With her stun­ningly pow­er­ful per­for­mance as an as­pir­ing coun­try singer in Wild Rose, Kerry-born ac­tress Jessie Buck­ley is set to join Ire­land’s ever-grow­ing ranks of ma­jor screen stars.

Hot Press - - Contents - In­ter­view: Roe Mc­Der­mott

We talk to the Kerry-born ac­tress set to join Ire­land’s ever-grow­ing ranks of ma­jor screen stars.

The last time I spoke to Jessie Buck­ley about her role in a lm called Beast, I told her she was go­ing to be a star. Now, just a year on, Buck­ley is about to go full-on su­per­nova. The Kerry-born ac­tress is re­ceiv­ing rave re­views world­wide for her role in Wild Rose, Tom Harper’s mu­si­cal fa­ble, which sees Buck­ley play Rose Lynn, a wild, brash, drink-swill­ing, ght-start­ing singer with a big voice – and a big dream to match. Never seen with­out her white cow­boy boots and fringed jacket, she is de­ter­mined to be­come a coun­try singer in Nashville – but that life seems a mil­lion miles away from her ex­is­tence in Glas­gow, where she has a crim­i­nal record to deal with and two young chil­dren.

Torn be­tween the life she has and the life she dreams of, Rose Lynn feels trapped – and rebels through self­de­struc­tion. Fail­ing to com­mit fully to ei­ther her dream or her fam­ily, she al­ter­nately in­spires and frus­trates the peo­ple around her. These in­clude her mother (Julie Wal­ters) and her boss and big­gest cham­pion, Su­san­nah (So­phie Okonedo).

Buck­ley is a force to be reck­oned with. Charm­ing and charis­matic, vul­ner­a­ble and en­rag­ing, her per­for­mance is in­cred­i­ble. And that’s even be­fore she sings. Her voice is phe­nom­e­nal, and she im­bues Rose Lynn’s beloved coun­try mu­sic with a power and emo­tion that will in­stantly con­vert any­one who hasn’t em­braced the genre be­fore.

It’s an ideal role for Buck­ley, who jumped at the chance to not only play a char­ac­ter who loved to sing, but who is com­plex and bold, while also be­ing vul­ner­a­ble.

“I just bloody loved her – I still love her, she’s very hard to shake off.”

As long as we’re talk­ing about her fear­less­ness – not, you know, the prison stint, or pen­chant for start­ing scraps with peo­ple down the pub, right?

Buck­ley lets out her trade­mark roar of laugh­ter.

“Yeah, any type of bad be­hav­iour, I now just blame her!

It’s not me!”

Jokes aside, Buck­ley loved the char­ac­ter on the page, and ghts against the idea that she’s “un­like­able” – the now ubiq­ui­tous ad­jec­tive thrown at com­pli­cated fe­male char­ac­ters onscreen.

“I don’t think you can re­ally read a char­ac­ter and say, ‘Oh she’s hor­ri­ble’ – you have to read them and try un­der­stand,” Buck­ley says. “And the mo­ments where peo­ple nd char­ac­ters crunchy or un­com­fort­able – who in the world doesn’t have mo­ments in their life where they are, too? Who hasn’t wanted some­thing for them­selves and are strug­gling with it? And I don’t think there are many fe­male char­ac­ters who are front and cen­tre like that, where the com­plex­i­ties of be­ing a mother and want­ing some­thing more for your­self are ad­dressed. That dilemma costs her, even in the mo­ments where it looks like she is bound­lessly, de­fence­lessly break­ing down ev­ery­thing around her. So I wanted to ex­plore that. Those are the foibles that make peo­ple re­ally hu­man. If ev­ery char­ac­ter is sheened and per­fect and al­ways ad­mirable – what’s the point?”

The lm does bril­liantly, though non-di­dac­ti­cally, ad­dress the pull many women feel be­tween their fa­mil­ial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and their own de­sires. While Rose Lynn strug­gles with the guilt of want­ing some­thing more from life, the fa­ther of her chil­dren isn’t present or even men­tioned – a sub­tle yet damn­ing in­dict­ment of how women can still be ex­pected to sacri ce their hopes and dreams for their fam­i­lies. But the lm also tack­les dis­con­tent and am­bi­tion and pas­sion, and the ten­sion be­tween want­ing to do the safe thing or take a gam­ble on your dream.

“To ac­tu­ally want some­thing for your­self is re­ally dif cult for a lot of peo­ple,” ob­serves Buck­ley. “And there are paths that you can choose, paths that ex­ist that will let you coast

along, and that’s ne. But when you have a burn­ing pas­sion for some­thing or you fall in love with a per­son, or an idea, or a dream, it’s hard. Be­cause the mo­ment you en­gage with that pull, you feel you be­long some­where else, to some­thing else. And if your iden­tity is pulled to­wards some­thing else – it’s scary. It’s re­ally scary. Be­cause you’re in need of some­thing else – and choos­ing that over what you have is scary and might mean leav­ing a lot be­hind.”

