’ve never been. I feel like I became more intelligent both intellectually and spiritually.
A few places took my breath away – the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. The Grand Canyon is famous and as soon as I saw the Canyon – it blew my mind. That we exist in a world where this place exists. And same with Yellowstone, we went to the rim of the volcano, and honestly, I fell to my knees at the beauty.
I travelled with my partner who is a daredevil; she brings me out of my shell in the best possible ways. We were traveling in a small town in Arizona, and she saw that you could kayak through the Canyon. I have a huge fear of being surrounded by massive things, but she booked us the trip, and we ended up kayaking through these massive canyons. At one point she hopped into the water and went for a swim, and I joined her. Kayaking through the canyons and the swim – that was my favourite experience through the trip.
Any last words for the members of our Monaco community?
I hope everyone is safe and happy, and I wish blessings. I could not be more appreciative of everything the Princess Grace Foundation has provided for me. I wear it as a badge of honour to know I’m a member of this community.
Follow James @mr-wungati
The Princess Grace Foundation-USA is dedicated to upholding the legacy of Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco (neé Grace Kelly), and elevating extraordinary emerging artists in theatre, dance and film through career-advancing grants. Follow along at @princessgraceus.
The new Ambassador of the United States to Monaco has presented her credentials to Prince Albert.
Denise Campbell Bauer is an experienced diplomat, a non-profit executive, and an advocate for women’s voices in politics. She served as United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium from August 2013 to January 2017, heading one of the largest embassies in Europe.
On Thursday 29th September, she was received by Prince Albert II at the Palace in Monaco. She presented her credentials as the new Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to the Principality of Monaco. She is also the new Ambassador of the United States to the French Republic.
Photo source: Prince’s Palace
Talks over Monaco-EU association agreement accelerate
Whilst the European Commission has previously said that the intention of reaching an Association Agreement with Monaco isn’t likely before the end of 2023, a delegation has arrived in the Principality to accelerate negotiations.
On Tuesday 27th September, National Council President Stéphane Valeri, Vice-President Brigitte Boccone-Pagès and other ministers of the Conseil National received members of the European delegation at the Assembly. On the agenda was the acceleration of negotiations for an Association Agreement.
Talks over an agreement between Monaco, the EU and its member states were opened back in 2015. In August, the European Commission welcomed the Head of the Mision of the Principality of Monaco to the European Union, Frédéric Labarrere. The government said that, during a meeting with the commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen, the pair spoke of “positive momentum and constructive spirit currently prevailing in the context of negotiations for the signing of an Association Agreement.”
Tuesday’s meeting with the Conseil National was also about setting “red lines”. These clearly demaracted stances, which have remained unchanged since 2018, and include the maintaining of the national interest in all domains, exclusive access to Monégasuqes in certain regulated professions, and reserved access to nationals in state-owned accommodation.
The Council also re-affirmed that, “Only a treaty presenting more positives than negatives for the country and for Monégasques will be accepted.”
A day later, on Wednesday, Prince Albert II welcomed the Vice-President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic, to the Prince’s Palace. Mr Sefcovic, who is also responsible for relations with the UK and Switzerland, is working on the Association Agreement between Monaco and the EU.
During his visit, he spoke with state authorities about the ongoing negotiations, whilst also discussing the specificities of the Principality in many domains, including its geographic, social, economic and environmental dimensions.
Negotiations between the two entities, which of course share a border, are accelerating after having fallen by the wayside during the Covid pandemic. According to the government, the main aim of the negotiations is to enable the country’s economic stakeholders to be a part of the European internal market. The Agreement would also provide the benefit of lasting legal and political framework for relations between Monaco, the EU and its member states.
As Monaco prepare to tackle a mammoth 11 games in just six weeks before the World Cup, Philippe Clement says that he feels a “positive momentum” in the group following the most recent international break.
AS Monaco’s stars reconverged in La Turbie this week, as manager Philippe Clement re-took control of a team high on confidence after their exploits during the international break. The Belgian coach told the press during Friday’s press conference that the international break is a “strange time.”
He added, “When they’re on international duty, you don’t have any control as to what happens to the players. Fortunately, they’ve all come back without injuries and with a smile. There were first call-ups, some goals, some victories and it’s great because they’ve come back with a positive momentum.”
