Amy Beth Hayes (‘Mr Selfridge’) interview

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Currently filming the new series of Mr Selfridge, Welsh actress Amy Beth Hayes recently exclusively chatted to CultBox about playing Kitty Hawkins in ITV’s period drama.

Series 3 will air on ITV early next year and picks up the story in 1919 just after the end of World War I, with new cast members including Zoë Wanamaker (My Family), Kara Tointon (EastEnders), Hannah Tointon (Hollyoaks) and Leon Ockenden (Waterloo Road).

> Take a look at our Series 3 preview.


What do you like most about playing Kitty?

“I think she has a childlike instinctiveness to her. What she feels often comes out of her mouth without any kind of filter, and that’s quite liberating to play. I also just think that she’s rather ahead of her time. She’s incredibly ambitious and she’s got her focus on what she wants to do. I think for a woman of that time, to be as career-minded as she is, is really interesting to play.

“I think Kitty also has a very strong moral compass. That’s probably something she keeps hidden, because she’s afraid if it shows, if she wears her heart on her sleeve that she’ll get trampled on and not get to be where she wants to be in life. She is someone who really trusts her instincts in that way.”


It must be quite gratifying that, having started off as a smaller role in Series 1, people have warmed to her and her role has expanded in Series 2? Have you been pleased with Kitty’s development?

Mr selfridge Series 2

“Nobody knew really what was going to happen to our characters when we auditioned for the series, there wasn’t even an episode to read, just a couple of scenes. We weren’t quite sure how we wanted Kitty to be, and that grew organically throughout Series 1.

“Then in Series 2, you really see her begin to fly because she’s found what she wants to be doing in life, which is be Head of Beauty. Because she’s found her calling she’s a lot happier. She’s definitely still got an edge, but the catty Kitty that we saw in Series 1 has been quelled a bit I think.

“I don’t think she’ll ever lose that. I think I’d be quite sad if she did. I love that about the character… that she ruffles feathers and she’s not going to give Frank an easy ride either. I love all that about her.”


It must be interesting to play that particular type of role. Are you a fan of period drama?

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“I’m a bit late to the party but I started watching Downton Abbey about six months ago, and I just loved it. I became very quickly addicted to it.

“What I think attracts people to period drama is that people are still going through the same emotions: jealousy, love, anger, falling on hard times… those things always repeat themselves in history, but its just that the costumes change, the social attitudes change.

“I think people love period dramas because they explore the same human emotions we experience, just against a different backdrop.”


You share a notable chemistry with Samuel West, who plays Frank Edwards. What is he like to work with?

“I love working with Sam. I think what comes across, and I think why you like the Frank & Kitty relationship is that there is a certain playfulness there.

“I think Sam and I have had that from day one: that we just like to play off each other within our characters. A lot of the time we’ll do a take, they’ll yell ‘cut’ and we’ll just fall about laughing because we’ve had such fun filming these characters. They’re both so keen to keep hold of who they are.

“They’ve both worked very hard to get where they are, and they’re very conscious of losing that. So when they come up against each other, both have this idea of ‘I’m not going to back down’/ ‘Well I’m not going to back down either’. There’s almost this lovely playground rivalry between them. A little bit of a power struggle going on, but underneath there is a genuine attraction, and a genuine affection there.

“It’s a very modern relationship. This again harks back to Kitty, and the show, being ahead of its time. She’s in a relationship with an older man. It’s unusual, but it’s not something that phases her. It’s a modern love story. All of which came out of selling some ivory-topped pencils in Series 1.”


Many compared ITV’s Mr Selfridge to BBC One’s The Paradise as they had similarities, but with The Paradise now finished, do you think that Mr Selfridge could just run and run?

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“I don’t know whether Mr Selfridge has ever defined itself in relation to The Paradise. Mr Selfridge, as a project, has been going a very long time.

“Even before Downton Abbey this idea was being worked on. The beauty of Mr Selfridge is that it’s forward thinking. It’s not looking next to it, its looking ahead. It’s very progressive. That alone would hopefully help it continue.”


In relation to your previous cult television roles, you played a cameo role as an albino servant in 2008 Doctor Who episode ‘The Stolen Earth’. Can you tell us a little about that?


Doctor Who fans have got to be the most loyal fans out there, they’re a different breed. I still get tons of fan mail just from doing that tiny part in one episode, which I just find crazy. Whenever you do a play, you have Doctor Who fans waiting outside. They are just such incredibly loyal, dedicated fans.

“It was a very odd experience as I was in this big blonde wig, red contact lenses, completely unrecognisable. I felt it very much slipped under the radar, my performance in that, but people still remember which is lovely.”


And in 2010 you played a character called Ruth in Misfits – how was that?


“I was really moved by the episode when I read it. I love Misfits because I thought it was quite raw, again another show quite ahead of its time. I thought it was honest and funny.

“Even though it was dealing with supernatural elements, it was actually quite believable and gritty. What was great was that, there was a story like that in the second episode [Amy’s character regained her youth as a result if the thunder storm that gave the Misfits their powers].

The story was something that you might expect in episode five or six but it just made me think, this is a fantastic series. Very brave. I found the story quite heartbreaking, in the idea that, if presented with the opportunity to go back to your youth, who wouldn’t want to go back in time and live again.”


Is there any other programme on TV right now that you love watching and think, ‘I wish I was in that?’

“I’ve just got into Game of Thrones, I’d love to be in that. I think that’s great.

“I’d love to do one of the Scandinavian dramas but I’d probably have to learn Norwegian or Swedish, so probably not that. I’m always attracted to a role where I get to be someone completely different to what I’ve just done. I like transforming, stretching myself and playing different roles.”


Obviously you are hugely busy with Mr Selfridge on TV, but in 2009 you starred in a Romanian film called Eva. Is film something you would like to do more of in the future?

“I’m very happy at the moment. The thing is that you can get into films, but there are so many films that never get seen. The films that get made and get released in the cinema are sort of, in the minority.


“Film is something I’d love to do, but I feel very lucky that TV has had a major revolution: something that probably started with The Sopranos. HBO were at the forefront of that movement and that has now filtered across and British television has benefited from that as well.

“It’s really exciting, what’s happening on television just now. You get huge film stars that actually want to be in the TV series. I’m very happy on TV to be honest.”


Are you looking forward to the return of Mr Selfridge? Let us know below…