“Abbey” Row — The strenght of Downton is all character”, Julian Fellowes says when asked why we love his phenomenally successful Downton Abbey quite so much. There is a perfect mix of aristocratic and servant intrigue, of big storytelling, love, gossip and beautiful people in beautiful costume. “It looks like classic period drama, but the structure is more like The West Wing“, Fellowes continues. “Everything is very quick; we shot it with the speed of a soap”.
Kate Mosse, the author of Labyrinth posted about the filming of Jessica’s first scenes for the miniseries. Spoilers for those who have not read the book!
The following day, though, summer was back. With temperatures pushing 29 degrees at midday, we decamped to the beautiful little town of Lagrasse, some 30 km from Carcassonne, to film the first of the 13th century scenes – the scene where Alaïs finds a dead man in the river (the label for his costume in wardrobe was wonderful!). It was extraordinary to see the quiet determination of the Czech actor (with wet suit and nose plugs) under his medieval robes and the stunt man in the water with him and Jessica Brown Findlay, perfect as Alaïs – beautiful, poised, other-worldly – walking in a beautiful sage green robe along the river bank with mist (from wonderful machines) being generated behind her to give the impression of a dawn in 1209.
Brown-Findlay, the actress who plays idealistic young Sybil, was shot in sultry pose by the photographer Rankin as she discussed her plans for life after Downton.
“I’m hungry for a cold and mean character. I’d love it if someone thought I could play gritty. I want to play a baddie – someone really scary,” she said.
The 22-year-old trained as a ballerina but her hopes of a dance career were dashed by injury. She took up acting as an alternative and landed her first major role in the period drama.
She told The Hunger magazine: “I feel a bit like a kid who gets into a club with their fake ID, and everyone there knows they’re under-age. To be included in these lists of ‘new talent’ with such great people is a bit bizarre.
“It’s good, though, because now I have to step up and rise to it, and learn as much as I can. That’s why I like working with people like Maggie Smith and Michelle Dockery and all these wonderful actors in Downton Abbey. If you’re going to learn anything at all, it will be from these people.”
The Hunger, Rankin’s biannual magazine, and www.thehunger.tv launch on November 17
Will they ever find love? Exclusive interviews with the Downton sisters!
Date Posted: 17/Oct/2011 15:56
By: Tessa Hawley
ONE of the stars of Albatross – a film shot entirely in the Isle of Man – has described the Island as “stunning”.
British actress Jessica Brown-Findlay, who plays the lead in the film, has been singing the praises of the Island during promotional interviews.
Speaking about the Isle of Man on Steve Wright’s BBC Radio 2 show last week Jessica said: “It was stunning. The countryside out there is amazing and we had, despite filming in November and December, some wonderfully sunny days. It’s freezing but glorious.
“I adored every 4am wake up and was sort of bounding on set at 5.45am in the morning! I just adored it. It was a dream role and I fell in love with it from day one.” Read full story »
By Emily Cronin | Posted: Fri 14 Oct 2011
The star of Downton Abbey tells us about her new film project, and what it’s like to wear those costumes…
As Lady Sybil, the youngest Grantham daughter on Downton Abbey, Jessica Brown Findlay has to contend with scheming older sisters, strict class divisions, a draughty stately home—and corsets.
‘I might wear one if they weren’t so uncomfortable,’ she laughs. ‘Sometimes I catch a look onscreen and think, “Ooh, my waist looks small there,” forgetting that I was wearing a corset and that I could hardly breathe.’
Read full story »
InStyle chats to Downton Abbey actress Jessica Brown Findlay about her new movie Albatross and of course the goings-on at Downton!
InStyle chats to the gorgeous actress Jessica Brown Findlay about her new movie Albatross, the goings-on on set at Downton Abbey PLUS her style secrets…
Albatross is your first feature film, how is it different to other performances you’ve done?
