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Studio Photoshoots > Outtakes & Sessions > 2018 > Session 004

CONTENT MODE Considering your formative years growing up in the UK, did that had any influence on your various roles in British centric films?
One of the reasons I’m so drawn to this job is the life-hopping, time-hopping element of it. London has always been my home so to get to explore it in new ways throughout different decades and centuries and through the eyes and experiences of such contrasting perspectives is a total thrill. It feels like a behind-the-scenes history lesson.

Can you describe the research for your role as Mary Austin in Bohemian Rhapsody which is set during an iconic time in music history ?
My first step was watching all the interviews she’s done to try and gauge what she’s happy talking about publicly, and how she spoke about some of the moments we specifically address in the film. Also it wasn’t so much about focusing on her ticks and idiosyncrasies as one might usually have to hone in on. Because I’m playing her at a time and age much earlier than the interviews were taken I focused more on how she described her experience and tried to get into the mindset of how someone innocent of hindsight might see it. And beyond that Brian May, who actually introduced Freddie and Mary to one another, was my main source of information and opinion. He was incredibly generous with his time we were so so lucky.

Mary Austin is known to be very private; were you able to meet Mary and discuss her life with Freddie Mercury? And her life without him?
Unfortunately as much as I would have liked to, and would still like to, I didn’t get the opportunity to meet Mary or have a conversation with her, which added another pressure of wanting to portray her story honestly but with as much respect to her boundaries as possible. Also because I wasn’t able to ask her about the specific moments we address I am very much aware, and hope the audience understand too, that my portrayal of her is an interpretation of her experience.

What part of the script / story touched you the most to be inspired to play this role?
I have to admit I didn’t know much at all about Freddie when I first read this script. When we love someone’s work and stage presence and public persona so much and relate as deeply as we do to the lyrics they’re writing that no one else is, I think we cannot help but hold them up in this kind of King/God like status which ends up actually distancing you from the human at the centre of it all. So the really beautiful thing about this script is the insight you get into the person behind the performer. It’s humanizing and a kind of resetting of what we think we know about this person.

Were there any moments while filming Bohemian Rhapsody when you felt ‘the producers and director have authenticated this story perfectly? Please describe that scene/day(s)
Live Aid was a pretty shocking thing to witness. It was my very first day on set so it was my introduction to the film, to the actors in their roles and all of their approach. I had watched Live Aid enough times to be familiar with the performance so to then see it replicated so adroitly, beat for beat, glance for glance, and that electric energy so palpable. It was…shocking. Polly Bennett, their movement coach, is brilliant. The guys are brilliant. I don’t know what to say I’m just sitting here grinning. You’ll have to see it for yourself!

Did you have input on your costume design? hair and make up?
I’d love to claim responsibility for any of this look but honestly it was all thanks to the masterminds of Jan Sewell and Julian Day. They were generous in how collaborative they wanted to be but even at the first costume fitting it felt so spot on. As we got further in and I started to carve into who and how I thought the character should be I felt more opinionated and vocal but really… all credit to them for Mary’s ever so covetable looks.

Did Brian May, John Deacon and/or Roger Taylor have any influence on the story and overall look of the production? Were they onset to consult the writing and producing?
Brian, Roger and Jim Beach are producers on the film and have been very hands on throughout the process I believe. As I mentioned, Brian ended up being my main source of information. He was actually the person who introduced Freddie and Mary so it was fascinating to hear his perspective of the trajectory of their relationship. Anita Dobson was also a huge input of information as she spent so much time with Mary when they were travelling with the band. It was very reassuring having them on set as frequently as we did, knowing they were there to guide us if needed.

What’s your take away from this film that you hope viewers take in?
Freddie is such an enigma of a person, even when you think you know so much about him you don’t know anything at all, you only see what he let you see. He’s an undefinable person and I think that’s a really powerful thing to be. He is impossible to box into a genre or under a label, he’s just him. I hope that’s a major take away from this film for people. Society is constantly trying to label us and categorize us and it’s so limiting and neutralizing. Don’t restrict yourself by defining yourself in other people’s terms. As long as you treat others with the same respect, be whoever the hell you want to be. It’s always easier said than done of course I just hope this film is a dose of encouragement in that direction, with Freddie so loudly and unapologetically himself.

Can you tell us about your current Netflix Ryan Murphy series? Will you portray an American character? Anything about her character you can reveal?
I’m far too intimidated by and in awe of the Ryan Murphy empire to give anything away! I will tell you that it’s called The Politician, and I will indeed be playing an American. I can tell you the scripts are bloody brilliant and this character could not be more different to anyone I’ve played before which has been so much fun. I can’t wait to be able to share more but until then…

You have an impressive list of dramatic roles, is comedy a new challenge? Or?
The Politician has been more comedic than I anticipated which was incredibly daunting. I think comedy is harder than anything. It really terrifies me. So we’ll just see how this one goes…

Do you prefer living in the US or UK at this point in your career?
The UK…no hesitation. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to travel as much as my work takes me, and I’ve loved the time I’ve spent in both New York and Los Angeles, but the core reason I can enjoy that traveling is knowing I have a solid base at home, and home will always be London.

What are you reading right now?
I’ve just finished the brilliant book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink And Other Lies which I truly could not recommend more to anyone and everyone. And now I’m hopping between Evelyn Waugh’s Handful Of Dust and Joy Williams’ The Changeling.

Do you see yourself writing and or directing in the the future? What would be your ideal project?
Both of my parents are writers so that side of creativity is something I’ve always been around and have enjoyed. I would love to write a Shirley Jackon/Helen Oyeyemi-esque novel one day, so I hope to find that in me! …one day! I would also love to direct one day but I’d first like, and need, to build up my knowledge and understanding of both the process and film history to draw on.

Any goals to fit in some Theatre projects in the US or UK?
Theatre is another thing that absolutely terrifies me in the most thrilling way so I know that lies somewhere in the future.

You have such great personal style! What inspires your choices when you create your own looks? Favorite Designers?
Thank you so much! Leith Clark, who styles me, is my eternal inspiration, as well as her four year old daughter who has the most covetabley kooky/vintage wardrobe. It’s usually films that inspire my style choice, or else the roles that I’m playing taking me out of my usual comfort zones. Rosemary’s Baby has always been a big one. I’ll get experimental and explore different styles and versions of myself but I always come back to those Peter Pan collars and little vintage babydoll dresses. And either Mary Janes from Carel or Creepers from Underground London. I have too many favourite designers to list but I recently went to the Valentino Couture show in Paris and was affected in a way that fashion has never affected me before. The dresses were like walking art pieces!


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