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Film & TV

<p class="font_8">Zain Iqbal didn't think he had landed the lead role of Ravi Singh in <em>A Good Girl's Guide to Murder</em>. He put himself forward for the auditions for the part of Ravi after his agent received an email for the TV adaptation of the book. Then the actor went through a number of auditions, including two chemistry reads with<em> Wednesday</em> star Emma Myers, who plays the leading lady Pip in <em>AGGTM</em>. After the virtual chemistry read on Zoom, He couldn't tell the casting teams' response. He believed his chances of getting the role were slim. "[We did] three scenes, but two were off camera. " However, that all changed when the two actors and the team met in person for the final audition. "For some reason, it just clicked. And we got on very well. And [Emma] is a very good actor. So yeah, [Their characters, Ravi and Pip] just clicked for some reason. I don't know why."</p>
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<p class="font_8">The young actor hadn't read the best-selling book the TV series is based on before getting the job, oblivious to its popularity. Holly Jackson's <em>A Good Girls Guide to Murder</em> is the huge first book in the trilogy, award-winning with hundreds of thousands of copies sold in the UK alone. "I felt like I'd be investing too much and I’d over think. I read the book after I got the job before the table read. As soon as I got the job confirmed, I bought and read the book." he says. One massive influence in book popularity these days is <em>TikTok</em>, particularly a community born on the platform called 'BookTok', where the book has taken readers by storm. Before reading the book, he googled it. "And I was like, Oh, shit, it's big." His reaction was surprising, to say the least, especially as he didn't use TikTok at the time and now only has <em>TikTok</em> under a "burner" account. "This is huge, and people care about [the book].".</p>
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<p class="font_8">Ravi in <em>AGGTM</em> is the brother of Sal, who everyone in the small town of Little Kilton believes murdered Andie Bell five years ago. Ravi's romantic interest, Pip Fitz-Amobi, decides to investigate the murder case for her school project. Pip and Ravi's relationship blossoms as the two try to uncover the truth about who murdered Andie. Something that drew him to doing the show was the character being rare to be on offer for someone like him he tells me. "People who are romantic leads, I don't know if I can say this, but the white kids are usually seen as those sorts of actors. But It was a big one. Soon as I saw it, I was after it. I guess a lot of other actors were as well." His character, Ravi Singh, has been named one of the best boyfriends in book history, called "ravishing", hence the pressure to cast the two right. "Ravi's main source of contact in the series is Pip. Rarely does he go out and speak to other characters. He's like an outsider. I think it was just [the chemistry] was the main thing in the casting process; they just wanted to see if Emma and I had that chemistry. " Landing his first acting job with a character like Ravi was huge for him. "Why do we watch films or TV series? To relate to their stories or connect to people's stories and characters and find something they can relate to. I guess. For me, it's a big reason why I do it."</p>
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<p class="font_8">Even with the intensity from fans of filming such a highly anticipated TV series AND it being his first acting role, Zain didn't feel the pressures. Throughout the auditions, he took a relaxed approach. "That's probably a good thing because I would have scared myself off and put too much pressure on it. When I do put pressure on myself, shit goes wrong. I just took it easy, and they kept calling me back. I eventually got it. Because I was a newcomer, I guess they wanted to see more or make sure I could do it." He explains, "But I'm happy with that. I don't mind the process of auditioning. I'd rather audition than just be given it. I find comfort in having done so many auditions and then them giving it to me."</p>

Zain Iqbal

<p class="font_8">Things are heating up in the highly anticipated season two of HBO's <em>House of the Dragon</em> and for the young actor, 20-year-old Harry Collet, who plays Jacaerys Targaryen in the show. After several scrapped spin-offs to one of the biggest shows of all time, <em>Game of Thrones</em>, HBO finally landed on <em>House of the Dragon</em>, a prequel about the Targaryen's battle in the succession of the throne- plus some dragons. It proved a massive success, with over 4 million UK viewers tuning in for the launch of season one alone, placing it amongst the show giants of <em>Stranger Things</em> and <em>The Boys</em>. Season two sees Rhaenyra Targaryen's eldest son, Jacaerys Targaryen, played by Harry Collett, taking a much bigger focus in the war brewing as he goes to Winterfell, one of the most iconic locations for <em>GoT</em> fans, to find support for his mother's claim to the throne in the fight against her stepbrother, now King, Aegon II Targaryen and his mother, her ex-best friend Alicent Hightower. A battle between the family that has captivated audiences and, <em>finally</em>, their two-year-long pleads for the next instalment is over, with season two dropping weekly over the summer.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Harry has had a taste of admiration from fans for the show. We sit down after the cast and himself have just completed their whirlwind press tour for the show in Paris, New York and London- in addition to his cover shoot that he just spent the morning in snakeskin and rhinestone looks, all fit for a prince. I ask how this tour has been for him. "Amazing. I mean, to do the show anyway, feels like a dream come true." Harry continues, "It's quite nerve-racking because now's the time to really know yourself and the show rather than being stuck in a studio, playing a prince, which, don't get me wrong, is great! It's been great seeing what kind of impact this show has on people around the world." He calls the experience "crazy in the best way possible. It's just mental," and expresses appreciation for overwhelming support he's received from the fans and the writers.</p>
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<p class="font_8"><em>GoT </em>is known for having such a dedicated fanbase, and <em>HotD's matched it almost instantly. </em>With season two, it's only gotten more prominent for the cast and Harry himself, as people online hyperfixate on the TV shows that are currently airing, making memes, fan edits, and sometimes finding their 'actor of the month'. Since season one was released, Harry says the craziest thing he's experienced so far is people asking him on the street about his hair for season two and people wearing T-shirts with his face on. "For me, that's a bit like, I'm just a kid from Essex and people wearing my face on their body…I mean, it's flattering."</p>
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<p class="font_8">Before the unofficial Harry Collett merch, at six years old, his acting journey began. He didn't have the best time at primary school, so instead, he focused on things he enjoyed, like street dance. He would finish his school day and go to the studio owned by British dance group Diversity to practice his moves. Whilst performing in a show with the studio at a shopping centre in Essex, an agent in the crowd approached his parents after spotting Harry. Asking his mum and dad if he'd be interested in acting, they weren't so sure if Harry would want to, but as an audition came in, "mum and dad said, might as well go see if you like it."</p>
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<p class="font_8">That audition was for <em>Billy Elliot the Musical</em>. "Before I did it, I went to walk out because I wasn't feeling it." His dad told him to just try it and then "they called my name just when I was about to walk out the door<del>.</del>". That audition bagged him the role on stage in London's West End, starting his professional acting career. He remembers his time in <em>Billy Elliot</em> being fun: "I basically came on for like, two minutes each night, I'd come on right at the start and then come up at the end, say a couple of swear words. At six years old, I loved it".  Collett went on to star in a couple more theatre shows: <em>Matilda the Musical</em> and <em>Elf</em>. However, being a child actor came with compromises: "I missed out on a lot of childhood friends, parties and things like that because you're dedicating pretty much your life to it". On the topic of him returning to theatre, it's about <em>when</em> and not if. "Not right now. I think I want to focus on film and TV now. I would love to do a play. I've never done one before. But theatre, I would leave that for later".</p>
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<p class="font_8">Chatting a few days before season two's release, Harry reflects on his time as Jace Targaryen so far. I was curious about the most challenging part of filming this epic show. Harry says it's speaking like a prince: "I had lines last season, but I have much more screentime this season. I have amazing dialect coaches. I'm from Essex, so it's about pronouncing your H's and your T's, but I got used to it quite quickly, obviously, with all the help. And also, sometimes the long hours can be a bit draining, but you can't complain about that with my job because so many people wish they could do it and you're so lucky and it's just fun, isn't it? I ride dragons!"</p>
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<p class="font_8">Jace is sporting a new look this season. To confirm for those asking, Jace's hair is Harry's real curls. In the break between season one and filming for season two, per request by the show, he grew his hair really long, "I looked like I was old school [2015] Harry Styles vibe with the hair". However, when the team got together at the beginning of season two, his Harry Styles dreams were crushed: "I got there, and they were like, 'We've got a mood board to go by'. It was like just pictures of Jon Snow and Rob Stark and all that which was really cool". Then they cut his hair accordingly. "And snip snip. Bosh. Here we are, new Jace has arrived."</p>
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<p class="font_8">"The new costumes, sets and hair made me transform as Jace. In season two, we see him going from a boy to a man, and the change has helped me change Jace in a way that suits people."</p>
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<p class="font_8">As the war between Team Black and Team Green intensifies, some characters, including Jace, set off around Westeros this season. The cast filmed their scenes separately, with Harry rarely seeing those on the opposing team like Olivia Cooke, Ewan Mitchell and Tom Glynn-Carney unless it was outside of filming.</p>
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<p class="font_8">However much the production schedules and marketing promote the fierce rivalry between Team Black and Team Green, Harry reassures that the cast gets along well like a big family. "It's really refreshing to have a massive ensemble cast that all love each other, and we all really get on."</p>