Well, while Amelia is rebellious in a way that Sybil (from Downton Abbey) is I suppose, she’s far more outspoken and only tends to think about the consequences of her actions once she’s done them. She’s a very particular creature and someone who maybe on paper you shouldn’t necessarily be rooting for but then there’s something wonderful about her. You just can’t help but love what she does, she’s a really headstrong, bold young girl who gets it wrong a lot of the time but does it anyway. Read full story »
Germany’s Tandem Communications and Ridley and Tony Scott‘s Scott Free have released the first cast photo from their upcoming miniseries Labyrinth. Tandem and Scott Free are the team behind the multi-Emmy nominated The Pillars of the Earth
The grip-and-grin shot shows Oscar-winner John Hurt alongside executive producers Ridley Scott and Tandem’s Tim Halkin, together with Kate Mosse, author of the best-selling thriller on which the 4-hour miniseries is based. Mosse’s tale is an adventures story set in modern and medieval France which centres on two women’s search for the holy grail. Delivery is set for late summer 2012. Germany’s Sat.1, Channel Four in the U.K., France’s M6, Spain’s Quatro and ORF in Austria have pre-bought the show. NBC Universal Home Entertainment and Koch Media have certain U.S. home entertainment rights. So far, there is no U.S. broadcaster attached to the series.
Other talent on location at the Labyrinth set in the Carcassonne countryside in the south of France includes director Christopher Smith; actress Vanessa Kirby, who plays Alice Tanner; Captain America‘s Sebastian Stan, who plays Will and Jessica Brown-Findlay of Downton Abbey who plays Alais Pelletier du Mas.
Among the behind-the-scenes talent squeezing into the shot is screenwriter Adrian Hodges, casting director Priscilla John, Sat.1 television executive Thomas von Hennet, executive producer Liza Marshall and producer Moritz Polter.
Also on the Labyrinth cast, though not in the photo, are Harry Potter alumnus Tom Felton, Game of Thrones actor Emun Elliott and Merlin actress Katie McGrath.
The Guardian posted an excerpt from the Film Weekly podcast with Jessica where she talks about Albatross. You can listen and download the 8-minute clip at the website right here.
Jessica Brown-Findlay talks about stepping out of Lady Sybil’s shoes and into her first big screen lead as the rebellious Emelia in Niall MacCormick’s Albatross.
Jessica Brown Findlay talks about landing her first leading lady role in British coming-of-age drama Albatross and how she shook off the disappointment of not being able to dance, following injury, and threw herself into acting. She also discusses auditioning for and almost getting the lead role in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and her joy at the success of Downton Abbey.
I gather you had to audition hard for Albatross?
Jessica Brown Findlay: Understandably so, I had no credentials to enforce anyone, and especially financiers, to take a risk. But our wonderful producer, Adrian Sturges, who I think is a brave but brilliant man in that he’s not afraid of those sorts of things, and [director] Niall MacCormick are both mad! They both agreed that I should do it and then once they had the other names could confirm to me that I had got it. Obviously, I had no power to green-light a movie. But I will always be eternally grateful that they gave me that chance because it’s that catch-22… you need experience to get a job but you need a job to get experience. So, they gave me that breakthrough and I’ll never forget that.
And what appealed to you about playing Emelie?
Jessica Brown Findlay: Oh, on the surface she doesn’t care and I thought that would be so wonderful to play because I’m so… my mind ticks over all the time for possibilities or consequences and I find it quite hard to sort of throw my cares to the wind, whereas she does. But then also underneath it, she really does care and she really wants a family and love and to be protected. But then she has this self-destruct button of the minute she gets that closeness, she can’t deal with it and pushes it away. She’s so diverse and she has depths to her that even she doesn’t really understand and that is so in tune with being a 17-year-old girl. It’s only through trials and tribulations that you start to understand yourself a little bit more. And then you get a bit older and you realise that no one knows what they’re doing, no one’s perfect and it’s fine. But that journey to see in that flawed moment, before everything starts to go along a more smoother past, was exciting and I just thought: “What a wonderful section of someone’s life to follow through.” I just adored it and really wanted to play her.
