PROFILE Janet Montgomery
The deep-thinking British actress tells Nathanael Cooper she was ‘blessed’ to score two big roles on two very different shows, but both required an intense amount of research.
SPIES OF WARSAW; DANCING ON THE EDGE Ends tonight, 8.30pm, UKTV; Starts May 19, 8.30pm, UKTV
IN between jobs, most actors find themselves working in a call centre or waiting on tables or some other job they can abandon when the next acting gig comes their way.
Janet Montgomery, star of Entourage and Made in Jersey, doesn’t do any of those things.
‘‘I don’t do a lot actually, I just lay in bed and think about things,’’ she says. ‘‘When I am not working I get sent a lot of scripts and of course there are auditions as well, so I spend a lot of time reading the scripts and thinking about the roles."
In 2012 she didn’t need to spend a great deal of time in bed thinking, she was in the fortunate position of being inundated with work, first the Stephen Poliakoff drama Dancing on the Edge, quickly followed by World War II drama Spies of Warsaw.
‘‘I was honestly really blessed, it was a very good period for me," she says.
Dancing on the Edge, set in the early 1930s, is about a black jazz band in London and the difficulties faced by the group living in the city at that time. It covers topics like racial discrimination and prejudice. ‘‘It is always exciting doing something that is breaking all the rules, doing something different for TV,’’ she says.
The effort that went into creating these worlds is obvious on screen and Montgomery says it made stepping back into the 1930s a very easy task.
‘‘We were incredibly lucky to have such a great team of people creating the world," she says.
Montgomery’s upbringing in coastal Bournemouth, in southwest England, couldn’t have been further from the aristocratic world of her character Sarah in Dancing on the Edge, so a lot of research went into building her character.
‘‘You do do a lot more research when you are working on a period drama," she says.
‘‘If you are playing a character of today there isn’t a lot more research you can do because it is all happening around you.
‘‘When it is the 1930s you have to know what is going on, so I spent a lot of time reading and discovering anything I could find to help bulk up my character’s life.’’
With all the work done going into the show, it was all in the hands of director Stephen Poliakoff to shape the character into his vision. Montgomery says placing her trust in Poliakoff was easy.
‘‘He has such a clear vision of what he wants in his mind and he won’t budge,’’ she says.
‘‘I knew he would tell me if it was crap and he wasn’t going to let anything happen that wasn’t exactly how he wanted it.’’
Montgomery didn’t have to travel far in time for her next role as the love interest of David Tennant in Spies of Warsaw.
Adapted from the book of the same name by Alan Furst, the twopart miniseries, which wraps up on UKTV tonight, explores the espionage of the major nations before the break out of WWII.
For Montgomery, her involvement in the piece was a real eye-opener.
‘‘Obviously I studied the war in school but I wasn’t really aware of the role Poland played,’’ she says.
‘‘I had to shed all my Englishness and forget the war I knew.’’
Tennant’s Colonel Jean-Franois Mercier plays an integral role in the war effort as he unearths secrets of the Allies’ enemies, at the same time winning the affection of Montgomery’s Anna. She says Tennant was a role model on set.
‘‘He is the epitome of the prepared actor," she says. ‘‘And he does everything with great humour and with bundles of positivity.’’
Montgomery has just shot a pilot for a new US series Gothica, with Australian actors Chris Egan, Emma Booth and Melissa George.
It is described as a ‘‘sexy gothic soap’’ and takes popular characters from fiction and transports them into modern times.