Love scenes with Luther? Yes please...

Si­enna Guil­lory quit a glit­ter­ing film ca­reer in Hol­ly­wood for the sake of her twin tod­dlers. Now she’s in bed with TV’s dishi­est de­tec­tive, Idris Elba’s tal­ented but tor­tured John Luther

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FEA­TURE - Ni­cole Lam­pert

I ’ve only been chat­ting to new Luther star Si­enna Guil­lory for a few se­conds but al­ready the poor girl is in tears. She is some­one, she ad­mits, who has ‘emo­tional Tourette’s’. It’s re­fresh­ing, en­dear­ing and, in the re­fined con­fines of the trendy ho­tel where we are meet­ing, a touch dis­con­cert­ing.

The tears are over her two-year- old twin girls. It’s clear she adores them. But it’s also clear that she is strug­gling. We are in­tro­duced as I am fin­ish­ing a phone call try­ing to jug­gle my own child­care with work. She em­pathises and I tell her it must be even harder with twins. That’s when her eyes start wa­ter­ing. ‘Why doesn’t any­one tell you how hard it is?’ she says, strug­gling to talk. ‘Be­fore you have chil­dren, you think par­ent­ing is about your ca­pac­ity of love. “I can do that,” you think. “That’s the one thing I know how to do.”

‘Then you have kids, and you have two at once and you just feel like they both need you all the time and you have to put one down when the other one is cry­ing for you. It al­ways feels like you are ne­glect­ing one; it just breaks your heart. You feel like you are not giv­ing them enough love. It’s re­ally hard.’

She ad­mits that just a few days ear­lier she had been to see the doc­tor for ad­vice. ‘ I said, “Where am I sup­posed to go for help? For some­one to tell me what to do?” It’s re­ally hard. He looked at me like I was mad. That was em­bar­rass­ing.’ She shrugs sadly. It’s heart­break­ing; I want to give her a hug.

Help is one rea­son why Si­enna, 38, and her ac­tor hus­band of 10 years, Enzo Ci­lenti, also 38, re­turned to Lon­don from LA, where she’d built a suc­cess­ful film ca­reer. ‘I needed my mum,’ she says, more tears fall­ing. ‘She’s been a big help.’ Ap­pear­ances can cer­tainly be de­ceiv­ing. From the out­side, Si­enna is the cool-as-ice blonde who found fame in Jilly Cooper’s Rid­ers, be­came a top model, was a tabloid dar­ling while dat­ing Lock, Stock And Two Smok­ing Bar­rels star Nick Mo­ran, then moved to LA, where she played a string of tough girls in­clud­ing war­rior Jill Valen­tine in the crit­i­cally mauled but box-of­fice-block­bust­ing Res­i­dent Evil se­ries.

She is cer­tainly beau­ti­ful but sur­pris­ingly un­con­fi­dent. She says she’s not cool; she is, but in a very quirky, un­con­ven­tional way. Af­ter hav­ing her daugh­ters, Valentina and Lu­cia, she was ter­ri­fied she would never work again. In­stead she was given just a few weeks af­ter their birth to get su­per-fit and skinny for the most re­cent Res­i­dent Evil film, Retri­bu­tion. ‘If it had been any other film, I would have given my­self a break, but ba­si­cally I was go­ing to be go­ing up against Milla Jovovich; a su­per­model in a cat suit,’ she says. ‘It was like, “Oh. Good­ness. Okay.” I worked out three hours in the morn­ing, then an hour at night. I only did it on the pro­viso that they gave me a nanny. I said, “I’ll do any­thing; just give me a nanny. Help me!”’ Un­til that film Si­enna, who once said she had drifted into act­ing rather than seen it as a life’s am­bi­tion, had al­ways felt un­com­fort­able on set. Not good enough. But oddly the dis­as­ter in her do­mes­tic life meant she felt hap­pier than she had ever been on set. ‘I’d al­ways felt that ev­ery­one must be bet­ter at this than I am; I was sure I was do­ing some­thing wrong,’ she says. ‘My agent used to say I was my own worst en­emy. But af­ter I be­came a mum, I re­alised be­ing at work was heaven. I re­alised I am good at this; I know how to do it.

‘Af­ter do­ing it for 20 years, I felt con­fi­dent. I love be­ing part of a team. It’s a com­plete jux­ta­po­si­tion with the blither­ing wreck I am at home. At home it’s ter­ri­fy­ing be­cause I don’t know what I’m do­ing and I’m team leader. And I’m not good at that.’

