Tina, the mother figure you portray in ‘Sweetheart’ is a very different character from the now classic, Cynthia of ‘This is England’. Tina was young in the 90s and experienced various phases very similar to the one her daughter is going through. What attracted you to her?
I loved the script! It’s a powerful story about a family overcoming their differences, amongst other things. It’s witty, engaging, heartwarming and deals with delicate issues in a lighthearted way, it’s up-lifting. Marley is super talented, so I wanted to be part of telling this story with her and the team, plus it’s important to support indie film making. I love movies, it’s how I began my career. Tina is a great role, well written, she’s not just an ornament, she experiences her own awakening throughout the film, which I found fascinating, Tina has her journey. She’s sassy, opinionated but has a huge heart. April (AJ) and Tina are similar, that’s why they clash. The film has strong female voices from different generations, which is important. She’s a single parent struggling to come to terms with the breakdown of her marriage, fears around family and financial insecurity, so she’s got a lot going on, but she eventually manages to find identification with AJ through her own pain and lets go of the control, it’s only then she finds true peace. A feel good film about the importance of love, forgiveness, family and allowing others to be themselves. She and April heal through their acceptance, understanding and honest communication.
Also in the last episode of The Cleaner, you play a woman who has confidently left 90s hedonism behind and aged very comfortably in herself. How formative was ‘Cool Britannia’ culture for you? Any nostalgia? Regrets?
Cool Britannia was amazing! I was buzzing around London having a lot of fun. I guess for me it was a continuation of the Manchester Rave Scene, late 80’s early 90’s. By mid 90’s I’d moved to West London, was travelling the world working for Japanese Airlines earning good money, we partied like rock stars, with rock stars, so no regrets. I saw ‘Oasis, Knebworth 1996’ last night, brought back wonderful memories. I’m grateful I experienced that part of history, I was at the gig, it was magic. London was vibrant, life was good. Music’s always been an inspiration to me and my work. Those two iconic scenes were creatively influential. There seemed to be an explosion of talent, especially bands from Manchester, no-one had anything, so music was everything, people were hungry for connection, I feel thats what ‘Sweetheart’ is about. The end of ‘The Cleaner’ was nostalgic, when Greg dances to the Happy Mondays!
I know that neuroscience, and the investigation of consciousness are big interests of yours. Did your knowledge help you define the troubled character of Katrina in ‘In My Skin’?
I’m fascinated with consciousness! I listen to a lot of podcasts about it, Sam Harris is very good. I’ve just finished ‘Absolutely Mental’ season 1&2 with Sam and Ricky Gervais. Hilarious but informative, so helpful, they discuss many things i’m interested in. For ‘In My Skin’ (Katrina) preparation, I used meditation, it allowed stillness and conscious contact. I used mimicry, focused on breath, 5 senses, emotional recall and made a playlist. Being present enabled me to remain centred and focused on Trina’s narrative during scenes. For the hyper manic episodes I created a parallel set of images personal to me to stimulate a detached narrative, separate to what was actually going on in the scene. I used active imagination (Carl Jung discusses it in the Red Book). This gives an impression the character’s distracted, distant, overwhelmed and confused, which meant I needed to know my lines well. I recently asked a friend, who is also a scientist, ‘What is consciousness? Where does it come from? Is it from the brain’? They weren’t sure where it comes from but suggested it could be an ‘epiphenomenon’ which is a ‘secondary effect or by-product’. Like the smoke from a fire.
How did you go about shaping your performance?
I approach each role differently. For Katrina; daily prep, exercises, line learning, playing around with movement. Plus all we discussed in the last question. I also use my own experience and incorporate the energy on set, on the day. I worked with Camilla Leach from Bi-Polar UK, spoke to people with Bi-Polar and spent time with them. I watched you tube video’s of manic episodes. For most of the shoot in season one I was alone, the director kept me separate from cast and crew, this really helped me focus. I watched a film called ‘Women under the influence’ starring Gena Rowlands, she’s phenomenal. I was also deeply influenced by Ian Curtis and the music of Joy Division and New Order. Ian’s voice helped me transition into another dimension emotionally and spiritually. The documentary about Joy Division was powerful. ‘Atmosphere’ amongst other tracks were on my playlist. Also I listened to music by a composer called Hildur Guõnadóttir, she’s wonderful.
In life have you ever been exposed to similar human cases?
Yes, I have a friend with Bi-Polar, it seems difficult for her to live with at times. It’s different for everyone I hear. Playing Katrina exposed me to the pain it can cause the individual or the people they love. I gained compassion for those who suffer and it educated me. A privilege to play this role. I’ve had kind feedback from people moved by my performance.
Your on-screen chemistry with Ricky Gervais is palpable are you guys such good buddies offscreen as well?
Yes, he’s a great influence on me! He’s kind, smart, funny, and principled, doesn’t take himself too seriously, he’s authentic. I love hanging out with him, he’s super interesting. We’ve become friends over the years of working together. Jane (his partner) and Ricky are wonderful people. I’m a fan of them both. Being part of his epic creations has changed me for the better, he’s introduced me to lovely people and being on his sets is a gift, it’s safe and inclusive, he’s generous, I like the way he works, he’s a good director because he’s a great actor and knows how to get the best out of someone. Plus he lets you get on with it. Meeting him and working with him has brought me a lot of joy. Huge respect for him. We need more Ricky’s in the world!
Can you anticipate us anything about your upcoming project Swede Caroline?
It’s a mocumentary style movie, about a woman called Caroline (me) who grows a giant marrow, with the possibility of becoming the first ever female giant veg champion. Sadly the marrow gets disqualified at a competition, then mysteriously goes missing. The hunt for a giant marrow ensues, with her two best mates, Paul (Richard Lumsden) and Willy (Celyn Jones). I won’t tell you what they discover, you’ll have to wait and see, but it’s an adventure, it’s also my first executive producing role.