■ The actress, 29, talks about her sister Gemma, being squashed on stage and her TV detective drama, Safe
What’s Safe all about?
It’s about a gated community, quite well-to-do and everyone seems to know everyone, when a kid goes missing. I play a detective who has just moved into the town who is looking for the kid. Then it all unravels and everyone becomes a suspect.
Michael C Hall from Dexter is in it. How do you rate his English accent?
It’s brilliant. It’s really nuanced, as well, as he’s playing an ex-Army officer. It’s flawless. I was more of a Six Feet Under fan than Dexter and he was great in the David Bowie musical Lazarus.
Do you struggle with any accents?
I’m really bad at Scottish accents. I did an audiobook a couple of months ago and had to do two lines in a Scottish accent and was so terrified I couldn’t even make a sound. I didn’t know where to begin. I’ve done an Australian accent for a film, which was fun — I grew up watching Neighbours — and I’ve done American for castings but as yet I haven’t worked with an American accent, even though I hope to.
You went from a council estate to Rada. What were the highs and lows of going there?
The highs were abundant — I loved it. I hadn’t really planned to go to drama school but I gave it a go and it worked out. I discovered I really liked acting and made some of my best friends there. It was the most fantastic three years — I felt really busy and challenged. The low was when you leave — it’s such a shock because you’ve been in this creative bubble and it can feel like going into a wilderness. You’re out in reality with no student loan coming in so you’re poor and bored. I wish I’d been more prepared for that but luckily I left with an agent and a job.
I was in a skiffle band and a man twice the size of me, with a pint in his hand, fell on top of me
Was your sister, Gemma, working as an actress when you applied?
Yes, but I knew the success she’d had was one in a million. That’s not the way a normal jobbing actor’s career goes so I had no illusions. I wasn’t expecting to leave with an agent, let alone a job. I had my feet on the ground but it was inspiring to know that it just takes one audition to get a life-changing role, which is what happened with her.
Has she told you to avoid blockbusters?
We’ve had very different careers and you can only follow the journey you’re on. You never know what will come your way. There are so many types of jobs and routes to take, you just have to roll with it.
Have you ever had a strange or supernatural experience on set?
My mum’s really into horoscopes. She’d done my chart by the time I was four and always seems to know what’s going on with me. I’ve never seen a ghost but I’ve definitely felt things. A couple of years ago I was shooting in a 15th-century convent in the middle of the night and got really freaked out. I had to come from a doorway by myself at the beginning of a shot and felt a strange presence. Waiting in the dark room alone for the camera to roll was really scary.
You fall in love with a computer in your new film, Peripheral. Are you a tech expert yourself?
It’s a crazy bonkers indie film, a mad psychological thriller. I’m not an expert. I was quite good at it five years ago but not now — I don’t know how to do certain things on my laptop any more because it’s had a system upgrade. I can’t be bothered now and can’t keep up with it. It’s scary to say that as a young person.
You originally wanted to pursue a music career. Do you still do gigs?
It’s still my first love and I’m starting a new project with my boyfriend and a friend — we’re playing around with sounds and beats we like. It’s good to have that outlet as music is important to me and I need to keep that part of my creativity active. I’m also in a functions band but we don’t do as many weddings and things now as we used to. I love performing live. It’s my favourite thing.
What’s the worst gig you’ve ever done?
When I was 17 I was in a skiffle band. We played the Bird’s Nest in Deptford and a large man, twice the size of me, with a pint in his hand, fell on me. The stage was very low and he was having a great time dancing along until he lost his balance. I wasn’t hurt but I was hugely embarrassed — and I had to get back up and pretend it hadn’t happened.
What lessons has your career in showbiz taught you?
Try not to think about the future too much because you don’t know what’s around the corner. I can be a bit of a worrier and get a bit anxious, so I try to be grateful for what I’ve got going on right now. Trying to keep in the moment is very useful in this industry.
Safe is available now on Netflix