Harry Collett

<p class="font_8">Bridgerton's newest season has actress Jessica Madsen wearing even bigger sleeves as Cressida Cowper. The show's third season saw Cressida, known for being the villain amongst viewers and gossip stirrer in the ton, portraying a delicate side when she's torn between what she actually desires and her parents forcing her to marry. Jessica Madsen opens up about how taking on this massive arc for Cressida this season has affected her life, from her recent coming out post, to her fellow cast members giving her advice in navigating the Bridgerton spotlight and how her creativity, including her love for painting, is crucial to her mental health.</p>
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<p class="font_8">M: What have you noticed about Bridgerton's Season 3 doing well and being in the spotlight? How has that affected you and your mental health?</p>
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<p class="font_8">J: It's such an amazing job to be a part of. I feel very, very fortunate, and very lucky. And the season was cool for Cressida, so that was super exciting. I mean, it's one of those things. It's not something you can ever really expect to happen. You only know what it's like once it happens. At the moment, the guy at my local coffee shop is super nice to me, which is nice, so that's my primary win. But how I am in my life is very different from how I am as the character I play, so I go pretty unrecognisable. It's lovely to see how many people appreciate and enjoy the show. things have been cool so far, and the response has been lovely. There's been a lot of positivity that's come my way.</p>
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<p class="font_8">M: I've watched interviews with you all and loved the blossoming friendships. Being in the creative industry—any creative industry—can sometimes be lonely. Do you feel like having those connections, whether the cast of Bridgerton or other connections or other friends in the creative industries, is a significant and integral part of your life?</p>
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<p class="font_8">J: Hugely. So, in this case, everyone is especially incredibly supportive and is like everyone's cheerleader in such a fantastic way. If there's ever something I don't understand or know because it's my first time going into the press, I'll message one of them and ask, Guys, what do I do? All these elements fit into the work; it's lovely to feel like you're in a safe space, right? And even though it's such a big show in terms of the audience and the viewers, it's a very homey set. We're all just in Uggs and robes. I have a lot of actor friends I feel safe with them and able to deep think with them. I’v never been very good at surface level chat and I feel other creatives understand that. There are a lot of tough times in this industry, and things are complex. An actor understands another actor's world. And other creative as well cause those in a different creative field how they feel and think feeds your mind.</p>
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<p class="font_8">M: As you mentioned, the audience for Bridgerton is so big. It's so big because it's a great escapism for many people. You sit down, you binge TV, and that's a form of rest for many people because we don't get other forms of rest or know how to find that rest. So, how do you feel about it being used that way? I assume it's positive, but is it strange to be a part of people's daily comedown and that escapism?</p>
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<p class="font_8">J: I love thinking that that's what we bring to people's lives. I rely so heavily on it in my own life, with what I watch. And, a tool, a two-way tool. It's like, you've got the tool of it being educational, stretching your thinking. Allowing And then it's also a way of feeling at peace feeling comfort. That's what Bridgerton brings: we're safe in the fact that we know that they will end up together. We do have to remind ourselves that things will be okay, even if there are bumpy roads. I'm proud it's a place to completely and utterly get carried away in the world's magic.</p>

