Glass interviews Dublin-born actor Ruth Bradley

RUTH Bradley is a Dublin-born actor best known for her roles in popular series Humans, Channel 4’s most successful drama in 20 years, and the BBC’s BAFTA award winning The Fall. She has had many  TV roles including Doctor Who, Primeval, Julian Fellowes’ Titanic alongside Jenna Coleman and Rebellion, about the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. As well as her TV roles, Bradley has had roles in numerous films. Examples include Holidays, a short horror film anthology that was celebrated at the TRIBECA film festival, Grabbers, a British-Irish monster film about an alien threatening an isolated Irish island, and In her Skin, an Australian drama-movie based on the murder of a 15-year-old Rachel Barber.

Bradley has won the Best Actress award at the Irish Film and Television awards once – in 2013 for her role in Grabbers, a sci-fi comedy – and won the Best Supporting Actress award in 2007 for her role in Stardust, a mini-series set in 1980s Dublin.

Leonardo VeloceRuth Bradley. Photograph: Leonardo Veloce

Can you tell me about a bit about your background?
I grew up in Canada and Dublin. I went to Scoil Neasain and Holy Faith Convent in Dublin and Trinity College, but I only lasted a few weeks there so we can barely count it.

Coming from Dublin originally, was Rebellion a special project for you? |
Yes, actually. More and more as I worked on it. It was really interesting because anything I knew about that period.. I had learned from school. But there is so much to uncover about that time once you scratch the surface. Dublin had one of the worst slums in Europe, there was huge political unrest with the possibility of home rule, some people were happy to wait to see whether that would pass. It was such a brutal time. I think it was also fantastic that our director was Finnish so he brought a completely fresh perspective, unburdened by what we had grown up with.  It was very moving for me.

Can you tell me about your main inspirations to become an actor?
It was just something I knew I was going to do before I really knew what it was. I remember wanting to move people through feeling something myself. Then when I started doing drama classes as a kid I realised that I could take people with me on a journey. I was also a huge film buff as a kid. Whenever I got a pound or two I would head straight to the newsagent to buy Empire and Premiere.

Ruth Bradley interviewRuth Bradley. Photograph: Leonardo Veloce

You played a “synth” in Channel 4 hit show, Humans, that must have been such a strange but fascinating acting experience.
It really was/is. It’s endlessly challenging. Physically there are so many restrictions and boundaries. You have to trust that the audience will feel what you’re feeling through your eyes alone without using any of our human tells.

Can you describe a synth and what your part was in Humans?
Synths are human like robots which are part of our everyday lives in this parallel present. Some are conscious, my character Karen is.  She has been posing as a human detective and very few people know what she actually is.

How did you work out how you were going to act that kind of character?
I started working from the inside out, like I would with any character. Her background, her short life experience, how those experiences would have shaped her, how they would manifest themselves in her current personality.  Building on top of that, there was the human character she was playing in order to hide in plain sight. Then physically, I worked a lot with Dan O’Neill, the wonderful choreographer on the show, to figure out how one would play a human on top of a synth body. Fascinating to figure out.

Ruth Bradley InterviewRuth Bradley. Photograph: Leonardo Veloce

Now onto Electric Dreams. Can you tell me a bit about the concept of the show and your episode, Human Is?
It’s based on the short stories of Phillip K Dick. Our episode is essentially about the nature of love and what it is to be human.

You play Yaro, confidant and right-hand woman to the main female character, who is in an emotionally abusive relationship. Can you tell me a bit more about the character and what you enjoyed most about playing this particular character?
Yaro is direct and yet ambiguous, it’s unclear what Amy of the characters motivations are in this piece.  I really enjoyed how much was left to the actor in the script, how much could be played between the lines.  I loved the grey areas.

What was your favourite thing about filming electric dreams?
Probably the freedom on set. With such a great cast around you and wonderful director, it’s easy to let go and play.

Your co-stars in the episode are Bryan Cranston and Essie Davies – what was it like working with such big names in the industry?
I think the best actors are often the most generous and kind spirited. They’re both so talented and aren’t afraid to try things and be loose. It’s just wonderful to work with actors of that calibre. It raises you up.

Ruth Bradley interviewRuth Bradley. Photograph: Leonardo Veloce

What have been the high points of you career?
Humans and an Australian film I did called In Her Skin. Grabbers is definitely up there too.

You have played a lot of roles in various sci-fi programmes – what is it about sci-fi as a genre that attracts you?
I think there are generally really interesting female roles in sci fi. It always starts with script and character for me so I suppose that’s where the attraction lies.

As a woman who works in the sci-fi genre, I have no doubt that you are extremely pleased that there is going to be a female Doctor Who. I also read that originally your part in Electric Dreams was written for a man. There is a lot of discussion about women’s roles in sci-fi often being tied to a strong male character, rather than having their own strong character.
I’m so delighted there will be a female doctor. When I think about my favourite sci fi film, I think of Ripley in Alien or Terminator. Both of those feature female leads. I don’t think anyone would tire of plenty more of them.

In general, what has been your experience as a woman working in the sci-fi genre?
That’s a difficult one to answer because I can’t really be objective as I have no alternate experience but I would say very positive, exciting and rewarding.

If you are able to share, have you got anything particularly exciting in the pipeline for the next few?
I have a film called Three Seconds which I’ve just wrapped and I’m currently filming season three of Humans, all due for release next year.

Ruth Bradley interviewRuth Bradley. Photograph: Leonardo Veloce

by Allie Nawrat 

Human Is is available online at All 4 now

Photo credits

All photographs: Leonardo Veloce

Stylist: Thomas Ramshaw

Hair: Tom Gilling

Make up: Justine Jenkins

First photograph – Shirt: Stella McCartney, Earrings: Otiumberg

Second photograph – Jumper and bag strap: Christian Dior

Third photograph – Jacket and dress: Louis Vuitton

Fourth photograph –  Jacket: Louis Vuitton

Fifth photograph – Jacket: Stella McCartney, Earrings: Gogh Phillips

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