Me, My­self & I: Joanne Frog­gart

Award-win­ning ac­tress Joanne, 37, opens up about what it was re­ally like to take on the role of a rape vic­tim and why it was so im­por­tant to her...

No. 1 Magazine - - SCOTLAND’S NO.1 -

Over the past few years, Joanne’s ca­reer has gone from strength-to-strength. The ac­tress has made her name in pro­grammes such as Down­ton Abbey, Liar and Touch of Frost. Here she dis­cusses her ca­reer mak­ing roles and what it’s re­ally like to be fa­mous...

I never imag­ined Down­ton Abbey would be as huge as it was...

The suc­cess has been amaz­ing! In this in­dus­try, you can never sec­ond-guess what’s go­ing to be a hit and what’s not. You can have a great script and it can be a great show, but for what­ever rea­son, it just doesn’t take the pub­lic’s in­ter­est. Down­ton Abbey felt like it was a grad­ual thing. It was a quick-mov­ing de­vel­op­ment, with Down­ton be­com­ing so big. It didn’t feel like it hap­pened overnight, but it did hap­pen very quickly. It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s amaz­ing that it’s so pop­u­lar, all over the world. I don’t know how Ju­lian has done that, but he’s done some­thing rather spe­cial.

Peo­ple of­ten ask me if I took any me­men­tos from my time on Down­ton Abbey...

I didn’t take any sou­venirs from the set. It all had to go back, but to be fair, I wouldn’t have taken my cos­tume any­way. As much as I love Anna, she didn’t have the best wardrobe.

I al­ways get asked if I know any­thing about a Down­ton Abbey movie...

But hon­estly I have no idea if or what is hap­pen­ing with the movie un­for­tu­nately, I wish I did, but I have no idea what’s go­ing on.

Win­ning a Golden Globe for Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress in Down­ton Abbey was amaz­ing and so sur­real...

When I won the Golden Globe, my brain went quite blank. It was pos­si­bly the big­gest shock of my life, and one of the best. The adren­a­line sort of kicks in, and I just thought, I’ve got to go to the stage; I have to go and say some­thing. Once I got off stage, I cried.

My char­ac­ter in Liar had a very in­tense sto­ry­line and I did have reser­va­tions about that...

I didn’t want to turn down the job but I did have reser­va­tions about the sub­ject mat­ter in Liar be­cause my char­ac­ter in Down­ton Abbey had also been in­volved in a sto­ry­line of a sim­i­lar na­ture. It was a thought process, I had to con­sider whether I wanted to tackle the is­sue of rape and sex­ual as­sault again and from a dif­fer­ent an­gle. I wanted to think how I felt about go­ing at it from the who’s ly­ing or who’s telling the truth an­gle. Ul­ti­mately, I thought it was a thriller based around dra­matic, dark and trau­matic events. We’re al­ways very so­cially ac­cept­ing of a drama about po­lice cor­rup­tion, child ab­duc­tion and many other things so why is sex­ual as­sault still such a taboo sub­ject? For that rea­son, I knew I should be do­ing the job.

It can be dif­fi­cult, as an ac­tress, to tackle sen­si­tive sub­ject mat­ters...

When you’re do­ing a show that cen­tres

around any sen­si­tive sub­ject mat­ter, ob­vi­ously there is an ex­tra thought process, an ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­ity to get it right and by get it right, I mean that for me, my per­for­mance has to be au­then­tic. My worst fear in terms of work would be that some­body at home watch­ing, hav­ing had ex­pe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, would not be­lieve my per­for­mance or that I had put my heart and soul into it. I feel it’s a mas­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I al­ways want to push my­self fur­ther...

Work­ing on tough sto­ry­lines helps you to push your­self and en­sure you’re al­ways check­ing your­self and check­ing that it’s the best work you can to, be­cause you al­ways want to keep the stan­dard up. My dad has a rather strange say­ing: “You have to throw a brick and run after it,” which is his way of say­ing you’ve only got one life, so you have to have a go at some­thing.

It was im­por­tant for me to recog­nise that al­though my char­ac­ter in Down­ton Abbey and Liar had a sim­i­lar sto­ry­line, they were com­pletely dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters...

They live in dif­fer­ent times and they were in com­pletely dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. Laura is a mod­ern woman who’s fi­nan­cially, emo­tion­ally, and so­cially in­de­pen­dent. Anna was not that. Anna was very much held by the con­straints of the time pe­riod. Things couldn’t be spo­ken about then. It’s a very dif­fer­ent world we’re liv­ing in.

I did feel like Liar raised pub­lic aware­ness of events that can of­ten un­fold for sex­ual as­sault vic­tims...

The ques­tions that were thrown up felt so­cially and emo­tion­ally im­por­tant – how easy or dif­fi­cult it is to find out the truth of any sit­u­a­tion, and how easy it is for things to be mis­con­strued. We all judge with­out know­ing all the facts – it’s hu­man na­ture. How does that feel when you find your­self in the midst of all that? I think the mes­sage was prob­a­bly quite dif­fer­ent depending on who was watch­ing it, and depending on your own life ex­pe­ri­ences.

As an ac­tress, I do want to be in­volved in dra­matic and in­tense sto­ry­lines...

Ob­vi­ously, as an ac­tress, you don’t want to play the happy bits for too long be­cause it’s nice to play the drama. But I re­ally en­joy dip­ping in and out of the hap­pier scenes in roles. It’s nice to bring the changes with ev­ery­thing you do. As an ac­tress, that’s what you want to do, all the time. It’s fun to be able to do the happy bits, and then the drama, and then hap­pier bits. You al­ways want the juicy stuff!

I ac­tu­ally en­joy play­ing flawed peo­ple...

We’re all flawed to a greater or lesser de­gree and I al­ways want to do things that are dif­fer­ent from the things I’ve done. I loved Anna Bates, she was a lovely char­ac­ter to play for six years.

I don’t get recog­nised as ‘fa­mous’ in pub­lic all that of­ten...

Ev­ery now and again, some­one will say, ‘Are you an ac­tress?’. Some­times I’ll get, ‘Are you that girl on Down­ton?’. But, it’s not par­tic­u­larly in­tru­sive. Since Down­ton, it’s hap­pened a lit­tle more than it used to, but it’s not changed hugely for me. I’ve been work­ing in the UK for 16 years, in TV and film, and there’s been a slight in­crease, but not mas­sively.

Joanne with her Liar co-star Ioan Gruf­fudd Joanne with hus­band James

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