Jessica Madsen

<p class="font_8">Actors are committed to their work, even if it means falling on a horse during an intense battle sequence with props when you've never ridden a horse in your life in the middle of a desert. Crazy right?</p>
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<p class="font_8">After landing his most significant role to date as historical figure Alexander in Alexander: The Making of a God for streaming giant Netflix and being under the eyes of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg in Apple In TV+'s high-budget TV series Masters of the Air,' Buck Braithwaite tells HATC about the reality of entering the world of acting. From working amongst Barry Keoghan to embracing the intensity of film shoots to tackling the anxieties of auditioning and waiting for the next big job, Buck opens up about his journey so far, which all started with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in his primary school musical.</p>
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<p class="font_8">ALICE: Let's talk about how you got into acting and where your passion began.</p>
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<p class="font_8">BUCK: As a kid I was in all the school musicals, all the choruses from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat' to Fagin's gang in Oliver. My best mate Stuart got the part of Artful Dodger over me and still teases me about it today. At the time, I was curious if it was a real-life job you could do for a living. So, I went to do work experience in a broking office. I wanted a change, and I did it for a week. I remember thinking I could do this. This is a real job. I was still doing drama at the time and I hadn't fully decided until I watched Bronson with Tom Hardy, which had me hooked. I rewrote the whole film for my GCSE drama piece, this little scrawny 14-year-old boy pretending to be this absolute beast of a man shouting at all these prisoners. I thought that's it. I'm going to give this shenanigan a crack. And then here we are, ten years later.</p>
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<p class="font_8">ALICE: There's not a lot about you on the internet. You have to dig and then what you find isn't always true (I tease Buck for the various ages I found online).</p>
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<p class="font_8">BUCK: Yeah, it's not all true. I'm not 36.</p>
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<p class="font_8">ALICE: This is your chance to set the record straight, I joke. Out of the roles you've done over the past few years, what's been a standout?</p>
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<p class="font_8">BUCK: I feel [Alexander] was my largest role over the last few years. It's my first lead. It's just the pure scale of Alexander's story. How huge it was, it's unfathomable. It's epic, it's passionate, there's horses, it's intricate and it's sensitive. I learned a lot on that job. I'm quite indecisive about my decisions sometimes as an actor. It was such an intense shoot, and we had to deliver a lot in a concise amount of time. So, I would second guess myself at times. I have learned to trust my decisions even more now. Not so much by choice but because I didn't have time to debate. I feel like that was helpful for me because I'll dabble in decisions for hours if you give me the opportunity so it was nice to make a decision and run with it because we had to shoot six episodes in six weeks, which you should usually have a month to shoot an episode. We were doing, like five, six scenes a day. Also choreographing for the battles and all that.</p>
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<p class="font_8">ALICE: Did you learn how to ride horses?</p>
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<p class="font_8">BUCK: This is one of those classic, mendacious actor things you say yes! Your agent calls you and asks, "Can you ride a horse?" and I say, "Yeah. Sure! I used to ride when I was younger. I'm a bit rusty, but I'll pick it up." not thinking you're going to get the callback.</p>
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<p class="font_8">ALICE: What happened when you got the role and realised you'd have to learn how to ride?</p>
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<p class="font_8">BUCK: As soon as I got the job, we were due to fly out within a week. So, I had one or two lessons before going out, so I at least looked like I knew how to get on a horse. I'm actually allergic to horses so I lived off antihistamines for two months.</p>
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<p class="font_8">ALICE: Some scenes looked tricky, and that's coming from someone who's ridden for years!</p>
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<p class="font_8">BUCK: I think we had five days before we started shooting to have horse-riding lessons, including hair and makeup rehearsals. So they put you on this horse and say, "Okay, here's the sword. Go over there and fight with your mates!" And there are about ten guys on horses over there with swords. And then you're kind of just like, "Well… I suppose. Now I'm here, it's now or never!" They give you tips throughout, and there are incredible stuntmen, too, but it was a very intense crash course.ctors are committed to their work, even if it means falling on a horse during an intense battle sequence with props when you’ve never ridden a horse in your life in the middle of a desert. Crazy right?</p>
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<p class="font_8">After landing his biggest role to date as historic figure Alexander in <em>Alexander: The Making of a God</em> for streaming giant, <em>Netflix</em> <em>and </em>being under the eyes of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg in <em>Apple TV+’s</em> high budget TV series <em>Masters of the Air</em>, Buck Braithwaite tells HATC about the reality of entering the world of acting.&nbsp; From working amongst Barry Keoghan, to embracing the intensity of film shoots to tackling the anxieties of auditioning and waiting for next big job, Buck opens up about his journey so far that all started from performing in <em>Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat </em>in his<em> </em>primary school musical.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Alice: Let’s talk about how you got into acting.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Buck: As a kid I was in all the school musicals, all the choruses, <em>Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat,</em> Fagin’s Gang in <em>Artful Dodger-</em> My best mate Jamie still holds that against me and he’s not even an actor! And then it got to GCSE level, and I took it as a GCSE.</p>
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<p class="font_8">But at the time wasn't really sure if it was a real-life job that you could really do as a living. So, I wanted to do work experience, like in a broking office. I wanted a change because, you know, it was widely talked about, it pays well and I did it for a week. And I was like, you know, I can do this.&nbsp; This seems like a real job. And then, I was still doing drama. So, I was a bit on the, in between, I hadn't fully decided then I watched<em> Bronson</em> with Tom Hardy. And I was like, yeah! Basically rewrote the whole film for my GCSE drama piece. So, this little scrawny 14-year-old boy, pretending to be this absolute beast of a man shouting at all these prisoners. And yeah, I thought that's it. I'm going to give this shenanigan a crack. And then here we are, ten years later.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Alice: There’s not a lot on the internet about you. You have to dig and then what you find isn’t true, escpecially your age!</p>
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<p class="font_8">Buck: Yeah, it’s not true. I’m not 39!</p>
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<p class="font_8">Alice:<strong> </strong>This is your chance to set the record straight! Out of the roles you’ve done over the past few years, what’s been a standout?</p>
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<p class="font_8">Buck: Over the last few years, I feel [Alexander] was my largest role as well. It’s my first lead. I think just the pure scale of Alexander's story. How huge it was, it's just like, unfathomable, one boy. It's epic, it’s small, it’s passionate, there’s horses, it’s intricate it’s sensitive and it’s this theory based on this demigod kind of thing.</p>
<p class="font_8">I learned a lot on that job. Because as an actor, I feel I'm quite indecisive about my decisions. And it was such an intense shoot, we had to deliver a lot in a really short amount of time. So, I always like to just second guess myself. I feel like I learned to kind of trust my decisions now even more so. Not by choice just you didn't have time to kind of debate it.&nbsp; I feel like that was helpful for me because I'll dabble in decisions for hours if you give me the opportunity so it was nice to just make a decision and go run with it because we had shoot six episodes in six weeks, which you should usually have a month to shoot an episode. We were doing, like five, six scenes a day. Also choreographing for the battles and all that</p>
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<p class="font_8">Alice: Did you do learn how to ride horses?</p>
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<p class="font_8">Buck: This is one of those classic, mendacious actor things where you say, yeah! Your agents calls you and says “Can you ride a horse?” and I was like “Yeah. Sure! I used to ride when I was younger, I'm a bit rusty, but I'll pick it up.”&nbsp; Not thinking that you're going to get on one yourself!</p>
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<p class="font_8">Alice: So, have you <em>ever</em> ridden a horse?</p>
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<p class="font_8">Buck: No. Never and I'm allergic to them. So as soon as I got the job, we had, I think we were flying out in a week. So, I got a lesson really quickly. I lived off antihistamines for two months. Learnt how to get on a horse in one lesson.</p>

Buck Braithwaite

Buck Braithwaite

<p class="font_8">Leighton Meester is now a part of your annual Christmas film viewings. After being every teenager’s ‘It girl’ as Blair Waldorf, the actress is taking on a Christmas Rom-Com. Leighton plays Ali, in your next fave film of the season, EXmas (Amazon Freevee) where her character is in a festive heated face-off with her ex-fiancée, Graham (played by Robbie Amell) when he finds her celebrating Christmas with his family.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“It's nice. I feel like I can share it with at least my older kid and people and I include around the holidays, it's just so nice to have a holiday movie to watch with your family. It's just such a great feeling about it that I really enjoy both watching and being part of” the actress says on her enjoyment of the project.</p>
<p class="font_8">Speaking on the process of shooting a Christmas movie, EXmas was filmed in June, information that’ll shock audiences but will be normal for those involved in making films. “We shot the majority of the movie in a house that was decorated to the nines. Like Christmas everywhere you looked”.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Leighton found her Christmas film debut to be “one of the nicest, warmest environments and experiences and, living in that world is just so fun, going to work every day and everyone laughing and, you know, making each other laugh” she recalls.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“I feel like that comes off in the movie. I'm very proud of it. And I think that that's just how you want to feel with a holiday movie. I think that's what holiday movies do. And on top of it, it's, you know, kind of a kooky family. And then, the romantic element is really nice” she adds.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Leighton joins HATC to unwrap all that 2023 has brought her, delving into the important role therapy has in her life and how she juggles mum life, self-care, and work. Plus, there may just be an adorable four-legged animal that’s arrived just in time to join her family’s Christmas.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Family is of high priority to her. Leighton has two children with her husband, also actor, Adam Brody. During the filming of EXmas in Canada the mother-of-two was grateful to have her family around her during the long shoot days.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“It was a wonderful environment for them. And there was a lake, and they were going out on boats every day. It was just such a lovely summer with my family there.” she says “But it was five days a week, every moment I was at work, so I only got to be with them on the weekend, but it was ok as they were with their dad, and they were having a great time.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">She expresses the complex nature of juggling family and filming “It's like these really intensive work schedules and then nothing for months. I'd rather that than like five days a week, every single day of the year.but honestly it is like there'll be five nights of the week that I'm not there to put them to bed and so I guess it’s exchanging those intensive times for like really peaceful times with nothing going on.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">“Being a parent, it's hard on both sides. Because when I'm at work, I miss my kids so much. And when I'm at home, it's hard because I want to be creative and do my job.” She says.</p>
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<p class="font_8">From teen drama Gossip Girl to gritty drama Netflix’s The Weekend Away, Leighton has done it all since her TV debut at a young age. The 37-year-old talks about her love for Rom-Coms. “It’s what I like to watch, I feel like it's such a nice world to live in. And comedy, in general, I think is just so stimulating, and enjoyable to take on. I'm always really lucky. And I'm working with people who I admire and think the world of. I really can learn a lot so each time I do a comedy, I learn by observing, and of course, having a lot of laughs. It's a very enriching experience.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">The nature of shoots can impact an actor’s personal life. Speaking about her time filming hitting psychological thriller, The Weekend Away (2022), “I really loved the actors and the crew, and the location (in Croatia) was amazing.” she reminisces.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“There was so much to enjoy about the experience, but once we were on set, it was heavy, dramatic scenes and you know that no matter what you sort of have to enter that similar mindset. And it brings you down”.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“I don't necessarily take that stuff home with me, as people say.” She states.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“But at the same time, I think I can get caught off guard sometimes, because I'm like, oh, that does affect you even if you're not necessarily going to stay in this mindset for the rest of my, you know, the rest of my filming. You can't help it, it seeps in.”Leighton Meester is now a part of your annual Christmas film viewings. After being every teenager’s ‘It girl’ as Blair Waldorf, the actress is taking on a Christmas Rom-Com. The actress plays Ali, in your next fave film of the season, <em>EXmas</em> (<em>Amazon Freevee</em>) where her character is in a festive heated face-off with her ex-fiancée, Graham (played by Robbie Amell) when he finds her celebrating Christmas with his family.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“It's nice. I feel like I can share it with at least my older kid and people and I include around the holidays, it's just so nice to have a holiday movie to watch with your family. It's just such a great feeling about it that I really enjoy both watching and being part of” the actress says on her enjoyment of the project.</p>
<p class="font_8">Speaking on the process of shooting a Christmas movie, <em>EXmas</em>was filmed in June, information that’ll shock audiences but will be normal for those involved in making films. “We shot the majority of the movie in a house that was decorated to the nines. Like Christmas everywhere you looked”.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Leighton found her Christmas film debut to be “one of the nicest, warmest environments and experiences and, living in that world is just so fun, going to work every day and everyone laughing and, you know, making each other laugh” she recalls.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“I feel like that comes off in the movie. I'm very proud of it. And I think that that's just how you want to feel with a holiday movie. I think that's what holiday movies do. And on top of it, it's, you know, kind of a kooky family. And then, the romantic element &nbsp;is really nice” she adds.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Leighton joins HATC to unwrap all that 2023 has brought her, delving into the important role therapy has in her life and how she juggles mum life, self-care, and work. Plus, there may just be an adorable four-legged animal that’s arrived just in time to join her family’s Christmas.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Family is of high priority to her. Leighton has two children with her husband, also actor, Adam Brody. During the filming of <em>EXmas</em> in Canada the mother-of-two was grateful to have her family around her during the long shoot days.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“It was a wonderful environment for them. And there was a lake, and they were going out on boats every day. It was just such a lovely summer with my family there.” she says “But it was five days a week, every moment I was at work, so I only got to be with them on the weekend, but it was ok as they were with their dad, and they were having a great time.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">She expresses the complex nature of juggling family and filming “It's like these really intensive work schedules and then nothing for months. I'd rather that than like five days a week, every single day of the year.but honestly it is like there'll be five nights of the week that I'm not there to put them to bed and so I guess it’s exchanging those intensive times for like really peaceful times with nothing going on.”</p>

