‘Cabrini’ actress Cristiana Dell’Anna shares importance of role: ‘It wasn’t just an acting job’

Mother Cabrini Cristiana Dell’Anna portrays Mother Cabrini in “Cabrini,” a gripping account of the genesis and early years of the saint’s mission in NewYork City. | Credit: Angel Studios

A new movie telling the true story of Francesca Cabrini — also known as St. Frances Xavier Cabrini — will be released by Angel Studios on International Women’s Day, March 8. 

Directed by Alejandro Monteverde, who also directed last summer’s blockbuster “Sound of Freedom,” “Cabrini” takes place in 1889 when hostility toward Italian immigrants ran high in New York.

As an Italian immigrant, Cabrini was greeted by not only hostility but also crime, disease, and dangerous living conditions — especially for orphaned children. She and her religious sisters — the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus — set out on the dangerous mission to provide housing and education for society’s most vulnerable.

Cristiana Dell’Anna, an Italian actress, portrays Cabrini in the film. She spoke with CNA about her experience portraying the Catholic saint and what she hopes viewers will take away from the saint’s story.

She shared that while preparing for the role she studied the life of Cabrini and started “from what she represented and what she believed in and then through that I walked my way through to what she was like.”

“Her beliefs and her values defined very much the character before I could actually start thinking about how she talked or how she walked or the little things or mannerisms,” she explained.

“Cabrini” chronicles the early days of the American mission of Mother Cabrini, patroness of immigrants. Credit: Angel Studios
“Cabrini” chronicles the early days of the American mission of Mother Cabrini, patroness of immigrants. Credit: Angel Studios

Dell’Anna shared that she also spent a lot of time listening to opera music and “read the script back and forth listening to Pavarotti.” 

Throughout her time portraying Cabrini, Dell’Anna expressed that she personally took “so much from her story.”

“Her values and what she stood for — I very much believe in those things as well,” she said. “These are some of the reasons why I accepted the role because I truly believe in her story.”

“So, it was important for me to give her a voice because it wasn’t just an acting job,” she added. “It was also a story I wanted to tell.”

As for why she believes the story of Cabrini is so important to tell, Dell’Anna said: “Because it’s contemporary” and immediately calls to mind the situation in the Mediterranean when it comes to the topic of immigration.

“It’s a very truthful representation of our situation in Europe nowadays,” she explained. “We have immigrants coming from all over the Middle Eastern world and the African shores and only inclusion and integration and understanding that diversity is something we can count on to become a better world — these are themes that are addressed in the story.”

Dell’Anna said she hopes viewers will leave the theater with a “sense of responsibility” and shared a line from the movie she hopes will also stick out to the audience: “What have we done? What have we done for the sick, for the poor, for those who have been stripped of their dignity? What have we done?”

“I believe in that line,” she said.

The actress highlighted the fact that Cabrini “was a nun and she had faith and she lived by her Christian beliefs, but the one thing she did — and probably we should take an example from her — she did it. She didn’t just [think about] it. She didn’t just reach it — she did it. She put it into action.”

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Dell’Anna called Cabrini “relentless.”

“She always fought for what she believed in and she embodied her values — embodied what she believed in, deeply, profoundly, in every sense she lived by her beliefs and that made her very true to herself and very true to everyone else.”

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