Actress ready to wear a crown
The White Princess star Jodie Comer tells how she got an early start in her career.
Though it never occurred to British actress Jodie Comer to perform for a living, she knew at 13 that she loved pretending to be somebody else. ‘‘I’d done acting at a local drama school on Saturdays,’’ she says. ‘‘I just enjoyed it. It never entered my mind I could possibly do it for a career. We were doing a talent show, me and my three friends were doing a dance from Chicago. I’d gone on holiday with my parents and my friends messaged me to say, ‘Just so you know, you can’t be in the dance anymore because you’ve not been here to practice’.
‘‘So being a 13-year-old I was absolutely heartbroken,’’ she says in her Liverpudlian accent. It was then her mother suggested that she repeat the monologue she’d given at the Liverpool Drama Festival a few months earlier, to regain her position in class. ‘‘My drama teacher let me do it, and after that she kind of had her eye on me,’’ says Comer. A few weeks later BBC radio was seeking a young girl for the radio play, The Tin Man. It was her very first audition and she landed the part. ‘‘Lots of local professional actors and actresses were in The Tin Man,’’ she recalls.
‘‘I just loved it so much. They said, ‘If you enjoy it that much you could possibly make a career out of it’. So an actress kindly introduced me to her agent in Manchester and put me in touch with a photographer for some head-shots, and that was my first professional move.’’
At 24, Comer is already a seasoned veteran as she proves with her latest role as Princess Elizabeth of York in the drama The White Princess. The series is a prequel to the earlier The White Queen, in which Comer slips into Lizzie’s brocaded slippers and becomes the first Tudor queen.
She says she is transfixed by the emotions she’s able to emulate in her acting. ‘‘Emotions fascinate me, just being able to express myself through acting. I love that. And I think in every day life you’re always trying to repress your emotions. Like if you’re sad, you don’t want to show it to someone else,’’ she says.
‘‘With acting you have to just tell the truth in each moment.
And sometimes you might do a scene, and then either you’re laughing or you’re sad.
Sometimes it can be really overwhelming in a really good way, if you feel something. I enjoy most feeling things and connecting with another person. If you come away from a scene with someone and you think, ‘That made me feel really alive. Yeah’.’’
She admits it can be intimidating taking on a role like young Lizzie, who was to become the mother of Henry VIII.
‘‘There’s always doubt,’’ says Comer. ‘‘I think you’re your worst enemy with that kind of stuff. But I like the feeling of going, ‘Oh, God, this is a really big thing and it’s going to be a challenge’. I kind of thrive off that because you have to put yourself in those situations otherwise you’re never going to progress. You do have to challenge yourself. I think scared is a good thing.’’
Comer, who did well in school but became impatient with it once she started acting, says her parents always allowed her to make her own professional decisions, even though she was very young.
‘‘When I had to leave my old agent, I was maybe 15, my dad was like, ‘Well, you know where the phone is. You ring her yourself. We’ll be here. But this is all yours’.
‘‘Through all my teens that’s always what they’ve done. They’ve never made a decision for me. So I’ve had all these little things I’ve had to do myself and had to overcome. So knowing I had their support, but they’ve kind of let me take the reins.’’
She still lives at home with her father, a sports therapist for a football club and her mother, an office worker for Liverpool transport.
She recalls a tough time in her mid-teens when she wrestled with an eating disorder.
‘‘When I was 16, food and selfimage was something I became very aware of, and I think it’s hard — especially now with the way social media is and all those kinds of things. I think that was the time I struggled. I’m very fortunate that I’ve got a very loving family and I’m very lucky that I haven’t had many difficult times ... I don’t want to go too much into it, but I had those kinds of [anorexic] issues.’’
Continuing she says, ‘‘I think it’s a universal thing, it’s true to any teenage girl ... To be physically strong is so empowering to me. I like to feel strong, but that pressure is always there. I got into acting because I wanted to act. I didn’t look like a model, didn’t want to look like a model. As long as I continue to do good acting and a solid work, then I’m happy’’. – TNS
The White Princess, Tuesdays, 8.30pm, Prime.
Jodie Comer says it can be intimidating taking on a role like Princess Elizabeth of York.
Michelle Fairley plays Lady Margaret Beaufort in The White Princess.