Leighton Meester

Leighton Meester



<p class="font_8">Sat in my London office on an almost too sunny day in June (too sunny to be sitting indoors, that is), Aisling Bea joins me via Zoom call. Making the most of the glorious weather as she strolls outside, we spend the next 45 minutes or so discussing her latest project, her own portrayals of mental health, and even her firm hatred for carrots—an unequivocal declaration she made herself, without a shadow of a doubt, 100% not fabricated.

Aisling Bea is an artist who needs no introduction to the world of comedy. Making an indelible mark as a rising star and going on to win the Edinburgh Fringe’s So You Think You're Funny? From there, she quickly became a fan favourite across panel shows with her chatty charisma and quick wit. Not one to become pigeonholed into a single focus, she transitioned into the world of sitcoms in both the UK and the US. Taking her talents one step further, she wrote and starred in her own Channel 4 comedy-drama, This Way Up. Over the last few years, the Kildare-born comic has been expanding even further on both big and small screens. Her latest adventure sees Aisling centre stage as leading role, Rachael, in Coky Giedroyc’s latest film adaptation, Greatest Days. Based on the Take That musical of the same name, Greatest Days takes the band's greatest hits from the past three decades into an uplifting slice of summer escapism.

With Greatest Days' recent release just a few days ago, I wanted to delve straight into how Aisling has been doing throughout its release. We jumped into the interview to talk about the film’s premiere. “The premiere was grand, but definitely busy! I have a lovely stylist and team who I’ve worked with for years, so that’s always nice. Those things are really work nights out though, you know? I remember saying this when I won a BAFTA during lockdown.” Jokingly, she adds, “Yeah, don't worry about it.” As Aisling continued, it was clear this was how events like these were meant to really feel. “What made it special was that I could really let it sink in because it was all online. I was in my garden with a sort of broken arm, and ten friends were over. There were no thoughts of interviews, talking to the press, having pictures taken of me with someone there, or bumping into someone from work. It wasn't a work night; it was a day to celebrate. It was such a relief, having been in lockdown for ages that we could even have people in our gardens again.”
When back to ‘normality’, despite what is and will always be an amazing celebration, it feels like the magic seems to have been slightly worn off. “The next time around, it becomes a work event. You have a team coming in; there’s hair and makeup—who are lovely—and you're wearing high shoes and suck your tummy in, worried someone's going to take a terrible photo of you that's going to be in the front of something the next day. They become very much work events.” Given the camera-heavy environment and the spotlights on everyone, I ask if she has grown used to being in such situations. “Yeah, and you know how to do it, especially with the comedic part of my career. It means I'm okay with being thrown in, given a microphone, and asked to speak. But there is always this underlying feeling of, ‘Oh God, is there a wrong way to answer this?’ It's not a safe space; it’s a guarded space, put it that way.”

As viewers, we often overlook the buildup leading to a film's release and the gap between completing a project and its actual debut. “You create something, and it feels like the job is done. But in reality, you work on something one year, and it won’t be out until the next. You're a whole different person by the time it airs.” Aisling recalls when she saw a trailer for Quiz, a TV drama in which she starred, focusing on Charles Ingram unexpectedly winning the £1,000,000 jackpot on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. “I saw the trailer and thought, ‘Oooh, I want to watch that; that looks good’. I'd forgotten I was in it! I had such a good time filming Quiz, but it was in the middle of promoting This Way Up. I was pushing the first series of that really hard, and during the daytime, I'd go and film with Stephen Frears. I had such a good time, I sort of forgot it was work. It can throw your head. When you're pretending to be someone else, it doesn't always attach to you in a way that maybe writing does.”
Aisling is joining me for her last interview on this PR run, and she tells me how the experience has been promoting her starring role. “Yeah, this is my first and only interview this week, so you're getting a good version of me. It’s my very last one too; last week was quite intense. It's been about a year and a half since I've been talking about anything. You know, you're answering the same questions all the time.” Something you never think about is the exhausting process of having to come up with and repeat the same answers multiple times a day, over and over. “Over the last few years, what’s been different has been interviews like these ones. They’re nicer because you're talking to someone, and it's a whole collection. It’s like, 'Okay, there's a nuance there.’ But it’s the clipped interviews that get you. Someone comes in for eight minutes, they film it, and you are constantly thinking, ‘Oh, what version of this clip might they use?’ Everything just gets used as content, which is obviously designed to be much more grab-able or clickbaity.”

