Greene lit for scary star­dom

Afer a se­ries of the­atri­cal suc­cesses, Sarah Greene is back in ter­ri­fy­ing for­min ‘Penny Dread­ful’. She talks to Peter Craw­ley

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TELEVISION - Penny Dread­ful is screen­ing on Sky; Adam Jones is out in Oc­to­ber

The cam­era loves Sarah Greene, although it is not yet en­tirely clear if Sarah Greene loves the cam­era.

The sub­ject comes up on a spec­tac­u­larly fine day in Dublin, where Greene has been con­fined to a win­dow­less board­room to pro­mote the sec­ond se­ries of Penny Dread­ful.

Does Greene look back at her per­for­mances? “No,” she winces. “It’s very hard. I find it quite dif­fi­cult, like.” (You can take the girl out of Cork, but . . . )

A stage actress of phe­nom­e­nal abil­ity, Greene grad­u­ated from the Gai­ety School of Act­ing and won ac­claim in sev­eral shows for Druid, Rough Magic, a star turn in the Abbey’s Alice in

Fun­der­land, and, most re­cently, her Olivier- and Tony-nom­i­nated per­for­mance as Slippy He­len, Daniel Rad­cliffe’s glee­ful tor­turer, in The Crip­ple of Inish­maan.


And she is hardly new to the screen. Greene was the idealised Imelda Egan in the screen adap­ta­tion of Eden, played a stage of Christina Noble’s life in last year’s biopic, and scaled Bren­dan Glee­son’s belly in The

Guard. Yet film re­mains a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge.

“I move my face so much, be­cause I’m very much ex­pres­sive,” Greene says, im­i­tat­ing a cri­tique she has heard be­fore. “I’m told a lot, ‘Stop mov­ing your face’, be­cause on cam­era the tini­est move­ment tells so much and it looks re­ally hammy. It’s all about por­tray­ing the thought, in­stead.”

Even so, film has be­come the fo­cus of Greene’s ca­reer. She has a part in what has been widely re­ferred to as “Bradley Cooper’s chef movie” (the up­com­ing film is ac­tu­ally ti­tled Adam

Jones). Be­tween meet­ings with Har­vey We­in­stein and pho­to­shoots with Vogue, her time in New York has brought her into con­tact with an­other realm of star­dom.

“Oh, I love him!” she trills when I men­tion Zachary Quinto, an­other ac­tor with a well­stamped pass­port be­tween theatre, film and tele­vi­sion. “I hung out with him a lit­tle bit in New York.

“I do miss theatre, a lot. I just wanted to make some money to look af­ter my fam­ily, ba­si­cally. I got to a point where I thought, now I have a choice. I can stay in theatre or I can chal­lenge my­self and give this a go. And I want to chal­lenge my­self. I like to scare my­self.”

For frights, she couldn’t have cho­sen bet­ter than Penny Dread

ful, the hor­ror se­ries cre­ated by John Lo­gan and shot in Ire­land. Lo­gan, the writer of Bond movies Sky­fall and the next one, Spec

tre, has a CV that cov­ers his­tor­i­cal fan­tasy ( Glad­i­a­tor, The Last

Samu­rai) and biopics ( The Avi­a­tor) with a re­veal­ing streak in theatre adap­ta­tions (Sweeney Todd, Co­ri­olanus).

Penny Dread­ful’s mash-up of Vic­to­rian hor­ror may seem close to a ComicCon fan­tasy. Franken­stein rubs shoul­ders with Drac­ula, Do­rian Gray, Jack the Rip­per and as­sorted oc­cultists, while Greene plays He­cate, the blood- thirsty daugh­ter of He­len McCrory’s spir­i­tu­al­ist Eve­lyn Poole. But it is the most clever and sin­cere trib­ute to hor­ror cur­rently on TV, sen­si­tively per­formed and sump­tu­ously shot.

The ti­tle se­quence, crawl­ing with in­sects and cru­ci­fixes, twist­ing with scarred tor­sos and the ethe­real Eva Green, well knows the thrills of sex­u­al­ity and body hor­ror, trans­for­ma­tions that come out mostly at night.

“That’s what the show does best,” says Greene. “We study th­ese char­ac­ters and watch them go­ing through th­ese strug­gles, whether they be sex­ual or psy­cho­log­i­cal. There’s some­thing much deeper and darker and more real about John’s char­ac­ters, I think.”

“Th­ese crea­tures are on the out­side of our so­ci­ety. I think a lot of peo­ple can re­late to their lone­li­ness. Be­cause I think ev­ery­one just wants to be loved.”

Could that de­scribe the life of an ac­tor? She sees the logic.

“I think that’s why he’s got such in­cred­i­ble ac­tors to work on this. We all strug­gle with our men­tal health in some form or an­other, I think. You have to be a lit­tle bit men­tal to be in this job.”


Af­ter Greene held the stage in Al

ice in Fun­der­land, she didn’t work again for nearly a year. She re­mem­bers giv­ing a talk to in­cred­u­lous Gai­ety School of Act­ing stu­dents later.

“Yeah. This is suc­cess. Sit­ting around for 10 months do­ing noth­ing. You do go a lit­tle bit in­sane with this. You do doubt your­self and ques­tion your­self. You go from mas­sive highs and con­fi­dence boost­ers – when I was in New York I was buzzing around the place – to doubt­ing your­self and ques­tion­ing ev­ery­thing about your per­son­al­ity.” What scares her? “Poverty,” she says, with­out hes­i­ta­tion. “I’ve been there a few times and it is a scary thing. I’m not re­ally scared of get­ting work. I gave up wor­ry­ing about that a long time ago be­cause there’s no point. I’m very much about living in the mo­ment and tak­ing each day as it comes. I ab­so­lutely love my job and I feel I’ll al­ways find work some­where.”

That may be why she is so san­guine about the va­garies of film.

Penny Dread­ful is the big­gest op­er­a­tion she’s been in­volved with.

“Your choices are very im­por­tant,” she says. “The only thing you have as ac­tors are your choices; the op­tion to say no to some­thing. You don’t want to take on a re­ally bad job and be ter­ri­ble in some­thing.

“Es­pe­cially in film, be­cause if you’re bad in it, you’re bad in it for­ever.”

We study th­ese char­ac­ters and watch them go­ing through th­ese strug­gles, whether they be sex­ual or psy­cho­log­i­cal. There’s some­thing much deeper and darker about John’s char­ac­ters, I think

Sarah Greene

“I want to chal­lenge my­self. I like to scare my­self.”

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