Clement has already evoked the idea that players receiving their first call-ups return more confident. Following Aurélien Tchouaméni last season, Benoît Badiashile and Youssouf Fofana are the latest Monégasques to make their debuts with Les Bleus.
Whilst recogninsing the “enormous potential” of the former, Clement stressed the importance of staying focused. “[For Badiashile], the hardest thing will be to consolidate his form with Monaco, as he did with France. For the time being, he shouldn’t think too much about the World Cup,” said Clement.
Before the World Cup, which begins in Qatar in late November, there is another pivotal period in AS Monaco’s season. Clement described the first part of the season up to the recently completed international break as a “sprint within a marathon,” and there is no sign of Monaco’s season slowing down any time soon.
Monaco kick-off a hectic six weeks with a game against Nantes at the Stade Louis II this Sunday. Whilst Antoine Kombouaré’s side haven’t yet managed to replicacte last season’s form this time around, they nonetheless can pose Monaco problems, as they proved when they held high-flying Lens nearly two weeks ago. For the encounter, Monaco boast an almost complete roster, although a key element is unavailable, and is likely to be for the coming weeks.
Monaco Life attended training in La Turbie on Friday and can confirm that Kevin Volland has returned to the fold, taking part in group training ahead of Sunday’s match against Nantes.
However, in less positive news, Clement told Monaco Life that Ruben Aguilar will be out of action for several weeks with a foot injury sustained against Reims just before the international break. His absence leaves the Monaco manager in search of solutions at right-back.
Nazim Babaï, an academy product at the club, trained with the first team on Friday and is therefore in contention to make the squad this weekend. However, more long-term, there is an acceptance that with the games coming thick and fast, there is a need for alternative solutions, with Vanderson the sole out-and-out right-back. Clement said that Axel Disasi could be “a good option” to draft in so as to not overwork the young Brazilian right-back, whilst there could be further opportunities for other young right-backs looking to break into the team.
A variety of combinations, different players, different systems are likely to be deployed in the coming weeks, as Monaco look to solidify their domestic and European credentials in what will be a hectic and determinative period in the club’s season.
Heavily criticised upon his arrival at AS Monaco, German goalkeeper Alexander Nübel told Monaco Life that he is rediscovering his best form following a difficult spell at Bayern Munich.
Nübel felt the weight of expectation upon his arrival in the Principality last summer. Signing on a two-year loan deal from Bayern Munich, his adaptation to life in red and white perhaps wasn’t as smooth as expected. Whilst Nübel is the first to admit that he wasn’t playing at his highest level during the opening weeks of his spell in Monaco, he also believes that the unshakable comparisons to Bayern Munich teammate and German great Manuel Neuer played a part in shaping those negative perceptions.
“I think the comparisons [to Neuer] was part [of the criticism.] Luckily I couldn’t read the newspapers here,” he joked. “The criticism was very hard, too hard in the beginning. I wasn’t playing at my top level, but nor was I playing as badly as what was being reported. You have to handle it. For me, the most important thing is the criticism from my goalkeeping coach, and from the manager. These guys tell me the truth every day.”
In what was a period of adaptation, Nübel was grateful for the fellow German players within the squad, with whom he could converse and take his mind off what was happening on the pitch. “Kevin [Volland] and Ismail [Jakobs] were very important to me, especially Kevin, who arrived one year earlier than me. It’s much easier because I can speak German with them…it’s important because you can also talk about something else after training, after the games. We could just drink coffee and talk about other topics,” said Nübel.
However, despite his difficult start to life in France, he retained the support of then head coach Niko Kovac. “It always helps when you have the confidence of the coaches and the manager. With Niko it was helpful. At the start, I knew it wouldn’t be easy,” he said.
Under Kovac and then under Philippe Clement, with whom Nübel says he shares a “good connection”, Nübel has remained an undisputed starter in league games and European competitions. Radsolaw Majecki struggled to challenge Nübel’s supremacy and has headed out on loan to satellite club Cercle Brugge, whilst Thomas Didillon has made the opposite journey to take the place of no.2 at Monaco. “It’s always good to have a coach who sees your potential, and so you try to give everything back during the games,” said Nübel.
