Ellie Bamber talks to Glass about the importance of heroines in film

Glass speaks to British actor ELLIE BAMBER on her breakthrough film with Tom Ford as a teen, and how her new series, Willow, is pushing women forward as heroes.

“A double chicken wrap – extra hot – with Peri Peri fries and broccoli’’ recites Ellie Bamber proudly. After eating Nando’s at least once, sometimes twice a day whilst filming Disney+’s new fantasy series, Willow, the British actor claims she has finally perfected her order. Her pale glowing complexion and light auburn red hair makes her the poster girl for a modern English Rose, and yet Bamber’s taste for spice and extremes conjures hints of a hidden daredevil.

Though in between takes the 25-year-old may be consuming this favoured spice blend, but on-screen she quickly goes from the helpless kitchen maid Dove, to Elora, one of six heroes who embark on a dangerous quest to save the world. “It’s really fast paced script wise,” says Bamber about the eight-part season.

Photographer: Jack Grange

“A lot of the episodes were kept away from us until further down the line so it felt like I was discovering things with Elora”. What came with this part was also a heightened sense of pressure – not only was she leading a cast through a turbulent storyline, but Willow is a remake of George Lucas’ 1988 Oscar nominated blockbuster.

“I had heard of it before, but I’d never seen it,” she admits. “But then when it did come on my radar, I watched it and totally fell in love with it”. Although serving as a sequel to this childhood classic, the novelty of bringing a forgotten story back to life is not lost on her nor is the importance of the message behind her character’s transformation.

“For me her journey is really representative, metaphorically speaking of a woman coming into her power and what that means, feels like and how you do it and figure it out – how you finally come into your own,” she explains. “Throughout the show, she is trying to figure it out whilst she has no idea how she’s going to do that, but she finds a way with the help of everyone else”.

Photographer: Jack Grange

Playing alongside Ruby Cruz and Erin Kellyman, this Disney+ production marks an evolution from their affinity with princesses and damsels in distress, to women being the ones to save the day. “It takes those character tropes and stereotypes and turns them on their head and fucks with it. It’s like ‘no this isn’t how it’s going to be, we’re going to change this around’”, says Bamber passionately.

“All of the females are super strong, super flawed and super complex. And one of the things that is important within the show is female friendship. It’s a really beautiful message on how important it is to have your female friends lifting each other up”.

Bamber found herself resonating deeply with her character for other reasons too. “Her imposter syndrome of being like ‘what am I doing here?’ is a feeling that I battle with quite a lot” she tells me. “I think self-doubt is something that we all experience. When I watched the original film, the sense of hope that it brought me was so exciting and that feeling of coming together was so special”.

Photographer: Jack Grange

Making a highly anticipated return to this franchise is Warwick Davis, reprising the role as sorcerer Willow Ufgood. Although familiar with the territory they are embarking on, the cast had four weeks of preparation for the series where training of all kinds was on the agenda, including magic training.

But what exactly did that entail? “I remember Ron Howard [executive producer] saying in a Zoom meeting ‘you’ve got to take this magic seriously and you need to do your research’,” she recalls amusingly, explaining how before going on set she would sit in magic shops in London reading books trying to understand what Howard meant.

“They said ‘you’re going to do magic training with Warwick, he will teach you a thing or two’. I wasn’t really sure what that’s about but I was ready to learn. When I arrived, Warwick was like ‘I have no idea what we’re doing here’,” she says laughing at the memory.

“I remember saying that we’re probably meant to be waving our wands and figuring out a kind of language, which we subsequently did, but initially when we realised there were no wands for us, and we just had lunch, Warwick and I looked at everything on the table and we both picked up these wooden forks and started magic sparring with them in the middle of this warehouse. It was just so ridiculous but also a pinch me moment”.

Photographer: Jack Grange

It is this youthful imagination that drew Bamber into acting in the first place. Born in Surrey, she was infatuated with performing ever since she can remember. “I was really obsessed with it, like I would put on plays for my family,” she explains. “I remember I went to Stagecoach [weekend acting school], with what I realised a few days later was a broken elbow – I was so persistent to always perform”.

Suffice to say that it didn’t take long for her enthusiasm to permeate in the right direction. After performing in one of her school plays when she was 13, she was approached with the proposition to be put forward to a casting director. “She said I can’t really help you but I can give you an audition for Aspects of Love that Trevor Nunn is putting on at the [Menier] Chocolate Factory,” she recounts. “I auditioned for that and got the role. I was really lucky that that was my first ever performance, and from there I got an agent and it’s continued”.

Photographer: Jack Grange

Despite the quick transition from school girl to professional actor, Bamber described herself as a rabbit in the headlights. “I remember walking into the audition room, and there were so many young girls who all had experienced it before, or it seemed like they did, with their agent with them”, she says. “I remember not being sure what was going to happen. I didn’t even know that there were rounds that happened. I was just very green and very new, and just very excited about everything”.

Photographer: Jack Grange

What came next was an array of supporting roles but Bamber’s career transcended stage and small-screen in 2016 when she got the part as India Hastings in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. The transformative role saw the teenager give a notably impressive performance alongside her co-stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. She recalls studiously watching those around her, noting the way they acted in order to improve her own skills.

“How meticulous everyone was with detail. Everyone including Tom was visually into the detail, but also within the acting, our rehearsals were so in-depth, almost like doing a play in a sense,” Bamber adds. “I had this realisation that it is really all in the details”.

Photographer: Jack Grange

Looking closely at the intricacies of Ellie Bamber’s career so far, you watch how the actor continually shapeshifts into new, fresh identities with every project. She’s unflinchingly bold in her choices, spanning drama and comedy genres, and now entering the fantasy realm, rendering the conclusion that her choice of extra hot at Nando’s is far from surprising after all.

By Imogen Clark

Willow releases on Disney+ on 30 November 2022

Photographer: Jack Grange

Fashion Director: Katie Felstead

Make up: Neil Young at PREMIER using CHANEL Demander La Lune and CHANEL Le Lift Pro


Manicurist: Jada-Elize Lorntz at PREMIER using CHANEL La Base Camélia and CHANEL Le Gel Coat,

Photography assistant: Luke Gooden

Talent: Ellie Bamber

All fashion throughout CHANEL Cruise 2023/24 Ready-To-Wear & Accessory Collections, All jewellery CHANEL Fine Jewellery, Skin: CHANEL Le Lift Pro Crème Volume, Body: CHANEL Coco Mademoiselle Pearly Body Gel, Hands: CHANEL La Crème Main

About The Author

Related Posts