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.

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - CELEBRITY -

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.

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