I’d love to get taken to a Scot­tish is­land in the mid­dle of nowhere. That’s my happy place

Why play at be­ing the next new Scot­tish star, when you can make hay? Sor­cha Ground­sell may be one of Net­flix’s new faces, tipped for star­dom for her role in Stranger Things-style show, The In­no­cents, but Vicky Al­lan dis­cov­ers she’s just as happy croft­ing

Sunday Herald Life - - Cover Story Interview - The In­no­cents is re­leased on Net­flix on Au­gust 24

MAK­ING hay in the Outer He­brides is not the stan­dard oc­cu­pa­tion for a break­ing star in the months lead­ing up to the launch of the Net­flix se­ries that could make her name. But, as we talk, Sor­cha Ground­sell has just re­turned from three weeks of do­ing lit­er­ally that – help­ing her par­ents out, in the sun, on their Hebridean croft. “I got some of the amaz­ing weather up there,” she says. “It was al­most too hot. I think they had had quite a hot dry spell for al­most six weeks, so all the an­i­mals were suf­fer­ing and the grass was get­ting a bit ques­tion­able.”

That said in re­cent months, Ground­sell has done some things which are ex­actly what you might ex­pect of an emerg­ing tal­ent. Amongst them was don­ning heels to pose on the red car­pet of the MTV Movie & TV awards with equally un­known co-star, Per­celle As­cott. This, she says, was all about get­ting their faces “out there” in ad­vance of the stream­ing of the much-hyped show, The In­no­cents, in which they star. She re­calls that no-one re­ally knew who these two young Bri­tons were, or what they were do­ing there. “We were stand­ing next to these very fa­mous peo­ple and we were like this funny lit­tle British cou­ple.”

She tried, she says, not to take the whole af­fair too se­ri­ously. “I think, if you do, you go men­tal and you be­come one of these crazy, Hol­ly­wood types. Be­cause it’s amaz­ing and it’s won­der­ful, but it is a bit ridicu­lous that we all get dressed and prance on a red car­pet and get yelled at by pho­tog­ra­phers. That’s quite a mad thing. It’s fun but it’s still mad. If you’re fe­male, you go out and just try not to fall over your own shoes.”

The 20-year-old is back now, in Lon­don, the city she has made her home for the past two years, and catch­ing up on laun­dry. She ap­pre­ci­ates, she says, hav­ing her Hebridean bolt­hole in her life. “I think it’s re­ally nice to be able to do some­thing that is so re­moved from act­ing, or the film in­dus­try, or any of the kind of re­quire­ments that are on you as an ac­tor – to be ar­tic­u­late and be poised and wear posh clothes. It’s good to be some­where I can just mooch about in my wellies.”

Al­ready there has been a great deal of buzz about The In­no­cents, which stars film in­dus­try heavy­weight Guy Pearce, and be­gins stream­ing on Au­gust 24. Ar­ti­cles have touted it as Net­flix’s next big show for the su­per­nat­u­ral drama au­di­ence that cult se­ries Stranger Things cul­ti­vated. Even back in Fe­bru­ary, Mash­able was say­ing that it was al­ready look­ing “ad­dic­tive”. The re­lease of an early trailer prompted Bus­tle to de­clare that it “may quickly be­come Stranger Things fans’ new ob­ses­sion”.

The In­no­cents – in which she plays June McDaniel, a girl who, on hit­ting her teens, dis­cov­ers that she has the power to shape-shift – does seem to fit the mould set by Stranger Things. “Net­flix,” Indiewire ob­served, “knows what its sub­scribers want out of its slightly younger-skew­ing orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming: more sto­ries about pow­er­ful teen girls with big se­crets, and the boys who love them.” And, if the show is the new Stranger Things, then that makes Sor­cha Ground­sell the next Mil­lie Bobby Brown – the British child ac­tress who played the iconic Eleven in Stranger Things.

Ground­sell laughs – a ner­vous splut­ter – when I sug­gest this. “Oh my God,” she says.

I ask why that hor­ri­fies her. “Mil­lie Bobby Brown is a lot more poised and a lot more in con­trol of it. I’m al­ways a bit scep­ti­cal of com­par­isons like that. I’ve been try­ing not to think about what’s go­ing to hap­pen when it comes out. It makes me con­fused and slightly stressed. I think it’s best to fo­cus on the job that we’ve done and just feel happy with it re­gard­less.”

Of course, Ground­sell is not ex­actly the next Mil­lie Bobby Brown. She’s older than the 14-year-old. She has a very dif­fer­ent kind of screen pres­ence – more wide-eyed, goofy, and per­haps more real. Her char­ac­ter, June McDaniel, isn’t quite so mys­te­ri­ous as Eleven was.

