Interview with Véronique Jannot: The come-back of the heroine of ‘Paul et Virginie’ to Mauritius

Last week, French actress Véronique Jannot, star of popular TV series “Paul et Virginie” broadcasted in 1974, made her ‘come-back’ in Mauritius. And it was at the chic resort of Anahita Mauritius that she spent her stay. On the occasion of her visit, Anahita organized an event entitled “The Return of Virginie”, in partnership with Air Mauritius, celebrate our island’s history, as well as the history of Mauritian tourism. The event was held at the Domaine de l’Etoile, on Friday 26th of May. Luxury Mauritius was pleased to meet this passionate woman, engaged and revived her childhood memories in Mauritius.

Meeting Véronique Jannot at Vu Bar at Anahita.

 

It has been more than 44 years since the making of TV series ‘Paul et Virginie”. What are your feeling when you return to the roots of your childhood?

It is very emotional for me to come back here after so many years. I was only 16 during the shooting which lasted 3 months. Of course, I see that the island has changed and is more developed, but there is still the magic essence which Mauritians have been able to keep untouched. It is the greatest wealth of Mauritius.

«Since I am here, my memories tend to come back to my mind. My mother who passed away last year was deeply impressed by this unforgettable journey.»

What are your best memories of this shooting?

Ultimately, it is the discovery of the islands which quite shattered me. At that time, Mauritius was unknown to most people. I spent most of my free time on the beach with stray dogs. I experienced time where Ile aux Certs was a desert island hosting only one straw hut. We would picnic every Sunday enjoying swimming in the lagoon. I have quite a lot of intense memories here! For me, Mauritius is an island with much sensuality.

“It was not the Mauritius of today. The same comfort as today was not present at all, neither was the number of existing hotels.”

When we arrived in Mauritius, we stayed at Park Hotel in Curepipe. I had a small standard room and I decorated the room with my pareos. It was not the Mauritius of today. The same comfort as today was not present at all, neither was the number of existing hotels. Le Touessrock (today Shangri La) was under construction at that time. It often rained and we asked ourselves why the interior designers, when they arrived at night, were scarlet red. We were wondering what they have been out to. It was after one week, during our first trips, that we realized that Mauritius had a real microclimate… 5 kms away from where you stand, there is another climate prevailing. That’s pretty awesome.

Paul et Virginie jardin de Pamplemousses Paul et Virginie monument next to Saint-François- d’Assise church close Pamplemousses Botanical Garden

What are your feelings about the Mauritian legend “Paul and Virginie”?

You are very lucky to have your Mauritian “Romeo and Juliette”. This love story is so beautiful and powerful, that I feel passionate about it. But it’s a shame that less and less young people know about it while this is part of the cultural background of your country. A festival should be organized around this wonderful story. It is important to point out that initially, the shooting was supposed to take place in Reunion Island but this is absurd because it is part of Mauritian history!

How did you prepare yourself to play ‘Virginie’?

I played, felt and lived ‘Virginie’ with all my heart and feelings. I set the pace but did not analyze her character. I was only 16, I played it spontaneously.

Paul et Virginie
Véronique Jannot at the age of 16 playing Virginie in the TV series produced by Pierre Gaspard-Huit.

This role was one of the most important at the beginning of your career. How did it impact on your life?

This role was a turning point in my life. I had to make a choice between my studies and this shooting. On the one hand, I had my entrance certificate to school, and on the other hand I had this offer to travel across the world to play that heroine. It was my first professional trip, for me this was the beginning of a great adventure. At that time, setting off like this was very gutsy. My parents were awesome! They supported me and told me that whatever I chose to undergo, they would be there for me. Finally, this the most beautiful gift.

Jean Vinci spotted me during the shooting and talked about with the film director of “Aurore et Victorien”. Things went on very fast; so fast that at the beginning I did not know what to do. Then, I learned about artist’s life, happiness but above all, an exceptional connection with my audience.

Since then, you have successfully paved your way although you had an atypical career where you have juggled between theatre, cinema, documentary films, TV, singing or even writing. What was your final choice?

I was lucky enough to have such a fulfilled life. I was impressed by everything. I am an enthusiast person and I know how to relish each delight. I am passionate about everything I do, about what I go through and about meeting other people. This is what makes us lively: the fragrance of life.

veronique jannot anahita ile maurice Véronique Jannot during the interview at Vu Bar at Anahita.

You are active in the sustainable development field. What are your feelings about the stance of Mauritius regarding this issue?

Mauritius is beautiful, it is a blessing that such a piece of paradise exists on Earth. It has changed significantly, but has remained quite well-preserved, more particularly in some regions of the island. It is natural that some sites experience changes: as the population increases, Mauritius depends more and more on the tourism sector. However, we need to organize and unite to preserve the richness of the island’s waters and flora. We should not fall prey to mass consumption. Hotel industry development allows for job creation, but the use of renewable sources of energy is essential.

“The light breeze caressing my skin, these extraordinary plants, having breakfast in the middle of flocks of birds: all these remind of the Eastern hallmark”.

What are your feelings about Anahita and the eastern coast?

Anahita is a magnificent resort. They use solar heating. Just for that, I am pleased. It is splendid site which according to me, has remained authentic. I have the impression that there is a true will from those who manage Anahita, to presence its very essence. The Eastern region has successfully preserved its richness.

Give us some insights about tonight’s event…

I am so delighted by this event. I am pleased to meet once again some of the members of the footage crew: Bébé Koenig, Thierry Vallet…But I have a special thought for those who have passed away…

What are you planning do next?

Presently, I am working on illustrated tales for children which I am writing with my mother before she leaves us. It will be published before the end of the year at Michel Lafon. It important to share nice messages to our children through imagination. I inspire myself from Le Petit Prince, this beautiful story which can be read at all ages but which takes full significance when we read it at adulthood. A bit like the history of Mauritius.