I'm curious to know if she has experienced such tactics being used on her in the past. “In Ireland, I jokingly mentioned to one of the camera guys during an interview, ‘I've legally banned my age from being mentioned anywhere; are you taking this out? You better edit that out.’ A few days later, I see The Sun published a headline: ‘I banned my age from being mentioned, says Aisling Bea as she fights back at the industry.’ We talked about how there's a younger version of me in Greatest Days, and that’s when I use it as a bit of a filler joke, that’s all. Then suddenly it turns into this big thing. Of course, that's the nature of the beast.” It's a parasitic beast that distorts people's words into attention-grabbing headlines. Even as readers, you read through half a piece before releasing what you were told has been completely twisted. “You know, ‘Aisling Bea reveals what it was like working with Take That, and then halfway through the piece, you reach “Aisling says, Oh, we only met them for 20 minutes. They seemed very sweet.” Or, ‘Aisling Bea slams award ceremonies for not honouring comedy actors’. And the truth is more “Oh, it's a pity the BAFTAs have no supporting comedy actor awards.”
“It’s just lying, essentially, about what you said or how you said it. If we talk for 40 minutes and I bring up carrots once. Then this whole thing leads with ‘Aisling Bea talks carrots and nothing else’. You’d think I sound like a fucking mad woman. It’s an environment you're supposed to feel safe in, you know? I understand it's silly, but it’s more the fact I worry about the people who the thing is supposedly about and what they are supposed to think when they see it. I mean, I understand having to try and sell my work, and I do understand most people are at this point where, do you fight it or just try and play ball?” Going back to interviews that try to build a connection with the interviewee, Aisling says, “Those are the ones that are more interesting to read anyway; you don't feel like you've read them a bunch of times already.”

Stepping away from frustrating click-baiters, Aisling’s job revolves around constantly embodying different identities, so I ask her whether she finds that she is able to find the time to switch off. “I’m not very good at it. Some people may go to work, then come home and be done with it all. Maybe it’s because of the hours and scatty schedules, but so much of my life is work. I caught myself clenching my jaw so tightly that I ground away a tooth. It seems that being constantly tense has become my comfort zone.” With the exception of next month, she rarely has the time to take any time off; this is the first long break she has had in over a decade. “I can go to random things I don’t normally have time for, like physio appointments, or just taking it slow. If you've made a lifetime of living a certain way, it doesn't just change the next day. It's like a diet of energy or a diet of focus, really. The idea of being unscheduled is just so nice for a while.”</p>

Aisling Bea

Aisling Bea "I made my second series during the pandemic, and it broke me on every possible level. I think I'm only just coming out of that now. Doing press the last few weeks has been interesting because I think it's something that probably a year ago would have crippled me. I would have needed twice the breaks and half the interviews. It's often the small things that have the greatest impact."

<p class="font_8">Miss Benny is in her element. Authenticity becomes her. Sitting down with MB on LA time, I knew she was a star from the moment I met her. No matter the location of the interview, whether in person or on a call, when you know, you know. MB's breakout role, Marco, in Netflix's Glamorous alongside stars like Kim Cattrall, is everything you could hope for. A re-imagination of those ever-iconic films/tv shows, including Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty, Glamorous is home for the queer community. In this space, their shine is celebrated and only comes naturally. As the sun beams into her room, there's no denying the beauty that quite literally radiates from her in person. As we begin to chat, there's something more, an eloquently spoken individual who's reality and truth is gospel. MB's lengthy preparation for the role of Marco sees a show emerge five years on, a celebration and roaring success, and a not-so-subtle middle finger to those who said the world wasn't ready for topics and nuances, particularly for queer identities.

A: There's quite the buzz behind Glamorous, so after a few years of it being in the making, you must be very excited and very ready for it to be brought to life.
MB: I really thought that I would be super nervous right now. And then I'd be scared. But honestly, I'm just so excited. It's (Glamorous) so silly and so funny. And it's all of the things that I had wanted it to be. So I'm very excited. 

A: How has nurturing the show made you feel so emotionally and physically attached to your work?

MB: I've been attached to the show for so long. It's been a four-year process for me and a five-year process for the creator of the show Jordan. So we've been making this show for years. So many of my nerves have to do with it feeling so personal. I wanted to do it justice because I grew up with this character. I'm really excited to throw my take into the world. I hold a lot of respect for this kind of show. 

A: I've no doubt about the positive effect it will have, but the representation and the joy of that come through so clearly, let alone legendary roles, including Kim Cattrall. How was it working alongside her? Is it even more comfortable to do what you're doing and know that she supports you?

MB: So many feelings have come on board for the show. What it really did for me was validate that the show is something special because when they were casting Madeline, I remember thinking these are big shoes to fill. This character needs to be funny, this character needs to be strong, and a little intimidating but also super grounded and have a lot of heart. And so I always thought that Kim Cattrall would be perfect. But I thought that was a long shot. So when I found out that she was signing on to the show, it was first of all fantastic because I am such a big fan of her portrayal of Samantha and Sex and The City. But it was also just really cool. Because to me, that meant someone like Kim read the script and thought, yeah, this is something special. I've always felt like it was special. But I am so close to it that it meant a lot that somebody else read this script and saw it as something valuable and special. Having her on set was mind-blowing because she's such an icon, and I've used her as a comedy reference point for so long in my life and career. My character Marco is also in awe of her and terrified of her all at the same time. So anytime I was starstruck by having someone like her on set, it was really easy to use that for the scene. But it was just super cool. The whole cast is so special. You have someone like Kim, who's established, iconic, and talented at what she does. And then you have a whole cast of actors who are all on the newer side of things. It felt like we were at some summer camp for five months. We had so much fun filming it that I'm hoping it'll translate to people and they watch it, and they'll be able to see the amount of fun we're having. It was the best experience.

A: On a side note, I'm a giant Devil Wears Prada fan. As I watch it so regularly, it's incredible how my whole world has not become it yet… she says, creating HATC magazine. Clearly, something came through. But on that side note, I loved growing up watching these shows, Ugly Betty, Sex, and The City as a young girl idolising their creative worlds. How have you found the autonomy it's brought to your life, creating a show like those but with even better representation and community.

MB: Well, it's excellent because I am are very close with Jordon Nardino, the creator of the show. We are both just big pop culture snobs. Like we love movie references, TV references, anything. We're constantly telling each other to watch this, watch that, quoting things. And we're very aware of this sort of Devil Wears Prada, Ugly Betty essence of the show. It was really special to me as I grew up idolising those shows and those movies and wishing so bad to be one of those girls navigating love, fashion, and a career. You know, I discovered my queer identity. And so it's pretty crazy that this show allows us to give a new perspective to a story we all know, love, and are very familiar with. So many topics and nuances of our take on it are particular to queer identities. I think that comes from having a majority of a queer cast and transparent producers. I've never been on a set where I wasn't the only queer person on a set. It was refreshing to feel like I don't have to be an entire community representative. I can be who I am, knowing there's space for everyone else to do the same. That way, we all get to breathe and enjoy the process more. It's something that I love about the way our show gives us that power. Marco gets to be all the flamboyant fun, be one-liners that we know and love for a character like Marco, but we also get to see Marco at home. It's good to see Marco in relationships, and when the makeup comes off, who Marco is. That's something that I haven't really seen very often on television. I was really excited to be a part of that. I'm also such a big fan of the other actor's storylines in the show because they feel so fleshed out, whole, and unique. Specifically, I'm just such a super fan of Jade Payton's character Venetia because I've never seen someone like her being a black queer woman whose role is so fleshed out. And so I know that if I feel that fan girl fondness for her character, and the fact that she gets that opportunity, I can't imagine what people who identify with her will get to feel. I want to do the same thing for people who identify with Marco.
A: As much as TV over the years has started to adapt, it often only adapts to what they want to show to be. Growing up with Bipolar disorder, there was never really a space to breathe, take that weight off for a second, and be yourself authentically. You're creating a beautiful reality where life is more than any gloom that can come about. There's beauty in our authentic selves and lives to come.