As the se­ries starts, in fact, June seems like a fairly or­di­nary, though over­pro­tected, ru­ral York­shire teen. It’s only when she goes on the run with her lover from her strict fa­ther that the shapeshift­ing weird­ness starts. “What you see is not what you see,” is the trailer’s tease-line.

“I def­i­nitely tapped into the slightly darker side of it, which is re­ally what sets it apart,” says Ground­sell. “It

I’ve heard so many sto­ries of 25-year-olds be­com­ing sheep farm­ers … I re­ally crave that more sim­plis­tic, nat­u­ral life­style

was de­scribed to me ini­tially as a mix be­tween True Ro­mance and the Swedish vam­pire film Let The Right One In, and I think that is weirdly ac­cu­rate. It’s not one thing. It’s ro­mance and char­ac­ters who hap­pen to be quite young, but it’s also very dark and very psy­cho­log­i­cal, and scary at parts.”

There’s even a Scandi-noir feel to the show, some of which is set in the idyl­lic land­scape of the Nor­we­gian fjord of Mos­trau­men, where Guy Pearce’s con­trol­ling ther­a­pist has set up a cult­like re­treat for women who suf­fer from the curse of shapeshift­ing. “It was re­ally amaz­ing,” Ground­sell says of the Nor­we­gian shoot. “That much in­cred­i­ble, dra­matic scenery does some­thing to your brain. It was just nice to be away from re­al­ity. When you’re film­ing in Lon­don, you leave at the end of the day and you go home to your bills and your wash­ing and dishes and stuff like that. Whereas be­ing away en masse like that, with a cast, is a re­ally lovely ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Pearce, she says, is a “leg­end”. “I’d never worked with some­one at that level be­fore. There’s some­thing in hav­ing spent to many years in front of the cam­era. He was very gen­er­ous with his guid­ance and ad­vice.”

The In­no­cents be­longs to a long tra­di­tion of drama in which su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers are metaphors for the changes that hap­pen in pu­berty. Ground­sell sees it as about the search for iden­tity. “At its core,” she says, “it’s a show about peo­ple grow­ing up and how dif­fi­cult it can be to find out who you are, when you’re that age, a teenager and try­ing to find a place in the world.” Some­one, she muses, re­cently asked her if she thought the show was a com­ment on the more fluid na­ture of peo­ple’s iden­tity now. “It hadn’t oc­curred to me at all, but I think there is def­i­nitely a rise in sto­ry­telling about that kind of thing. About the na­ture of iden­tity – the out­side ver­sus the in­side and all that type of stuff.”

So­cial me­dia is where a lot of peo­ple play with their iden­tity. Does she in­dulge in a bit of that? “Not re­ally, no. I do have so­cial me­dia partly be­cause I’m of the gen­er­a­tion that grew up with it, that got it. But partly for work re­ally, and I’m not into it re­ally at all. I find it slightly con­fus­ing. I think ev­ery­one has to ask them­selves, ‘Who am I?’ enough with­out hav­ing to an­swer it on your so­cial me­dia pro­file.”

“Once ev­ery three months,” she says. “I’ll throw my phone across the room and say, ‘Right that’s it, I’m go­ing to get an old Nokia and not pay any at­ten­tion to any of it any more.’ But it’s hard. For peo­ple who are young now, it’s such a huge part of our daily ex­is­tence and it’s quite hard to fight against that.”

Early in the first episode of The In­no­cents, Ground­sell’s char­ac­ter, speak­ing of her fa­ther’s de­sire to move to a Scot­tish is­land, says, “Mum would have loved Scot­land. Some­where cold and trau­matic.” This idea, she says, be­came a run­ning joke on set. “June is re­ally against Scot­land. She doesn’t want to get taken to a Scot­tish is­land in the mid­dle of nowhere. But, in re­al­ity, I would love to get taken to a Scot­tish is­land in the mid­dle of nowhere. That’s my happy place.”

Ground­sell lived on Lewis for eight years, at Ness in the north of the is­land, and still has fam­ily in the Outer He­brides. Though her par­ents didn’t grow up there them­selves, it was where her mother’s fam­ily came from, and where they set­tled dur­ing her early years. “I go back there quite a lot,” she says. “Yeah, I do miss it. There’s an at­mos­phere there that you just don’t get in a big city.”

