When you’re a teenager, your essence is so specific to being a teenager, and everything becomes so extreme. Your emotions are on the surface, and you oscillate between different things at one time.
‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’ was my first American movie. It was my first movie in an American accent. It’s based on a graphic novel, which was written in 2002 by someone called Phoebe Gloeckner. It was turned into a play by Marielle Heller, who then wrote it as a screenplay for Sundance Labs.
I was really quite geeky at school. At one point, I wanted to be prime minister or a mathematician.
I want to play a range, from victims to strong people, just as long as it’s a well-rounded character. And it’s not a woman who’s just there for the purpose of the man.
I used to do a Saturday drama group called Young Blood Theatre Company with school-friends in west London – nothing to do with my mum and dad. A casting director came to pick people out for a new BBC children’s series called ‘MI High.’ She picked me, I auditioned, and I got the job.
I was quite academic, quite geeky when I was a kid. I was more interested in going to school than I was in becoming a film star or something.
All my friends were off on gap years, so going to New York alone, at the age of 18, was kind of my flying the nest. It was an amazing experience.
When I was young, there weren’t any teenage girls I could relate to in film. They were all put in boxes: the virginal good girl, the really sarcastic asexual one. I wanted to do something that represented how I felt then.
I want to keep playing strong female roles. I don’t mean superheroes, but women who are really alive.
I don’t feel like I properly started acting until I did my first play, ‘Tusk, Tusk.’
I had a place to go to university; I was going to study history. I was in New York doing ‘Arcadia,’ and I suddenly thought, ‘It feels a bit weird to go from a New York stage to Manchester University.’ It didn’t quite feel right.
If you’re doing something like ‘Arcadia’ by Tom Stoppard, which has been done millions and millions of times, and it’s been played some unbelievably well-respected actors, there’s a lot more pressure there. But I try not to think about all the other people who have done it before me. You’ve got to try and be original.
Movies make teenagers have quippy answers for every question. Nothing seems to faze them, and they’re like, ‘Oh, whatever.’ You’re not like that when you’re a teenager. You’re really earnest. Things really feel like life or death. And you kind of oscillate between emotions at one time. It’s very emotionally draining being a teenager.
’70s music is the kind of music I listen to. ’70s clothes, I adore.
I think that Hollywood misconstrues actresses saying, ‘Oh I wanna play a strong female character,’ like we all want to play, like, superheroes or something.
It sounds so negative of me to say, but I don’t feel like there were many coming-of-age films when I was growing up. I think that when I was a teenager, I felt really misrepresented in the teenage roles that I was watching onscreen. Especially in women.
When you’re portraying someone that really existed, there has to be a time as an actress where you leave reality and move into the fantasy world so you can do your job of creating a character.
I started doing theatre, and that’s when I really fell in love with the profession; I learned a lot. It felt a bit weird to go from living in New York on Broadway to university, so I kept putting it off. Then, eventually, I had to give up the place.
I grew up with my parents in the kitchen discussing the audition my dad had that day or moaning about something or other in the industry, so it was unglamourised and normalised for me from a very young age.