From Lloyd Webber to War and Peace: Jessie Buckley speaks to Glass

Growing up in a musical family, there’s no surprise that Jessie Buckley started acting at an early age. Recently finishing two stage productions running simultaneously, Irish-born Buckley had a busy 2015. With the BBC One series War and Peace being broadcast this season, this RADA-trained actress over the last seven years has stepped away from her defining public appearance in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s search for the next Nancy in his talent show, I’d Do Anything, and has established herself in her own right.

Coming runner-up in Webber’s talent show, subsequently being offered the understudy role and rejecting it in favour of the role of Anne Egerman at the Menier Chocolate Factory’s production of A Little Night Music (2008) shows Buckley’s eager determination. The same determination earned her a place at RADA after being rejected from two other drama schools earlier that year.

With War and Peace seducing critics across the board, eyes will certainly be fixed on what role Jessie Buckley will take on next.

Jessie BuckleyJessie Buckley. Photograph: Justin van Vliet

You’ve landed a prominent role in both The Winter’s Tale and Harlequinade. How do both roles compare?
They are both quite different – which is complete bliss! Perdita is like one of those amazing free-spirited hippies you meet at festivals, who you just want to hang out with and become friends for life with. She has an inherent grace, honour and kindness, which is effervescent and totally unique in this rugged sheep-shearing wild world of Bohemia.

Muriel in Harlequinade is totally ungraceful and has a wonderful almost child-like unconsciousness about herself and her surroundings. She is so much fun to play. I love them both.

How did you manage acting simultaneously between the two roles and switching between the two?
It’s funny, sometimes you come into the theatre and think “what play am I doing tonight?”  I actually love doubling up – it always feels fresh and a little scary – but I love that rush!  It always feels as if you could fly or fall.

The cast for both plays are very established actresses and actors. Did you feel at all intimidated by their experience?
Completely in awe! It’s been so inspiring to be around the people in this company and I sit most nights I the wings watching and listening to them, hoping that their magic will seep into me in some way. It has felt like a huge family from day one and I still come into the theatre and pass people like Judi [Dench] and pinch myself.

Jessie BuckleyJessie Buckley. Photograph: Justin van Vliet

How do you feel the role of women compares between the two? And how important do you feel a contemporary representation of women on stage is?
I think it’s important to represent all kinds of women on the stage. The Winter’s Tale has a wonderful core at the heart of it, which explores the strength of women and the honour they hold on to in the face of adversity. What is fun and interesting and important, I think, is exploring all the facets of people. The strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities and humours.  That’s what is fun with playing both Perdita and Muriel – I get a chance to dive into so many possibilities.

Do you regard The Winter’s Tale? As a comedy or one of Shakespeare’s romances?
I don’t know, I think it’s hard to categorise Shakespeare and especially The Winter’s Tale into one box. It’s a play that is a bit of everything.

War and Peace, the BBC TV series is airing at the moment. How does the stage compare with filming for TV?
I suppose the big difference I find is the fact that in the theatre you have several weeks to rehearse as an ensemble. Whereas filming can be very much an initial isolated preparation and then you come to set and play and find out instinctively what ticks. Really, they are the same thing; they both tell stories to audiences.

Jessie BuckleyJessie Buckley. Photograph: Justin van Vliet

As a preference, are you drawn to either?
No, I love them both.

Have you always known you wanted to be an actress?
Yep, apart from the one time when I truly believed I would be pirate when I grew up! I still am hoping that might happen.

Where do you see yourself a year from now?
I haven’t a clue! Hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to still be working with inspiring people.

by Stephanie Clair

Photographs: Justin van Vliet

War and Peace is on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm

One Response