Was it relatable on one level – the idea of having an albatross hanging around her neck? I mean, she has her writing background, and you had a dancing background that injury meant you had to break away from…
Jessica Brown Findlay: Yeah, I very much was very focused on one thing and Emelia is absolutely adamant that she will be a writer and she believes she can be because of the ilk that she believes she’s from. The two of us in a weird way come to a head and meet something that is unexpected. I feel that Emelie doesn’t ever really feel she’ll be called on something; she feels quite immortal and unstoppable. Of course, she’s not because no one is. And I had a similar feeling at that young age. I thought this is all going great, it must be fine… and it’s a good thing to always know that no one is unstoppable and everyone is susceptible to things happening. It’s important to always take that into consideration. So it was a nice element to her character that came through, which was oddly therapeutic for me [laughs].
Do you take something away from every audition, even the unsuccessful ones? I read you were quite close to landing the role of Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland…
Jessica Brown Findlay: Yeah, I mean that was how I ended up getting my agent. That whole experience was really wonderful. What I really learned from it is that it’s important to have your own person in a role because you can’t play a character unless there are elements of human behaviour that you yourself understand. I was really struck by how Tim Burton would like to sit and chat about you… or question things which then you had never thought about. It is a good thing to always step back a bit with things like that. But I try my damned hardest to learn something from everything I do. But I really enjoy auditions anyway because I think that even if you come out of them, and you go in once and it never goes anywhere, there is something that you bring out of it or a note that will come back to your agent and that’s the way you learn. But that’s like anything… at school, if you put your hand up and get the answer wrong, you’ll remember getting it wrong far more and therefore recall the right answer. Whereas all the stuff I knew at school, I’ve now completely forgotten about [laughs]! But that’s fun as well… I like the unpredictable nature of it and that’s exciting.
Was there anything that you found unpredictable about stepping up into a leading role for Albatross?
Jessica Brown Findlay: Oh my God, almost everything! I mean, it ended up being a blessing in a way because in retrospect if I’d done Downton, maybe, and then Albatross I think I would have been more fearful of that type of character because Lady Sybil is so much more straight. But at that point, whilst I didn’t know what the right thing to do was technically or anything like that, I also didn’t know what was wrong, so I just figured if it’s awful or if it’s not going well, or if I’m not doing it right, or I’m looking into the lens, someone would tell me and that’s how I’d learn. But if not, I should trust my instincts and go with the character that I found in the audition. Niall, our director, really encouraged me to keep that simplicity of how I attacked it originally and not to over-analyse it and be natural with it. But that was great because he stopped me from scribbling away for hours and hours and hours and actually turning the character into something different.
Does it also help being around people like Felicity Jones?
Jessica Brown Findlay: Absolutely! She’s a brilliant woman. She played her part so beautifully that I couldn’t help but just stare at her in scenes. I think I forgot quite a lot of my lines because I was just like: “Wow!” But it was so wonderful because Emelie is so extrovert and Beth is so introvert and so it was so much quieter and it made for a lovely contrast… and they sort of swap elements in the end of themselves. I mean, how can you not even just one tip when Felicity is doing her thing? And she’s so supportive as well, which was really nice.
How has the success of Downton changed your life?
Jessica Brown Findlay: Oh, it’s just… in some ways nothing radical has changed. But the way it has changed is just that little thing of where you meet people and they like a show you’re in, it sometimes sort of feels as though you’re not a part of it; that it’s not really happening to you. But it is wonderful to do a job that so many people have enjoyed. It’s a responsibility to keep the standard up and keep working hard at it. But it’s also a lovely thing now to be able to go into an audition and have something on my CV like Downton.
Tomorrow, 14:00 on BBC Radio 2
Steve, Tim Smith and Janey Lee Grace try and out-trivia each other with more brain-busting Factoids and interview more amazing celebrity guests – today it’s broadcaster Jeremy Paxman and actress Jessica Brown Findlay. Plus, three hours of toe-tapping tunes including thirty minutes of classic Non-Stop Oldies, and the latest lifestyle and entertainment headlines and top notch Talkie bits.