MB: I wanted to do something important to me and significant to Jordan. All of us were just so proud. To see queer representation on TV or in movies, so far, it's been a lot of the beginning and end of life, a lot of the trauma associated with being queer. And so, when I was growing up and seeing clear representation, I was exhausted because I felt like, Oh, this must be miserable. Because that's all, I ever saw. And while I think it's amazing that we have movies and TV shows that show the authentic experience that queer people have and how hard it can be, our show truly is a fantastic healing. In this escapist queer story, there's never homophobia or transphobia. From anyone outside of the community, it's to understand. It's always internally the challenges we face as communities. That was super healing for me because I feel like, as a kid and as a queer person, in my formative years, I spent so much of my time trying to constantly start by validating myself and justifying myself. And that's super exhausting. It takes a tremendous toll on you. So to see a show where no one ever has to explain themselves, and no one ever has to deal with prejudice, it's just, I mean, queerness is a superhero on our show. And that means we get to sort of delve into the relationships we have with our own queerness and how we navigate our own identities. That's super refreshing. Now we get something more soft and playful when you get to see yourself on the screen for once and enjoy your life.
A: Authenticity is so crucial. And that it allows us not to have to validate or be constantly your biggest cheerleader. Don't get me wrong, it's great to be your own cheerleader, but sometimes you need to bloody breathe without that being questioned, and I feel that in Glamorous. How prepared do you think in the incredible work of the roles you've played, both this and others like Love Victor, you prepared for such a tremendous response and the way people will connect with it?

MB: I'm just so impressed and shocked that we got to make and finish it. Because when we started developing it four or five years ago, we were told it wasn't time for this show yet. That was always really frustrating because I was somebody who wanted to see a show like this. At the time, I certainly felt like I couldn't possibly be alone. There have to be other people who would very much appreciate a show like this. So I'm very excited for queer people to see the show, enjoy it, make fun of it, and relate to it. I'm excited for everyone to see a campy, silly TV show that's very aware of itself and goofy. I'm mindful of the time we're in, specifically for gender nonconforming and trans people right now. I'm very mindful of that and excited that we are contributing something very positive. Specifically, to see a very expressive group of people succeed and be celebrated is very important right now. My fears and nerves about a potential pushback or reception or anything harmful to the show have dissipated. I'm excited because I'm very proud of what we made right now. I was very clear about my intention for doing the show, and I'm really proud of how I feel we succeeded with it. I can't wait to see people's memes and jokes about it, people getting on board with all of this silliness and the things to poke fun at. There are so many moments that I get to have as Marco that are just so ridiculous and over the top, and I can't wait for people to sort of get to partake in that because we've had a blast.

A: Always here for the memes! Ok, here goes. I'm sure the whole thing is, but is there a standout moment or memory?

MB:There are so many memories. I mean, I will say that anyone who's a fan of Kim Cattrall in Sex in the City will absolutely love it. All of the great one-liners, she has an art. I was such a fan of hers and saw her do this new character with similar energy. There was a specific memory. There were moments when we'd break character and laugh because someone would do something funny. But there was only one scene where we really could not get through it. It's a funny montage we do at the beginning of an episode where we're trying to figure out a whodunit situation. And there's this bit where Zane Phillip's character Chad, walks around the room saying who he thinks did it. For each one of those moments, we all had a reaction to our description being said, and it became one of those things where every take, we were making each other laugh. It was so hard to get through. When I watched that episode, I was giggling like a kid. I mean, the ensemble cast is so silly. It's very rare. That, at least for me, I've been on a cast where these are all people I will know for my whole life. They are so funny and care about the show so much. We were all very aware of the tone of the show we were making, so when I think of the filming experience, I think of the cast just trying to make each other laugh. 

A: It's so important to hear, like earlier when you mentioned this heaviness and the belief that's all we were meant for many times due to those conversations. How have you found your tribe and that relief in knowing it is there? 
</p>

Miss Benny

Miss Benny "So much of my formative identity was made in my bedroom with the door locked, watching YouTube videos, or doing my makeup in the middle of the night and washing it off at 4am so I could go to church in the morning. Just finding pockets where I could safely accept myself until I could create a much larger space."

<p class="font_8">“I’m filming all weekend,” Jack Lowden tells me as he sits down for a moment’s break in his ever-busy schedule. Albeit ever busy, he appears excited, returning as River Cartwright in Apple’s critically acclaimed Slow Horses, his role in The Gold on the horizon and a fervent desire to continue his journey of producing his very own masterpieces.</p>
<p class="font_8">As Jack talks about the beginning of his journey into acting, his brother, keen to perform from a young age, appears the initial catalyst. “It came from my younger brother, a ballet dancer. He wanted to do that from quite a young age. We saw Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, which he wanted to try out for, so he went along, and he was very, very, very good, unlike me, I wasn’t that good.” Growing up, the brothers found joy in the arts, with Jack joining his brother in rehearsals and ballet shows in Edinburgh. It was there, Jack tells me, that he fell in love with being on stage and discovered a talent for narration. “I ended up reading and sort of took to it quite naturally.” In the years following, Jack, despite being a timid kid who was terrified of everything, found passion in acting and opera (something those closest to Jack found a bit bizarre considering his nerves), before attending the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. To me, Jack, both in person and within his roles, seems overtly confident with no trace of unease. Like his roles, he comes across assured, with the notion of apprehension lightyears away I’m curious whether he’s found some comfort in his abilities over the years or that inherent sense of fear is the force that drives him.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“I think I was heavily conscious as a kid. Even as a kid in my 20s, I was very scared of interaction. I was super aware of that, so I had an inherent sense of guilt. I think a large part of where I am today is driven by knowing that I’m scared of something but instead of running away from it, the guilt sort of results in me doing it.” That must be not easy at times, I put to him. “Everything’s been a trial, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that from the outside for most. I was certainly quite affable. I want to think I still am.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">Jack has delivered multiple characters brimming with tenacity and nerve, from TV Series Slow Horses to films including Terence Davies’ Benediction and Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots.</p>
<p class="font_8">“I certainly survived by faking it; ironically, that’s what I do for a living. A large part of why I am where I am, and that I get to do great work with great people, is because I got very good at faking it. I probably spent a lot more time acting off camera and stage, and that’s where I learned to do what I do; through trying to convince someone that I’m actually like this, or I feel like this, when in truth I’m the complete opposite.”</p>

Jack Lowden

Jack Lowden: “For the first time, I’m playing a part I’ve played before. This role  in Slow Horses has been the turning point for me in trying to get rid of that fear and feeling a lot more secure.”