He quickly began repaying that faith. Last season, only OGC Nice’s Walter Benítez (7.1) prevented more goals in Ligue 1 than Nübel (4.8), whilst his confidence with the ball at his feet allowed Monaco to construct attacks from that back.
Having acclimatised somewhat over the summer, Nübel believes that his connection with his defenders has improved further, which shows in his pass completion rate (85% before matchday eight in Ligue 1). “Although I have to learn the language more, on the pitch it’s okay,” he began. “I can communicate with the guys in front of me, in English or in French, so that’s a lot better than before. I think you can see the connection between myself and the guys in front of me is a lot better than last year.”
As a goalkeeper, the connection and communication with the back-line is key, even more so in the modern game, where goalkeepers are no longer expected to be merely shot-stoppers, but also players capable of contributing to build-up play. For Nübel, “rhythm” is also key, and having lost it during his time at Bayern Munich, where he played just four times in the 2020/21 season, he now believes he is rediscovering it.
“I think I now have my rhythm back from my time at Schalke. That was also a factor in my difficult start, as it wasn’t easy without rhythm, without games at Bayern. Now it’s much better,” he said.
He continued, “Rhythm is very important for a goalkeeper. Normally you don’t change ‘keepers during a game, or even during a season. It’s something different compared to training. The rhythm and on-pitch actions are sometimes completely different. Seeing where the space is on the pitch is an important feeling to get back. At Bayern, it was difficult, although I did learn about mentality and passion.”
Having rediscovered his rhythm, he is now displaying some of his finest form in a Monaco jersey. Although the Bayern Munich loanee said he “doesn’t want to be spectacular,” his sprawling, finger-tip saves have certainly caught the eyes of Monaco fans in recent weeks.
Underpinning his recent visually-impressive performances are a set of impressive stats. No goalkeeper has made more saves than Nübel (38) in Ligue 1 this season, he has been awarded man of the match on three occasions, and he has kept three clean sheets in the last five games in all competitions. His performances also earned him AS Monaco’s player of the month award for September.
Rhythm, growing confidence, and improved communication with his back-line have certainly aided his recent fine form, but the impact of the club’s goalkeeper coach, Frederic de Boever, is far from negligible. “He’s a great goalkeeper coach. He helps me a lot and talks about my game: how we keep the ball, what positions I decide to take up, and when to be more offensive or defensive,” said Nübel.
His performances are converting into points; having faced more shots than any other goalkeeper in the league this season, Monaco’s start-of-season report could look very different if not for the German goalkeeper.
In moving from Bayern Munich, he has deviated from the path of fellow German and former teammate Neuer. Prior to that, he had followed in the footsteps of the German international goalkeeper, by playing for Schalke before moving to the Bavarian giants.
Nübel says that reports of a strained relationship between the pair whilst at Bayern Munich were false, adding, “I learnt a lot about his general game and his connection with the guys in front of him… He’s one of the best goalkeepers ever.”
He also credits Neuer for redefining the role of the goalkeeper: “He 100% changed [the way we see goalkeeping.] He is always trying to keep possession… When you see the top teams in Europe, they all have goalkeepers who play well with their feet… At Bayern, we, as goalkeepers, played a lot of possession games with the team and you saw barely any difference between him and the outfield players during those games.”
Despite his clear admiration for Neuer, his mere presence at Bayern Munich throws Nübel’s future into doubt. He is no longer willing to be a no.2, and given that Neuer’s contract runs until 2024, Nübel’s return to the Bundesliga champions is therefore in grave doubt.
“Game time is definitely the most important thing. If Manuel Neuer is still at Bayern, and he does have a contract until 2024, it makes no sense to go back to Bayern… I have a contract at Bayern, but I also think for them it makes no sense to have both me and Manuel,” admitted Nübel.
Asked where he sees himself next season, he replied, “There are good options to play at a good level. Everything is open. [Monaco] are also an option, of course.”
Should he continue to replicate his performances on a weekly basis, he won’t be short of options. At Monaco, he is appreciated, not least by Clement, who following the club’s 2-1 win against Lyon earlier in September, said, “For me, Alex has the quality to become one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, in the top 10.”
Whilst a player clearly in Neuer’s mould, he has deviated from his compatriot’s path and is currently writing his own story at Monaco. Only time will tell how lengthy their shared narrative will last.
Photo by AS Monaco
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