Love and lore

Poppy Dray­ton dives into her ‘Lit­tle Mer­maid’ role

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - YOUNG WORLD - Rick Bent­ley/Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Dur­ing the ilm­ing of new fea­ture ilm “The Lit­tle Mer­maid,” Bri­tish ac­tress Poppy Dray­ton would of­ten be car­ried to the set. It was a ne­ces­sity once she slipped into her mer­maid cos­tume. “What you see in the movie is a real tail,” Dray­ton says. “The huge pros­thetic tail was beau­ti­ful but very heavy. It weighed half my body weight. Once I was in the wa­ter, the wa­ter took the weight of the tail so it was not so stren­u­ous on your legs. “It was ac­tu­ally very easy to swim in, but I had to be car­ried to set. I had this lovely strong ex-stunt­man car­ry­ing my body and a lovely run­ner took my tail. It’s the most ex­tra­or­di­nary way I’ve ever had to get to set be­fore: be­ing car­ried by two lovely peo­ple.” Dray­ton stars in the live-ac­tion fam­ily fea­ture that’s an adap­ta­tion of the Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen story. The story be­gins with a grand­mother (Shirley Ma­cLaine) telling her two grand­daugh­ters the real story of a young mer­maid. She re­counts how many years ago, a young re­porter (Wil­liam Mose­ley) and his younger sis­ter (Loreto Per­alta) end up at a cir­cus where they meet a beau­ti­ful mer­maid trapped in a glass tank. They soon learn this isn’t a sideshow trick. Dray­ton started pre­par­ing for her wa­tery role two months be­fore ilm­ing started. She would go to the lo­cal pool ev­ery day, where she would not only prac­tice swim­ming by wig­gling with her legs to­gether to em­u­late the mer­maid move­ment, but also would push her­self to see how long she could hold her breath un­der­wa­ter. “I would keep try­ing to chal­lenge my­self to in­crease my breath ca­pac­ity. As you do it, there are mo­ments where you think you can no longer hold your breath and have to come up for air,” Dray­ton says. “Your mind plays tricks on you to think you are go­ing to run out of air, but if you push through that, you reach this lovely, calm state where you feel as though you can hold it a bit longer.” The train­ing al­most came to an end when Dray­ton started us­ing a monoin to pro­pel her­self through the pool. She got stopped one day by a life­guard who told her the de­vice was too dan­ger­ous to use. After a lengthy ex­pla­na­tion about how she needed to train to be a mer­maid, Dray­ton was in­ally given the green light to get back in the wa­ter. Not ev­ery role Dray­ton has played flirted with such dan­gers. Along with a star­ring role in the Hall­mark ilm “When Calls the Heart,” she’s ap­peared in “Down Dog,” “Writ­ers Re­treat” and “Un­hal­lowed Grave.” She’s best known for her lead­ing role in the MTV se­ries “The Shan­nara Chron­i­cles.” Se­lect­ing act­ing as a ca­reer came nat­u­rally for Dray­ton, as her mother was ac­tive in the­ater. In­stead of be­ing read books like “The Lit­tle Mer­maid” be­fore go­ing to sleep, Dray­ton’s bed­time sto­ries were tales from her mother about things that hap­pened dur­ing a stage pro­duc­tion. Not every­one was en­tirely sup­port­ive of her act­ing plans. “Lovely act­ing friends would come around for lunch and they would say ‘If you can be in any other pro­fes­sion, do that. What­ever you do, don’t go into act­ing,’” Dray­ton says. “I would lis­ten and then tell them it was some­thing I re­ally, re­ally wanted to do.” When she was 17, Dray­ton ig­nored the ad­vice and ap­plied to nu­mer­ous act­ing schools, and even­tu­ally she was ac­cepted at the Arts Ed­u­ca­tional School in West Lon­don. She jokes that none of her classes dur­ing her three years there pre­pared her for hav­ing to spend months in a swim­ming pool for a role. Since grad­u­at­ing, Dray­ton has worked con­sis­tently in a range of gen­res from science ic­tion to pe­riod dra­mas. One of the most mem­o­rable jobs was guest-star­ring op­po­site Paul Gia­matti on a Christ­mas spe­cial of the BBC pe­riod drama “Down­ton Abbey.” She plays a debu­tante pushed into the older man’s arms. “I love do­ing pe­riod pieces and dip­ping into other eras. I get into a lot of re­search, so it is fas­ci­nat­ing for me to in­ves­ti­gate a time pe­riod,” Dray­ton says. “It was such a gift to work on ‘Down­ton Abbey.’ The sec­ond day of shoot­ing, I was do­ing a pic­nic scene with Pene­lope Wil­son, Dame Mag­gie Smith, Paul Gia­matti and Shirley Ma­cLaine. “I looked around and thought I don’t know how I ended up here, but it’s won­der­ful. I kept pinch­ing my­self so I must have been cov­ered in bruises by the end of the day.”

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