Ac­tress ready to wear a crown

The White Princess star Jodie Comer tells how she got an early start in her ca­reer.

The Press - The Box - - COVER STORY -

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.

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