One of many bril­liant yet dev­as­tat­ing mo­ments in the lm is when Rose-Lynn’s mother tells her to give up her pipe-dream of be­com­ing a fa­mous singer, point­ing to all the X-Fac­tor style re­al­ity shows lled with young, hope­ful talented peo­ple and say­ing dis­mis­sively, “A lot of peo­ple can sing.” It’s a lay­ered mo­ment for Buck­ley, who her­self got her break when she came sec­ond in BBC’s 2008 Oliver!- themed tal­ent show I’d Do Any­thing. Did any­one try to dis­suade her from fol­low­ing her dream?

“Loads of peo­ple have said things to me,” Buck­ley says wryly. “And in the mo­ment, it’s crush­ing. Be­cause you ques­tion ev­ery bit of be­lief you have in your­self in that mo­ment. But I think I’ve taken any neg­a­tive com­ments and said, ‘Thanks very much, ac­tu­ally. Be­cause now you’ve lit a re un­der me – I want to show you that you’re wrong.’”

And she has. Buck­ley’s ca­reer is al­ready no­table for its thrilling un­pre­dictabil­ity.

She toured the UK as a jazz singer, be­fore com­ing back to drama to play Perdita in Ken­neth Branagh’s The Win­ter’s Tale. She then went on to play a ery Shake­spearean ac­tress Lorna Bow in the grungy 19th cen­tury thriller Taboo, op­po­site Tom Hardy, be­fore land­ing her break­out role in BBC’s War and Peace last year, where she won ac­claim for her por­trayal of the devout, frag­ile Marya Bolkon­skaya. But to off­set any pub­lic im­age of be­ing a del­i­cate wall ower, Buck­ley also played an enig­matic and in­trigu­ing young woman in Michael Pearce’s wickedly tense psy­cho­sex­ual thriller Beast. The ac­tress seems to thrive on sub­vert­ing ex­pec­ta­tions and rising to chal­lenges.

Not that she’s al­ways com­pletely sure of her­self. She speaks openly about ex­pe­ri­enc­ing panic at­tacks on set, and the cy­cle of worry that can ac­com­pany them.

“They’re funny things – they kind of creep up on you. It’s tired­ness, it’s emo­tion, it’s risk, it’s be­ing away from loved ones. You’ve very vul­ner­a­ble, and there’s al­ways an un­known. And act­ing, you’re drawn to the un­known be­cause it’s a chal­lenge – but you’re also scared of fall­ing off the edge of the cliff, and you don’t know what’s on the other side. So I get them, but I also get out of them.”

Luck­ily for Buck­ley, Wild Rose re­united her with her War and Peace di­rec­tor Tom Harper, who she now con­sid­ers a close friend, and who she cred­its with be­ing an emo­tional rock dur­ing her mo­ments of anxiety.

“When we were shoot­ing the lm, it was a scary thing be­cause I re­ally loved it and loved her, and I was get­ting fe­ro­cious panic at­tacks in the mid­dle of the shoot,” she says. “But the joy of work­ing with some­one like Tom and hav­ing a trust and friend­ship like that means that when­ever I’d have a strug­gle or a panic, he would hold it but also say ‘This is very hu­man, and let’s ex­plore it. Where is this ac­tu­ally com­ing from, is it com­ing from you or the char­ac­ter, can we chan­nel it? It’s an emo­tion, and it’s real, so let’s let it be seen.’ And when you’re in the hands of a di­rec­tor, those mo­ments can be incredibly vul­ner­a­ble and you can be un­der time pres­sure to get a shot. There can be a sense of ‘Cop on, we don’t have time for this, get on with it’ – but Tom is never like that. He’s a friend rst, then a di­rec­tor, but also man­ages to com­bine both to help me as a per­son and an ac­tress.”

And, Buck­ley adds, Rose Lynn taught her to have a more con dence, too. Buck­ley isn’t a method ac­tor and doesn’t feel the need to stay in char­ac­ter when the cam­eras aren’t rolling, but she does com­mit to em­pathis­ing deeply with her char­ac­ters and al­low­ing their per­spec­tive into her own life.

“It’s an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, get­ting to be some­one else for a while,” she says. “The way you look at the world is dif­fer­ent, the way you re­late to it is dif­fer­ent. It’s like if you’re read­ing a book and sud­denly you’re ask­ing your friends about some­thing you’ve never spo­ken about be­fore, and their ideas build even more on your un­der­stand­ing. That’s the fun part. You grow with these char­ac­ters. Each char­ac­ter who has come into my life has changed the way I look at the world. Peo­ple ask me ‘How do you shake the char­ac­ter off’ – I don’t want to. They all help me grow.”