<p class="font_8">DeWanda Wise enjoys her time off between a rigorous filming schedule as she tells me of her Christmas plans with family and friends over the coming weeks. Growing up in a working-class family in Maryland I listen as she tells me it’s good to be back on the east coast being closer to her mum and others who she cherishes as her support system. With an early childhood straddled between an urban and rural environment, being brought up primarily by her mother, Wise spent key moments of her childhood at her Grandfather, a Methodist minister, junkyard.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Following her parent’s divorce around age five, Wise often found herself at church, a community she attributes alongside her mother as a pillar of importance in her life. Full of insight, even at the tender age of five, Wise explains how she knew that her mother and father shouldn’t have been together. It’s something she’s learned, that awareness of others and her environment is crucial to her knowledge of herself. Having always had a sense of direction on who she is and what she needs for herself, a born performer, she laid down her creative foundations by singing in the county choir. In the choir, she tells me she discovered the language of love, something she often refers to when prioritising her mental health. As a self-confessed sensitive child, Wise describes herself as porous in absorbing emotions, sobbing while singing in the pulpit at church “No one there knew what to do with my emotions. It was kind of something I naturally understood about myself. People often don’t think about how to maintain their mental health, especially at a young age. It’s the same as thinking I should exercise. It’s the same process. I think it should be something you think of daily or at least a weekly practice.” Growing up, Wise’s mother was integral to this firm belief in prioritising her mental health. “My mom was such an integral component to that because there was no stigma or judgment around me environmentally. It just wasn’t in the house. She knew she had a sensitive kid and was always willing to figure it out with me. She was always listening.” Wise seems aware of how enormous that was for the time, as her mum continued to set an example of being open when taking care of her own mental well-being. “As a single mum, you can only hide what you’re dealing with so much from your kids. She struck as fine a balance as she could between being vulnerable herself but not making me feel responsible. My relationship with my mum is something that I really, really cherish.”</p>
<p class="font_8">It’s these pivot relationships Wise has drawn upon all, be it juxtaposing for the relationships her character Sloane portrays in her upcoming role for Three Women. Based on the nonfiction bestseller by Lisa Taddeo, the adaptation is an intimate portrayal of American female desire with the characters trying to radically change their lives. It’s a role Wise undertakes confidently, solidified by her mental health journey. Wise opens up to me about the energy it takes when feeling like you have to advocate for yourself all the time, something her character knows all too well about.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“Where I’m not working, I love and need my breaks. I need seasons where I don’t have to constantly advocate for myself.” Playing roles where women are deeply misunderstood must be mentally tricky. “I think I naturally gravitate towards them. It’s catnip for me. I think the transparency stems from my desire to be understood, accepted, and loved for who I am.” As we move into the Christmas season, Wise questions the pressures women often find themselves in around this time of year. “I always question, especially right now when we’re in this kind of very punitive and petty season, where you can and must do no wrong.” It’s clear to see the curiosity Wise has about the boundaries of unconditional love, especially for women, bringing us towards the topic of shame and how we, as women, tend to move through it. Wise questions how badly can we fuck up or figure things out before we’re punished. “I’m constantly questioning what it means to live a life that might make people a little more uncomfortable, or that might not resonate with how they express themselves or how they live their life, but it’s not necessarily good or bad?” It seems she’s searching for the answer to ‘what does it mean to move through your shame or, at the very least, how do we live without that self-judgment. “What does it mean to live and feel free in and of yourself?”. She tells me that’s what resonated with her after reading the script for Three Women and how our portrayals of misunderstood women.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“I think Jenna Ortega, who played Wednesday Addams talked about this. Anytime you’re playing a character that makes people feel uncomfortable, you have to advocate for them every step of the way. Playing Sloane, a character that can come across in some respects as a mean, Wise feels for her “she’s automatically misunderstood and requires protection. That’s part of your job as an actor, but it’s also part of what comes naturally for me because I’m a voracious protector.” As a program that covers realistic aspects of life, I ask how those on set felt facing head-on difficult and triggering subjects while advocation for those characters.</p>

Dewanda Wise

Dewanda Wise: “I think I went (to therapy) because there was an understanding and an acceptance that in some ways, the depression admittedly didn’t serve me. In the last 10 years, I realised happiness is fleeting, but contentment is a daily practice. It’s something that has changed my baseline.”

<p class="font_8" style="text-align: justify">In his Leicester Square hotel room, Lewis Gribben joins me with the light bustling of London in the background. Responding he’s well, having traveled from Glasgow, Scotland, I ask him about the journey and the madness that is London, “I’ve been down to London a bunch of times for in-person auditions, and I always remember how mad it is here. I remember being told of professional pickpocketers and thinking, is that an actual thing?” I chuckle, telling him they really do exist, having had my own experiences. Having grown up in a small town outside Glasgow, I ask the furthest he’s travelled in the UK in relation to his auditions and roles, “a job in Buckinghamshire or Cardiff,” as he takes a moment to clearly remember. On the topic of film locations, I quickly ask where he’d love to travel if he has the opportunity, “Canada for sure,” he exclaims after little thought. “I feel like you always see films there, and it looks just beautiful. I love winter, so I feel a film or TV show in Canada would fit that well. I could see it as a great place for a thriller film.”</p>
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<p class="font_8" style="text-align: justify">Known for his roles in Trainspotting T2 and Shetland, Lewis has become somewhat of a household name over the past 2 years, taking on role upon role acting, something he continues to praise as his happy place. Growing up in Scotland, I’m curious about his upbringing and its role in his love of acting. “My childhood was good. I grew up in a small town outside Glasgow and went to primary school around the local area.” He tells me he was quite an imaginative child, always flying around on brooms, talking to himself, and casting spells. “I guess I felt isolated at the time, so acting became a bit like a mental strength. I would have imaginary conversations with myself”. Seeing his love for his imagination, he tells me his parents gifted him tickets for a drama class at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre, “At around 14, I decided I’m gonna chase the dream, so I’ve been acting ever since.”</p>
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<p class="font_8" style="text-align: justify">It seems to me, as he tells me more about his childhood and being diagnosed at the age of five with Autism and Dysgraphia (a type of dyslexia) that acting became something of an escape, even a deep-rooted need for enjoyment and respite. “When I went to secondary school, I was offered extra help. The school I went to, I didn’t live close to it. There was a bus that would pick up the kids with disabilities. I think that alongside the fact that I couldn’t write made it difficult.” Pausing briefly, he continues, “I think I’m fairly intelligent when it comes to speaking, vocalising, and visualisation, but dysgraphia, made it difficult.” I asked whether living further from school than his friends made him feel disconnected? “I think the downside is you can’t form friendships by going out with your mates after school. It was quite isolating. I think that’s why I fell so much in love with drama because it was my only class where it was mostly practical. It was escapism from being the reality of the weird kid with autism.” His dark humor then appears. “If it wasn’t for that, I would have wanted to jump off a cliff or something, but in all seriousness it allowed me to feel more comfortable. And from that, I found my tribe of people that also liked to imagine and create just like me. Acting has been a constant in my life. And even if it wasn’t my career path or it didn’t work, I will always find ways to still do it.”</p>

Lewis Gribben

Lewis Gribben: Acting was an escapism from being in the reality of the weird kid with autism.

