ON THE COVER: JES­SICA BAR­DEN

talks play­ing teenage tear­aways and falling in love on set.

The Mail on Sunday - You - - Editor's Letter - PHO­TO­GRAPHS JOSEPH SIN­CLAIR

Jes­sica Bar­den would make ex­cel­lent com­pany in the pub. She’s a straight-talk­ing livewire, loves a whisky cock­tail and is un­able even to visit the loos with­out danc­ing her way across the room. The prob­lem would be get­ting into the pub in the first place. With her heart-shaped face, wide blue eyes and del­i­cate 5ft 2in frame, you could eas­ily mis­take the 25-year-old vet­eran child ac­tor for an imp­ish teen. A lot of peo­ple do – ‘Yes I am 25’ is her wry In­sta­gram bio.

In fair­ness, it’s an easy mis­take to make. In new Netflix/Chan­nel 4 drama The End Of The F***ing World ( TEOTFW), she’s ut­terly con­vinc­ing as 17-year- old run­away Alyssa. Ditto play­ing the vi­brant but help­less tit­u­lar tear­away in Ellen, last year’s ac­claimed, bru­tal Chan­nel 4 drama about groom­ing. Back when she ac­tu­ally was a teen grow­ing up in Wetherby, West York­shire, she earned her Coro­na­tion Street spurs play­ing naughty Kayleigh Mor­ton. ‘I am al­ways ID -ed at bars or when buy­ing cig­a­rettes and al­co­hol. I have to carry my pass­port around with me,’ she says. ‘Peo­ple look at my ID and then me and go, “Whaaat?”

They can’t be­lieve I’m 25. I’m, like, “Yeah, I have no idea why I look like this ei­ther!”’

But un­der­es­ti­mate or pa­tro­n­ise Jes­sica at your peril. She’s whip-smart, ul­tra-am­bi­tious and bru­tally hon­est. ‘I have no work lined up what­so­ever,’ she de­clares when I ask about fu­ture projects, with the breezy con­fi­dence of some­one who knows she won’t be twid­dling her thumbs for long. She co-starred op­po­site Carey Mul­li­gan in the 2015 film ver­sion of Far From the Madding Crowd, play­ing Bathsheba’s mis­chievous (there’s a theme here) ser­vant Liddy. She en­cour­ages her lady to send a joke Valen­tine’s card, an act that has dis­as­trous con­se­quences. So is she a Thomas Hardy fan? ‘No! I read the book and found it bor­ing,’ she gig­gles. ‘I can’t lie – I have one of those faces where you can tell. It’s ex­pres­sive and lends it­self to be­ing cheeky. I al­ways tell the truth even when I should prob­a­bly tell a white lie.’

Based on Charles Fors­man’s graphic nov­els, TEOTFW sees wild-child Alyssa, who has been pushed aside by her mum and step­dad in favour of their baby twins, em­bark­ing on a glo­ri­ously chaotic and crim­i­nal road trip in search of her ab­sent fa­ther. In tow is her sort- of boyfriend James, a deeply awk­ward boy who thinks he may be a psy­chopath. It man­ages to be both car­toon­ishly vi­o­lent and poignant; hy­per­real but re­lat­able.

Jes­sica un­der­stands where Alyssa is com­ing from. Her mother, who works in an ac­counts depart­ment, and her prison-of­fi­cer fa­ther split up when she was 15. ‘I en­joy the fact that I’m rep­re­sent­ing some­thing that I went through. Alyssa thinks she doesn’t fit into her fam­ily any more. So many peo­ple’s par­ents sep­a­rate and for my gen­er­a­tion it is very nor­mal. But I re­mem­ber feel­ing as though no­body ever spoke about it. You were never al­lowed to say, “It’s so hard, my dad is liv­ing in a dif­fer­ent house now.” But as a kid you take it very per­son­ally when your par­ents di­vorce.’ Jes­sica’s fa­ther later re­mar­ried and these days she’s very close to her par­ents. She cred­its her love of per­form­ing and ‘show­ing off ’ to her gre­gar­i­ous, movie- and mu­sic-ob­sessed fa­ther, a man who would ran­domly per­form scenes from come­dies in the su­per­mar­ket (‘I didn’t find it em­bar­rass­ing, I loved it’). Mean­while, her mother deftly guided Jes­sica through the tricky early years of her ca­reer when she was work­ing while her friends were liv­ing it up on hol­i­days in Ibiza: ‘She told me I’d have to make sac­ri­fices to pur­sue the thing I loved.’

Her TEOTFW love in­ter­est James is played by Alex Lawther, 22, who starred as the young Alan Tur­ing in The Im­i­ta­tion Game and Tibby Schlegel in the re­cent BBC adap­ta­tion of Howard’s End ‘Alex and I are like brother and sis­ter. We would bicker a lot be­cause we spent so much time to­gether, but there was an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for each other,’ she says. ‘Alex keeps him­self to him­self, while I mess around with ev­ery­one. But the chem­istry worked.’ Has she ever fallen in love at work? ‘Yeah, of course. I’m an ac­tress!’ she laughs. ‘You fall in love with ev­ery­body. When you’re younger, you have a love in­ter­est and think, “This would be an amaz­ing story. I hope we get mar­ried!” But it doesn’t work out. I have so much re­spect for ac­tors who end up to­gether be­cause it’s so hard.’

The no­tion of try­ing to make a re­la­tion­ship work when you’re both work­ing for long stretches on dif­fer­ent film sets in dif­fer­ent coun­tries doesn’t ap­peal. For Jes­sica, work al­ways comes first. ‘I’m ob­sessed with my ca­reer. I’m 25 – it shouldn’t re­ally be any other way. I’ve had boyfriends in the past who haven’t un­der­stood that, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it. If a man has a prob­lem with the fact I work 20 hours a day, I don’t have to ex­plain my­self.’ Jess is a proper old-school grafter, which, she says, put her at odds with some of her fel­low mil­len­ni­als. ‘The prob­lem with our gen­er­a­tion is that we were raised in a world where you can get ev­ery­thing you want instantly, and our par­ents gave us ev­ery­thing. So peo­ple freak out about not hav­ing enough money and not own­ing houses. But you have to work re­ally hard for it.’

Jes­sica re­cently started a re­la­tion­ship with a man she met while film­ing The New Ro­man­tic in Canada (she plays

JES­SICA BAR­DEN pho­tographed by JOSEPH SIN­CLAIR. JUMP­SUIT, Tem­per­ley Lon­don. EAR­RINGS, Co­lette by Co­lette Hay­man.RINGS, Rui­fier

From left: Jes­sica in The End of the F***ing World op­po­site Alex Lawther; in Coro­na­tionStreet with Sam As­ton, 2008

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