InStyle chats to the gorgeous actress Jessica Brown Findlay about her new movie Albatross, the goings-on on set at Downton Abbey PLUS her style secrets...
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Albatross is your first feature film, how is it different to other performances you’ve done?
Well, while Amelia is rebellious in a way that Sybil (from Downton Abbey) is I suppose, she’s far more outspoken and only tends to think about the consequences of her actions once she’s done them. She’s a very particular creature and someone who maybe on paper you shouldn’t necessarily be rooting for but then there’s something wonderful about her. You just can’t help but love what she does, she’s a really headstrong, bold young girl who gets it wrong a lot of the time but does it anyway.
Are Sybil and Amelia alike?
There are some similarities but Amelia is so much more damaged and troubled underneath the surface, whereas Sybil has only ever known love. It feels as if Amelia hasn’t, or hasn’t been able to accept it and so in that sense she's incredibly different.
What was it like working with Felicity Jones and the cast of Albatross?
It was wonderful. Felicity is such a brilliant actress, she is so wonderful and quiet and brilliant in her convictions and in the way that she plays out her roles. I admire her so much, I admired her before the job and having finished the job I admire her even more. It was wonderful.
Sebastian Koch (who plays her on-screen lover) was such a great man to work with, he was so generous with his time and made it fun considering the subject matter we were dealing with.
And Julia Ormond as well, what a beautiful woman. She was so funny! Her comic timing in the film is brilliant and I think it was something she hadn’t really been able to do that much of before but she’s so good at it.
How was it working with two very experienced actors, did they give you advice or any tips?
Not in any obvious way but I think there was a lot of support. No one on the shoot took themselves too seriously. It’s important to take the job and do what you do seriously but with yourself, don’t get carried away. At the end of the day you’re just an actor and that was a very valuable lesson to learn in my first job. I mean, I don’t think I could ever take myself seriously because I’m just too silly! But it’s a very good thing to know and to learn and to remember because sometimes it’s quite a whirlwind life. It’s very good to remember what’s actually important and to have a laugh as well.
Is there a particular scene that you really enjoyed shooting?
I loved the opening scene on the beach. It was just such a beautiful day. We’d had a whole week of rain and suddenly out came the sun and it was glorious and lovely and it was a pinch yourself moment in that I just thought: “You are filming the opening scene to a movie that you’re in!” It just felt so strange but it was lovely. The Isle of Man is countryside and so beautiful – the hills and the colours. It’s just so wonderfully shot, I loved being there.
In Downton Abbey do you enjoy wearing the period dress as Sybil?
It is such a huge part of the role, it’s so integral to the way that you get in touch with your character and relate back to them and you can’t help but to change the way you walk, sit, stand because a corset will do that.
That kind of period costume instantly takes you from a 21st century life to that period, it’s so helpful. I love that transformation, the physical, visual change is great. I really enjoy that.
Do you ever have any input in what Sybil wears?
It’s pretty much all down to the genius of Susannah Buxton the head costume designer.She’s so brilliant down to such small details that to the untrained eye might not matter or even be noticed but you do start notice. For instance, Sybil's shoes are always flatter and more comfortable than the other two girls because she’s more sensible and needs to be able to get around quickly and wants to, rather than the other girls who squeeze their toes into narrow shoes with higher heels. Mary is more fashionable and Sybil is less so.
Do you ever get dress envy? Is there a particular dress that one of your co-stars has worn?
I do think this year some of Michelle’s (Lady Mary) dresses are amazing but I can’t even begin to moan about dress envy because I come out saying: “Oh, this is so itchy.” And Jo Froggatt (who plays housemaid Anna) is always like: “Hello! I’ve worn the same two dresses for two years!” so I’m absolutely not in a position to complain.
Do you and the rest of the cast hang out backstage?
The three of us - the Crawley sisters - get on so well and we have such a laugh. When I look down at the schedule and realise there’s going to be three of us in a scene, I always think they’re going to have to add another 10 or 20 minutes because we’re going to be laughing. But when we’re all together, the whole cast enjoy each others company, it’s just fantastic fun.
Everyone gets on so well and it’s sort of a little theatre company feeling, it feels like that and it’s just so much fun.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I like to keep it quite simple, I like wearing shirts, good shirts buttoned up all the way and a simple pair of black jeans or a skirt.
But also, I scour charity shops and vintage shops for key pieces and it’s where most of my wardrobe has come from. I suppose it’s quite laid-back with a bit of a twist.
Do you have a particular favourite designer?
I think Mulberry’s stuff at the moment is amazing. They’re really fun with what they do. But also, good old Topshop - I mean you can’t go wrong.
What would be your dream role?
It’s such a hard question because in a way you can’t imagine them but then one day you read it and something jumps out. Sometimes you might dismiss a certain genre but then you sit down and read a script and it’s the best one of that type that you’ve ever read and so you change your mind completely.
But to go and play one of the classics, to do something like that would be brilliant. But then I’m so excited by young, new writers, and to make your own mark.
Do you have a dream leading man that you’d like to play opposite?
Oh, a dream leading man? One of my favourite actors is, because he’s so brilliant, is Ben Whishaw. I think he is wonderful. He’s such a great, subtle and beautiful performer. I would love to work with him, but only because I’d definitely come away with some more knowledge and some lessons learnt!
And what else are you working on at the moment?
I’m doing an adaptation of Kate Mosse’s book Labyrinth. I start filming that now, so I go to France tomorrow morning! I’m very excited, it’s all go go go!
Albatross is out in UK cinemas NOW!
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