Do you think it would be easier to play someone you met/know or someone historically well-known but where there is very little information available about their personal life?
Playing someone historical definitely gives you a bit more freedom to play and invent the details of their personal life, though I think you have a responsibility to not go too overboard. I would love to play someone I know too as I love emulating voices and accents, but I would need that person’s permission to fail!
What was the most interesting aspect of filming in Versailles in Versailles?
Seeing George Blagden stride across the famous black and white tiles outside the palace of Versailles dressed as Louis 14th and knowing that Louis himself once did the same, you got an idea of the magic and power the King would have commanded by having such a ridiculously grand backdrop.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about the people/time period in which the show is set?
It was a pretty crazy period in history so there was a lot that surprised me. I found it fascinating that Louis 14th invented this really elaborate system of “etiquette” – being seen doing the right thing in the right place at the right time, and wearing exactly the right thing in court. He made it so that red-heeled shoes could only be worn by nobility – it was a status symbol to have red on your shoes long before we had Louboutin’s!
Favourite villain of all time?
It’s a tie between Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Hedra in Single White Female – both so disturbing in really messed up ways. I like my villains to have a really good psychological back story. When I was a kid I thought Ursula in The Little Mermaid was the ultimate villain.
Add, message or block – Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando?
I would add Humphrey Bogart so I could see all his selfies with Lauren Bacall. Message Marlon Brando to ask him who he thinks stole his Oscar for On The Waterfront (it went missing then later turned up at an auction house in London!). And I would block Errol Flynn – I would rather admire him from afar!
Sing with Billy Joel or dance with Fred Astaire?
Definitely dance with Fred Astaire. Can you imagine tap dancing in an empty diner or spinning round a studio lot with him? I love it in old movies where suddenly there’s music and rain and lights and everything just pauses so they can dance. Can Billy Joel accompany us? That would be perfect!
What contemporary actor would you pick to play you in a biopic of your own life?
Brie Larson. I loved her performance in Short Term 12, and she was so stunning and fearless in Room. The scene where Jacob Tremblay’s ‘Jack’ finds her in the bathroom had me sobbing for about half an hour. Or maybe Ruth Wilson. They’re both just so present and emotionally honest on screen.
What cinematic performance made the biggest impression on you growing up?
I fell in love with old movies when I was really young. We would watch them on Sunday afternoon with the curtains drawn so it felt like a home cinema. I didn’t see Audrey Hepburn’s performance in Funny Face until I was a bit older, but it totally had me spellbound – she was so intelligent, graceful and full of life, and I loved the crazy dance she does all in black in her flats. I used to dance like that around the house.
Is there any project you passed on that you wish you had pursued?
I was offered a role on this really edgy short film with some of Rankin’s team but I had to turn it down as I was going to Budapest to do an American TV pilot. I was gutted as it was really different from anything I had done before. I also had to turn down a play recently which really appealed to my inner geek.
If you could be the pet of anyone in history who would you pick?
I’d be Holly Golightly/Audrey Hepburn’s cat in Breakfast in Tiffany’s – “poor slob without a name”! He seems to have it pretty good – going to parties, getting to ride in taxis, sharing the sink with Audrey Hepburn… She might leave him in the rain, but she goes back for him and he gets wrapped up in her mac and kissed.
What’s the first song you knew all the words to?
I used to make up the words to a lot of songs so the first song I remember knowing all the actual words to was Queen‘s Bohemian Rhapsody. My parents used to have a Queen CD so we’d all sing along in the car. I actually started a rendition of it one night on set of Versailles and everyone joined in.
If you had to be a busker what would you do/perform?
I would tap dance on a little wooden board outside in Montmartre in Paris. I’ve seen a guy doing just that and it seemed like a pretty lovely way to busk – overlooking the whole of the city.
Versailles was allegedly referred to by some as a ‘gilded cage’. If you had to pick one place to spend the next 10 years of your life where would you pick?
If I could choose a city, I’d choose New York. The energy there is infectious and you really feel like anything is possible. If I had to pick one place I’d choose Shakespeare And Company in Paris – the bookstore on the banks of the Seine. You could read as much as you wanted, they have a cat, a piano and beds tucked into the bookshelves – what more could you want?
Would you rather give advice/talk to yourself four years ago (2012), or take advice from your future self four years in the future? (2020)
I’d definitely rather get advice from my future self – because there’s so much I’d like to go back and tell myself so there must be loads I think my future self would like to say. Although she might just tell me to chill, relax and do more yoga.
Want more? Watch our behind-the-scenes film.