Film­ing the movie in Toronto made her re­alise she wanted to leave LA. ‘You could walk to the shops, rather than hav­ing to drive ev­ery­where,’ she says. ‘Peo­ple would wear

nice clothes rather than tight clothes be­cause they thought it made them look young. I didn’t want my chil­dren to grow up in a place where they use the term “Mex­i­can” in a pe­jo­ra­tive way. There’s a lot of that in LA.’

Re­turn­ing to Bri­tain was a risk for her — ‘I was ter­ri­fied peo­ple would have for­got­ten me,’ she re­calls. But al­most im­me­di­ately she was given the script for Luther, to play the mav­er­ick cop’s new love in­ter­est, Mary Day, while Enzo got work on Pris­on­ers’ Wives.

‘It’s much eas­ier to play char­ac­ters that are very dif­fer­ent to you,’ she says. ‘With Jill Valen­tine, I got to kill things and I was all-pow­er­ful — and men were re­ally scared of me. With Mary, I had to be re­ally hon­est — she’s got emo­tional Tourette’s like me. Play­ing her was a big emo­tional ride but it sort of helped that I was be­ing kept up all night by the twins; I didn’t need to fake be­ing pre­men­strual. But I loved the script. It’s so well writ­ten and that is rare — well, for me at least — that you get to do things that are prop­erly writ­ten. Luther is a man who does the wrong things for the right rea­sons; ev­ery­thing is based on his gut.’

Mary and Luther meet when they lit­er­ally col­lide into each other. Si­enna says it was a joy to work with Luther’s lead, Idris Elba. ‘He’s amaz­ing,’ she gushes. ‘He is re­ally big; tall, wide, with a big voice and I never knew what he was go­ing to do next: pick me up and kiss me or knock me over. The love scenes were def­i­nitely a perk of the job,’ she adds, a smile fi­nally com­ing over her face. ‘It was much nicer kiss­ing him than An­to­nio Ban­deras, who told me that I was a ter­ri­ble kisser in front of the whole crew of a film [on 2011’s The Big Bang].’

Si­enna has been fa­mous since she was 16 years old and cho­sen to play the lead role of Fenella Maxwell in the tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tion of Jilly Cooper’s best­selling book Rid­ers. The daugh­ter of the model Tina Thomp­son and Amer­i­can- Cuban folk gui­tarist Isaac Guil­lory, she was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from the rich farm­ers’ daugh­ters at her board­ing school and she was badly bul­lied. ‘Teenage girls can be aw­ful,’ she says.

Act­ing was al­ways her re­lease — and was partly in­spired by fam­ily friend He­len Mirren, who once lived in a com­mune with her mother. ‘We al­ways used to go and see He­len’s plays and she was a real role model for me,’ Si­enna says. ‘She is hyp­notic, ex­tra­or­di­nary, warm and funny, vi­va­cious and bril­liant. She is kind of su­per­hu­man — ev­ery­thing you want to be and more.’

Rid­ers made Si­enna a ‘name’ and that was in­creased four­fold when she started dat­ing Nick Mo­ran, who was at the height of his fame af­ter the suc­cess of Lock, Stock and Two Smok­ing Bar­rels. The spot­light made her want to hide — ‘It made me hor­ri­bly, hor­ri­bly in­se­cure’ and she de­lib­er­ately sought out low- key work. She went on to meet Enzo 12 years ago and the pair seem to have a strong bond. ‘He’s such a fab­u­lous dad,’ she smiles. When she was of­fered a role on an Amer­i­can pi­lot six years ago the pair moved

‘Af­ter I be­came a mother, I re­alised be­ing at work, on set, was heaven’

to LA. She is hon­est about her mo­ti­va­tions: ‘Even if you are work­ing back to back here on bril­liant jobs, you look at your bank bal­ance at the end of the year and see there is still noth­ing in it. You think of things you can sell on eBay to pay the mort­gage.

‘In LA, you are well paid very nicely, thank you very much, but I have come to re­alise that in life there are many things that you don’t ac­tu­ally need — but one of them is to do good work and an­other is to work with peo­ple you ad­mire.’ So now Si­enna is back — and al­ready on prime­time tele­vi­sion.

What’s more, she seems like some­one who is fi­nally get­ting to the place she has al­ways wanted to be. ‘I’ve al­ways wanted to be older as I think it’s all right to be a lit­tle bit odd when you are out of your 20s,’ she muses. She is odd, but you can’t help but love her for it. The brand- new se­ries of Luther starts on BBC1 on Tues­day at 9pm

Si­enna with Idris Elba in Luther

Si­enna in 2004’s Res­i­dent Evil: Apoc­a­lypse

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