It pro­vides, she says, a great “an­ti­dote” to the in­dus­try she is in. “To go home to some­where where peo­ple haven’t heard of Net­flix, where no-one’s got good enough in­ter­net to stream things, is a re­ally nice bal­anc­ing. Be­cause the in­dus­try can get too closed in on it­self, and you end up in this weird world that isn’t any­thing like re­al­ity. So it’s quite nice to step away from that oc­ca­sion­ally.”

Her fa­ther, who used to be a graphic de­signer, and her mother, a for­mer mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sional, re­tired early to fol­low a croft­ing life. Ground­sell ob­serves that croft­ing is in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, and has al­most be­come quite cool. “A lot more peo­ple re­cently are do­ing it. Young peo­ple too. I’ve heard so many sto­ries of 25-year-olds be­com­ing sheep farm­ers.”

Is she tempted? “Ab­so­lutely,” she says, then amends her an­swer. “Well, prob­a­bly not in ac­tu­al­ity. But I find that I re­ally crave that more sim­plis­tic, nat­u­ral life­style ... Def­i­nitely not yet. I think my agent would have some­thing to say about that.”

Ground­sell is a Gaelic speaker. The lan­guage wasn’t spo­ken in her fam­ily home when she grew up, but her grand­mother spoke it and she learnt it at school on Lewis, then later went to the Gaelic school in Glas­gow. She would love, she says, to write or per­form in Gaelic films. “This is some­thing that I’ve been think­ing about a lot. The Gaelic film in­dus­try is re­ally un­der­utilised. There’s a lot of scope for cre­ativ­ity and there are a lot of great sto­ries to be told. I think we’re due a great up­ris­ing of Gaelic cul­ture. There’s space to do that. I would love to write in Gaelic. I see Gaelic cul­ture as a huge part of my­self and my per­son­al­ity. It’s re­ally im­por­tant to me to have that part of Scot­tish cul­ture rep­re­sented.”

She be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with act­ing when she moved to Glas­gow at nine years old, start­ing with ca­sual classes at The Cit­i­zens Theatre, then later tak­ing week­end classes at the Royal Con­ser­va­toire of Scot­land. “I think,” she says, “it’s the kind of thing that if you’re shy your par­ents think it’s a good idea. A lot of par­ents put their kids into it, think­ing– oh, maybe they’ll find them­selves in drama.”

Her im­mer­sion in a Gaelic school meant that even once she had moved to Glas­gow and be­come a city dweller, she was still part of al­most an is­land-like cul­ture. “The school was very small,” she re­calls. “All the peo­ple at school were rel­a­tives of ev­ery­one I’d grown up with. It was part of that same Gaelic com­mu­nity. It was a nice mid­point be­tween an is­land life and a full-on main­stream Glas­gow school.”

She’s lucky enough to be break­ing into the in­dus­try in the post #MeToo move­ment era, at a time of change and pos­si­bil­ity for women. It’s an at­mos­phere she en­thuses about. “I think it’s such an in­spir­ing time. There’s an em­pow­er­ing en­ergy through­out the en­tire in­dus­try, not just at the top Hol­ly­wood level. Sud­denly peo­ple are hav­ing conversations that they would never have been hav­ing 15 years ago.

“And I think now, for peo­ple like me, com­ing into it, there’s a for­mat for how to han­dle any­thing dif­fi­cult that might hap­pen. There are ex­am­ples that show you don’t need to take bad be­hav­iour. You don’t need to qui­eten your voice just be­cause you are young and fe­male. You have a right to speak.”

One of Ground­sell’s big­gest past roles was in BBC Three’s glitzy fem­i­nist psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, Clique. It says a lot about her geek­ish charm that she played one of the very few char­ac­ters in the show that wasn’t un­bear­ably cool and so­phis­ti­cated.

“That was a funny one,” she says. “I did en­joy do­ing it. The char­ac­ter was so won­der­fully nor­mal in that glam­orous world. And, any time you just get to sit around in your py­ja­mas for three months is al­ways great.”

It strikes me that many of her char­ac­ters have had a gauch­eness, a not very worldly aura. It’s as if, I sug­gest, there’s some­thing of the is­land in them. She seems to agree. “I think wher­ever you grow up and what­ever your ex­pe­ri­ence has been you can’t ever let that go and as much as ob­vi­ously act­ing is trans­for­ma­tion, at the end of the day you are still your­self, and your ex­pe­ri­ences, your life and your his­tory are still in you, even when play­ing an­other per­son.”

Sor­cha Ground­sell stars in the lastest Net­flix show The In­no­cents.

The In­no­cents also stars film in­dus­try heavy­weight Guy Pearce.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.