Former child star and face of cult hit Sweet­bit­ter Ella Pur­nell is all grown up – and she’s got some­thing to say

ELLE (UK) - - Play -

In the past few years, Ella Pur­nell has gone from doe-eyed child star to quick-wit­ted lead­ing lady. She ap­peared in Never Let Me Go as a ju­nior Keira Knight­ley, Malef­i­cent as lit­tle An­gelina and The Leg­end of Tarzan as a young Mar­got Rob­bie. These were fol­lowed by roles in Tim Bur­ton’s Miss Pere­grine’s Home for Pe­cu­liar Chil­dren and the ac­claimed Churchill, but it’s her part in Ama­zon’s new series Sweet­bit­ter that’s ce­ment­ing her sta­tus as a trail­blaz­ing tal­ent. In a com­ing-of-age story that co­in­cided with her own ini­ti­a­tion into adult­hood, Ella stars as Tess, a girl who moves to New York and lands a job wait­ress­ing at a top restau­rant, ex­pos­ing her to a world of high-end food, fast liv­ing and in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­la­tion­ships. The ac­tor schools us on wines, wait­ress­ing and new begin­nings… ‘I had to tran­si­tion from child to adult ac­tress.

I asked my­self, “Is this still what I want to do?” There’s a lot of pres­sure as a young ac­tor to be work­ing all the time. I’d reached a point where I wasn’t get­ting the things I wanted. ‘I feel strongly about not tak­ing girl­friend roles or char­ac­ters that need sav­ing. If you’re not in­spired by work, you lose your pas­sion. I’d been ask­ing my­self whether I was tak­ing the jobs I wanted to be tak­ing. What’s my re­spon­si­bil­ity to young women? Then I got Sweet­bit­ter and it turned ev­ery­thing around. This char­ac­ter, Tess, didn’t have any idea or any real prospects, and she was quite chilled in the sense of “I don’t re­ally know who I am, but I’m OK with that”. I was drawn to her self-con­fi­dence and self-be­lief. It felt like a re­ally truth­ful por­trayal.

‘I adore Sofia Cop­pola and Greta Ger­wig. I’m dy­ing to work with them both. I want to do projects with badass women. We’re see­ing more fe­male-led films now; and I want to see fe­male-led pro­duc­tion teams, too. I first worked with a fe­male di­rec­tor when I was a teenager [Kinga Burza di­rected Ella in Candy], and I’ve only ever worked with three. Thank­fully, the male-to-fe­male ra­tio on set is slowly chang­ing. ‘The big­gest dif­fer­ence I’ve no­ticed is the way young ac­tresses treat each

other now. There used to be a cul­ture in the in­dus­try of tear­ing women down. It was a hor­ri­ble, com­pet­i­tive at­mos­phere. But now,

it feels like we’re a team – we’re united and build­ing each other up.

‘Sweet­bit­ter gave me a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion of wine…

I find my­self at restau­rants go­ing, “Have you got any­thing from New Zea­land?” and my friends are like, “Els, stop.” I know a few geeky things I can show off with at par­ties. ‘There’s so much more I want

to do. I re­cently be­came an am­bas­sador for [men­tal health char­ity] Young Minds. It took me a long time to speak about my own ex­pe­ri­ences, specif­i­cally with self-harm. There was no real de­ci­sion; I was mid-in­ter­view and it fell out of my mouth. That’s when I knew I was ready to talk. It felt good; like such a relief.‘ Sweet­bit­ter is now avail­able to down­load on Starz Play, on Ama­zon Prime Chan­nels



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