Jenna Cole­man

With out­stand­ing ap­pear­ances in Doc­tor Who, Vic­to­ria and the haunt­ing drama The Cry, Jenna Cole­man has es­tab­lished her­self as a lead­ing lady of the small screen.

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - Jenna Coleman - By Lucy Half­head

Af­ter Jenna Cole­man left the leg­endary sci-fi series Doc­tor Who, her co-star Peter Ca­paldi paid her a hand­some tribute in an in­ter­view. ‘She’s a fab­u­lous ac­tress, she has great depth, and great light­ness, and hu­mour, warmth and pas­sion. And she’s a star, an ab­so­lute Au­drey Hep­burn.’ ‘Has he said that?’ Cole­man asks in­cred­u­lously in her gen­tle North­ern lilt, when we meet on a crisp Sep­tem­ber morn­ing in a sun-dap­pled gar­den near her home in east Lon­don. She mulls over this praise for a while. ‘He usu­ally calls me “lit­tle elf ”,’ she says.

This self-dep­re­cat­ing at­ti­tude is typ­i­cal of the 32-year-old, de­spite the fact that she is now a global name and has fans curt­sy­ing to her in the street, thanks to her tit­u­lar role in Vic­to­ria. The sump­tu­ous royal drama has cap­ti­vated au­di­ences since it first aired in 2016, due largely to Cole­man’s be­guil­ing and con­vinc­ing por­trayal of the young monarch. Her re­search for the part was metic­u­lous, in­volv­ing read­ing through 122 vol­umes of the Queen’s pri­vate di­aries and learn­ing how to play the pi­ano. ‘Ul­ti­mately, it’s my job as an ac­tress is to try and cap­ture the essence and en­ergy of some­body,’ she says.

‘From re­ally early on it felt very right, it just fit­ted,’ she ex­plains when I ask how she knew she wanted to act. ‘I loved to watch films, and my head was al­ways in books and sto­ries. I just had to work out how to do it as my job.’ Eschew­ing drama school, Cole­man took on the role of the wild child Jas­mine Thomas in Em­merdale at just 19, and her por­trayal won her a Most Pop­u­lar New­comer nom­i­na­tion at the Na­tional Tele­vi­sion Awards in 2006. Three years later she joined the ac­claimed BBC series Water­loo Road; be­fore she ap­peared as Clara Oswald, Doc­tor Who’s sparky side­kick, ini­tially op­po­site Matt Smith and then Ca­paldi.

She is ex­cited to see what Jodie Whit­taker does as the first

fe­male Doc­tor. ‘I think this year has proved there’s an ac­tive in­ter­est in see­ing a spec­trum re­flected back at you rather than a stereo­type, and peo­ple at the top re­al­is­ing that will sell and that’s what peo­ple want,’ she says. ‘But I do think there’s still a way to go – if you’re not play­ing the young girl or the mum or the older lady, there’s quite a void in roles for women.’ Not for Cole­man, though, whose lat­est rat­ings hit, the tense psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller The Cry, saw her take the lead once again and master an­other chal­leng­ing genre.

De­spite her suc­cess, she does not court fame. ‘I did a world tour with Peter Ca­paldi, which is a hi­lar­i­ous sen­tence in it­self, and we’d turn up in Rio de Janeiro or Mex­ico and there’d be scream­ing peo­ple,’ she says. ‘But you have to go into it know­ing it’s not real, so you dip in and have this amaz­ing life ex­pe­ri­ence, I think that’s the only healthy way. I don’t think it’s a very nor­mal thing to be on red car­pets with pho­tog­ra­phers – you have to re­move your­self a lit­tle bit.’ She is no­to­ri­ously coy when it comes to dis­cussing her two-year re­la­tion­ship with Tom Hughes, who plays her brood­ing on-screen hus­band Prince Al­bert, and she main­tains a close-knit cir­cle of fe­male friends who help keep her grounded. ‘I’ve got a What­sApp group called HQ, for “Head­quar­ters”,’ she con­fides. ‘They know who they are.’

Soon Cole­man will be win­ning over a whole new fan­base, hav­ing signed up to star in a pro­duc­tion of All My Sons, along­side Sally Field, Bill Pull­man and Colin Mor­gan, at the Old Vic next April. She’s come a long way since, aged 10, she played an Ital­ian brides­maid in a tour­ing pro­duc­tion of Sum­mer Hol­i­day. How does she feel about tread­ing the boards again? ‘Good. I need to. It’s about time. And to be with that in­cred­i­ble ensem­ble!’ With or with­out a crown, it’s clear Jenna Cole­man’s reign has only just be­gun…

‘If you’re not play­ing the young girl or the mum or the older lady, there’s quite a void in roles for women’

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