How was filming The Last Kingdom? Tell us about your character, Aethelflaed.
It was a gift to play the part of such a prominent ruler of England’s history. Her succession to the throne was the only case of a female ruler of a kingdom in Anglo-Saxon history so it was a bit of a dream role to play. The filming was intense, 7 months in Budapest but the whole cast and crew were such an amazingly tight unit of people and so it was the hardest but one of the most rewarding and fun times of my life.
It seems to have really developed a cult-like following. How did you get involved with the series?
It has and we’ve been so incredibly lucky to have such loyal and supportive fans. I really feel like the show is something special, it’s fascinating to see how the England we know was formed. You’re not taught things like that at school, or at least I wasn’t. It’s a really exciting time in our history so I’m happy to be telling it and to have people respond so positively.
What about Aethelflaed and her story surprised you?
There’s not a huge amount documented about Aethelflaed in our history. We know that she was a fearless warrior and nicknamed “Lady of the Mercians” by her people. She was loved as well as feared, and that’s been an exciting role to step in to. Bernard, the writer, has taken the little that we know about Aethelflaed and has made her this layered character in The Last Kingdom. It’s been liberating to have that artistic license to explore a character whilst also having the historical foundation of this woman in history.
You seem to be really drawn to portraying strong women, and you do it with such conviction. Is it safe to assume you were brought up this way?
I was. My sister and I were pretty self-sufficient from a young age. We had clear goals set from when we were little. We always knew that we would have to pave our own way in life and that we couldn’t rest on our laurels. Our parents were grafters and put us through a wonderful education but we knew that when we left that we’d be totally on our own two feet. I did part time modeling from 14 to 18 years old. I hated it and I never fit the mound of what a model “should” be, but I did it because I knew I needed to make money to eventually live in London and to get a foot on the acting ladder. I’m really thankful that I did it. It gave me a thick skin which you need with the rejection and pressures of the acting world!
Who is your biggest female role model?
My sister – she’s a full on power woman. Working in an industry full of men and really making her mark on the world and using her voice for positive change. I’m in awe of her when I see her suited up and full of confidence.
On twitter we often see you speaking up about issues that are important to you, such as supporting refugees, children with disabilities, sexual harassment. As a public figure, do you feel you have a responsibility to discuss these issues?
Yes, I feel a responsibility, but I would feel that whether I was in the public eye or not. I think we all have a voice now with social media and I would encourage as many people as possible to use the platform for positive change. Everybody has a responsibility to look out for each other no matter how many people are listening.
Are you directly involved in any charities that you’d like to spread the word on today?
I volunteer at Mind which is a charity very close to my heart supporting those with Mental Health Issues. There’s also a wonderful charity my friend works for called The World Wide Tribe that do fantastic work supporting refuges across the world.
I understand you’ll be abseiling 100m down the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, tell us a little about that. Have you ever abseiled before? Are you nervous?
I’m abseiling for a charity called Me Too & Co. who support families and children with disabilities. Sally, who played my Mum in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” chairs the charity, so her and I are doing it together. I didn’t actually realize how huge the Spinnaker Tower was when I signed up to do it so I nearly fainted when I looked it up on Google. Saying I’m abseiling sounds so professional, like Sally and I are going to be gliding down it. I think it will probably be more of a slow lowering of two screaming people with their eyes shut swearing. All for a great cause though!
You’ll be appearing in another historical drama this year, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Can you tell us a bit about that role and what we can expect from the movie?
I’m playing Princess Catia who’s the daughter of King Vortigen (Jude Law) I don’t want to give too much away but being the daughter of an evil King is bound to bring some drama!
Are you drawn to portraying historical figures? What is it about them that attracts you?
I actually began my acting career in comedy. I wrote children’s plays when I was younger with two friends from school and perform them at the Edinburgh fringe festival. I do at some point want to make that change back in to comedy as it really is where my heart is.
I wouldn’t say that I’m any more drawn to historical figures than I am to other parts. The main aspect that’s drawn me to the characters I’ve played are that they are four dimensional, for me the most important thing for characters I play is that they’re palpable and not just written in for the sake of it or for a plot filler. They have to have a soul. It’s always been very important to me to have a clear voice about the choices I want to make as an actor. I think you’ve got to do that, stick to your guns and go with your gut.
If you were able to go back in time and sit down with any historical figure for an afternoon, who might you choose and why?
The answer that came straight in to my mind was Marilyn Monroe. I love how she was such a fiercely intelligent woman behind her alter ego of the ditzy bomb shell. She was a brilliant actor, and her whole image was this layered facade which she kept up. It must have been exhausting. I’d love to get inside her mind a bit, I find her fascinating and so clever, and ultimately quite a sad woman with how her life turned out. I feel like she was so underestimated as a person.
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Post expires at 4:38am on Thursday January 4th, 2018