<p class="font_8">Sat against a tree in Victoria Park, George webster lets me in on the memories of the moments that contributed in one shape or another to the path he walks today.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“I was always obsessed with action figures when I was a kid. I had every WWE action figure you could think of, every Star Wars and Lord of the Rings figure. Playing with them as a kid, it got to the point where there were multiple storylines, across multiple things going on in all of these different worlds.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">I ask whether those worlds as a young boy gave him the direction he was looking for as a child. “I’d say my imagination was integral to me growing up, it made me want to be a director. That was suggested to me when I was about eight as I set up my little scenes. To me, it sounded great. From that age onwards, I decided that’s what I was going to do”. He jokingly tells me how math’s got left at the wayside as I wonder whether acting was part of the package in discovering his passion for film. “I started to follow other routes for quite a long time until I discovered I was denying that I was an actor. When I look back at playing with the action figures, I had 50 different accents going up in my head, so I guess it was kind of obvious. I was internalizing what I actually felt.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">I resonate, having spent what feels like the entirety of my early teenage years on The Sims with various storylines. Two years after making his debut in television, many will recall George stepping into the role of William of Orange for the critically acclaimed Versailles. As a massive lover of period drama, I remember being fascinated by the series, wishing that I could step into costume. George is quick to mark the series as one of his first legitimate gigs, as I curiously &nbsp;ask about the set locations and what it was like stepping into such a large and highly anticipated production.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“It was a strange one because I was playing William of Orange, who was only in series One at the time, so I thought that was it. And at that time, I could accept that it was the right scale for the role size I should be doing. I mean I got to go to France and film. When you get there, you get to see the scale of it. It was my first time in the studio, so seeing behind the scenes of films and TV shows was something special. It was a bit overwhelming in that sense. When I returned for season Two, it was all on location. I didn’t film anything in the studio. They were in these old monasteries. I believe they even allowed the series to film at Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors, which was one of the only productions allowed to then. Being intertwined within the history of a place was such an honor.” And as for the costumes, I fawned over, “they were incredible. Still, in all honesty, all the women who had to wear corsets, were barely breathing on set” ok, so maybe I’d try them on briefly I declare to George.</p>
<p class="font_8">Having spoken about what must have been breathtaking locations on the set of Versailles I’m interested in what George prefers: either being on stage or in the studio.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“That’s a good question. I think both have their place. I wouldn’t say I like the cold. I am the worst when it comes it. So when you’re on location, you’ll probably be cold. But saying that, you’re also completely immersed when on location. When I’m on location, especially in period productions, I always try and find a snapshot with my eyes of somewhere where there’s nothing modern, everything completely natural. When I do that, and I’m in period gear, my brain is tricked into thinking I’m in that time, like a time machine, so being on location can be more magical.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">Since Versailles, George has made quite the name for himself, known for the diversity of his roles. “I think if I can keep every day as fresh as possible, I’m happy,” He explained, “As much as I love routine, and I need routine, I also crave the shattering of it. So juggling many things simultaneously when you pick up another role within a year can be quite chaotic. But honestly, I get off on the chaos of it all.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">With Wedding Season premiering within days of our interview, and the excitement surrounding his role in Masters of The Air, I can imagine he’s enjoyed the chaos of playing multiple roles in a short time. As for Masters of The Air, those who haven’t heard the impatient and excited rumblings of a whole industry getting ready for what can only be described as a stunning adaptation filled to the brim with adrenaline and leading actors. It’s going to be quite something, I exclaim to George, who plays Lt. Glenn W. Dye.</p>
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<p class="font_8">“It’s just amazing; no job I’ve ever been on has had the gravitas. We are trying to tell these well-researched stories, so every actor on it was so engrossed in trying to do it justice. When I say how brilliant the cast is, I speak for everyone on set. I find myself just watching them completely engrossed. I never went to drama school or anything like that, so I get better at what I do when I see good people doing it. Watching Austin Butler, Callum Turner, and Barry Keoghan, who are just at the top of their game, and being able to play alongside them is a mad job. This time last year, I managed to get in touch with the pilot who I play co-pilot to, who’s still alive; he must be 98 or something. I found the town and desperately tried to find a way to speak with him. He was incredibly generous with his time and information. It was a complete joy. It was one of those moments that slapped me in the face. A total dream.”</p>

Geroge Webster

George Webster: "For me, it’s (grounding) about understanding that there are so many unexplored things, even in the physical world. That curiosity is needed, I think that needs to be drawn out of us more."

<p class="font_8">Joining me over Zoom is, multi-award winner , comedian, podcast presenter, and general all-rounder Dane Baptiste, to speak about his smash hit comedic show The Chocolate Chip and his experiences with mental health. As we fall into conversation, Dane talks to me about how his frustrations surrounding the state of our world has helped form not only his hit tour at London’s Soho Theatre but also BAMOUS, his unashamed and provocative hit show centred on NASBLAQ, a mythical stock index for black and famous talent.</p>
<p class="font_8">With the UK having just started to make moves post COVID we chat not only about the excitement of being able to get back to some form of normality but also about the worries and concerns we amongst others have. “As a kid, I was a real overthinker I would of been going mental about the current situation we find ourselves in.”</p>
<p class="font_8">Similar to me, Dane’s concerns following what we learned from the pandemic and our way of life, flow into our conversation “I hope from the pandemic, that people hope or realise that you don’t have to live to work and you can survive if you can stay at home or work from home at a different pace. We live in a world where when people get their paycheck every month, the larger part of it goes towards rent, accommodation, and travel to a place of work, leaving so many to struggle. People need to readjust themselves and that’s one of the things that is supposed to come from this time of horror. Hopefully, we can turn to some sense of normalcy, because people lack routine and stability, especially with what people are used to having in this part of the world. My biggest concern as a very careful optimist is that things aren’t going to go back to the way they were before, which wasn’t working. But I feel like people should understand you can’t go back to that, we can’t go back to what wasn’t working.”</p>
<p class="font_8">Having had to postpone The Chocolate Chip due to COVID, the two-week success is back in London, unfiltered and unapologetic to tackle difficult topics from a witty perspective. Having grown in profile considerably over the pandemic I wanted to know how this has impacted the show whilst it’s been postponed and him personally. “It was rewarding to see a very big increase in profile over 2020. But, I’ve been trying to say this for years, particularly in comedy, there’s a lot of validity that should go towards the critics and those performing in comedy who won’t play down the themes that were discussed.”</p>
<p class="font_8">One of the things I love about Dane’s approach is he isn’t here to avoid the uncomfortable or to sugarcoat the reality. Ultimately he endeavours to avoid the BS involved, “I don’t believe in the whole idea of scaling it back. I don’t think that does any good. Don’t get me wrong I’ve tried it, but I can’t do it. It’s just not who I am, It’s very tongue in cheek which I think generation Z are responding to. I’m looking forward to the comeback, some things are a lot punchier, whilst some things still walk that tightrope, really pushing the show to the edge. I think that’s a big part of that what I discussed in my material, I don’t consider what I do to be particularly edgy, it is just making honest observations about the world that I can see. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve started to do some small gigs here and there and I’ve just been testing out that material. It’s gotten a very good reception, and I’m thrilled”</p>
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<p class="font_8">With Dane back on the stage with his UK tour rescheduled in October, I ask how he’s found himself keeping busy throughout lockdown with most of his work being at a standstill.“I’ve been supplementing a few things for the world of live work. We’re doing some zoom calls and recording my podcast series ‘Dane Baptiste Questions Everything’. So it’s been fun recording the podcast, embracing the new ways of contacting audiences through live stream and zoom. I’ve been enjoying learning a new skill of being able to perform down the lens of a digital camera.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">Having captured an active audience I wondered what’s been a pinnacle point from producing not only an in-demand show but his podcast. “What was particularly significant was a lot of the positive feedback from a lot of my black predecessors, who were like, you know, dang, this is amazing.”</p>
<p class="font_8">Mental health and comedy are something I’ve always found interesting. As a. platform that creates joy in the good. and the bad, I’ve always been curious about the perceptions surrounding not only the content but also the comedians behind it and the stigma and stereotypes surrounding their job.</p>
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<p class="font_8">Something I imagine has its difficulties is that some expect them to be upbeat and funny finding light in everything all the time. Dane tells me it certainly is the case that many comedians have experienced this at some point in their careers and that at times it can be a difficult ideology to deal with. “It can be difficult, there most certainly can be repressed emotionally. I always tell myself that that’s ok as long as I can reference it. What’s great is when I may not have the tools or the words to articulate a certain emotion finding a comedic outlet can be great, comedy really can be the best medicine. You know all people say if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry and it is true but it’s important to note the sense of being happy all the time. Being able to laugh about something further down the line is a great part of our rationalisation process and our healing process but it’s a balance. I would never assume that comedians are funny offstage because of how they behave on stage, especially because given the year we’ve had. Many of us are observational comedians, and seeing the world around you can be rough, I’ve most certainly not dealt with the intensity of some of the issues emotionally but I use the darker thoughts or experiences or traumas that I observe or think of in my head to offer a method of coping, that helps people to rationalise it.”</p>
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<p class="font_8">I find it an interesting and almost a noble endeavour for so many to flip the darkness of reality into an outlet of laughter, and although I’m sure it has moments of overwhelming weight, as we’ve seen from so many comedians who suffer from their mental health, it can be seen as one of the most wonderful gifts one could give in a world with some many problems and difficulties to overcome. The power of laughter truly has and always will be a way to heal.</p>
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Dane Baptiste

Dane Baptiste : "Comedy really can be the best medicine"

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