And an­other very wel­come thing that Rose Lynn in­tro­duced

Buck­ley to was coun­try mu­sic, which the ac­tress fell in love with on set, em­brac­ing the genre that Rose Lynn de­scribes as “three chords and the truth.”

“Be­fore this, I thought coun­try was a bit, kind of hick?” says

"You grow with these char­ac­ters. Each char­ac­ter who has come into my life has changed the way I look at the world."

Buck­ley. “But I hadn’t re­ally heard the real stuff, it was all the crap, poppy misog­y­nis­tic stuff I had heard pe­riph­er­ally grow­ing up. But Ni­cole Tay­lor and Neil McCaul just have an in­cred­i­ble knowl­edge of coun­try mu­sic.

It’s the sto­ries and the char­ac­ters in the songs that re­ally got me. The song ‘An­gel From Mont­gomery’ by John Prine is all about an old woman sit­ting in her kitchen, think­ing back over all the things she didn’t do in her life. It’s so sim­ple, lyri­cally, but the sto­ries and the emo­tion and the hu­man­ity and hon­esty be­hind it are in­cred­i­ble. You go on a jour­ney with these char­ac­ters. It’s changed me, lis­ten­ing to and per­form­ing this mu­sic. Be­cause you have to get out of your own way and let the char­ac­ters take over.”

Wild Rose has been get­ting rave re­views for its emo­tional, heart-swelling sto­ry­telling and Buck­ley’s star-mak­ing per­for­mance. But true to form, Buck­ley isn’t wait­ing for the ex­ter­nal validation or sit­ting on her lau­rels hop­ing opportunit­ies fall into her lap – she’s al­ready work­ing on some projects that are chal­leng­ing and inspiring her. This in­cludes Ch­er­nobyl, the ve-part Sky At­lantic mini-se­ries that also stars Barry Keoghan.

“Ch­er­nobyl was my favourite thing I shot last year,” en­thuses Buck­ley. “The script was in­sanely bril­liant and hon­est and provocativ­e. It was scary to take on, be­cause these are real peo­ple, I play Lyud­milla Ig­natenko, a real woman who is still alive. Her hus­band was one of the first fire­fight­ers into Ch­er­nobyl af­ter the ex­plo­sion. So she is kind of the civil­ian’s eyes and shows this jour­ney of loss and dan­ger­ous love and grief and sur­vival. It was an amaz­ing feel­ing on set. Ev­ery­one was re­ally com­mit­ted on set, in a bold way and an emo­tional way. Even the ex­tras.

“We were shoot­ing one scene set in a grave­yard and there was a Lithua­nian woman in her seven­ties stand­ing be­side me, bawl­ing her eyes out. And when the scene ended, I said ‘Thanks for com­mit­ting’, you know? And she just held her heart and said ‘My son, my son.’

You’re lit­er­ally on set with peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced this. Be­cause Ch­er­nobyl isn’t some­thing that hap­pened, it’s still hap­pen­ing. Adi

Roche has been so gen­er­ous with re­search and help with me, and we’ve be­come good friends. But the work she is do­ing is never-end­ing.”

Buck­ley will also be ap­pear­ing in a biopic of Judy Gar­land, where she plays Ros­alyn Wilder, the pro­duc­tion assistant who worked with Wizard Of Oz star Gar­land dur­ing her last per­for­mances in Lon­don in the win­ter of 1968.

“I grew up with Judy Gar­land, she’s my rst ex­pe­ri­ence of look­ing at some­one and think­ing ‘Wow, you can ac­tu­ally do that? For a job?’” says Buck­ley. “And Re­nee Zell­weger who plays her is, for me, one of the most amaz­ing per­for­mances I’ve ever seen. I haven’t ac­tu­ally seen it, but I just hope I am giv­ing Re­nee and the lm as much as I got from that ex­pe­ri­ence.”

As for her he­roes, Buck­ley says she ad­mires many peo­ple in Hol­ly­wood and the in­cred­i­ble, multi-faceted ca­reers that they have carved out for them­selves – ac­tors and lm­mak­ers such as Olivia Coleman, Frances McDor­mand and Char­lie Kauf­man. But when it comes to her own ca­reer, Buck­ley is de­ter­mined to blaze her own trail.

“I want to gure out what I want to say to the world. Ev­ery­one’s path is dif­fer­ent and I don’t want to copy any­one. I want to do my own thing.”

A star in the mak­ing: Jessie Buck­ley above in a scene from Wild Rose

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