Anna Skellern (‘Lip Service’, ‘Parade’s End’) interview

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Fresh from stealing the show as Lexy in Series 2 of BBC Three’s lesbian drama Lip Service, Australian actress Anna Skellern can currently be seen in BBC Two’s Parade’s End, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall.

> Buy Series 2 of Lip Service on DVD on Amazon.

> Buy Parade’s End on DVD on Amazon.

CultBox caught up with Anna for a chat…

Lexy pretty much exploded onto the Lip Service scene, with Sam in her sights, Tess chasing her tail and Bea on the side. You could say she chose the most difficult path given how heartbroken and messed up Sam was; was there a point you thought Lexy might veer off on a different course? How did you feel about Lexy’s story arc?

“It was really hard keeping quiet the reason why Lexy was so much a part of things. People kept saying how come you get so close to everyone? Well, someone dies and someone leaves…

“But for ages even I didn’t know who Lexy was going to choose. It wasn’t until we’d finished filming the first three episodes that we got given the last three, so I didn’t know that she was going to get anywhere with Sam and really you just keep on going, not sure what’s going to happen.

“I just wish there were two parallel universes where she could get to do both because I can understand both. It’s that idea, do you go for something fun and safe and lovely or something more difficult.”

What do you think the future holds for Sam and Lexy?

“I think it’s going to be very awkward for Sam and Lexy because she’s lied to Tess about where she is and that’s not very Lexy; she doesn’t like to lie. So whatever happens, it will be a bit messy.”

Lexy was under threat for a lot of Series 2, with her stalker really making her question her safety. How difficult was it to portray someone so confident and outgoing socially and sexually and then have that life put under siege?

“I think the great thing about the way it was written is that it’s so real. Maybe some people are completely confident, but it’s much more interesting playing someone who is vulnerable and is multilayered even while they’re being the backbone of strength for everybody else.

“I really enjoyed that because it added extra layers to her and what the audience could see of her. But playing those scenes was quite intense. “

Is there any news on a third series?

“No, I haven’t heard anything yet. Generally the actors are the last to hear about everything though! But it’s something I’m definitely interested in doing, it was a real gift of a character.”

You’re in BBC Two’s new mini-series, Parade’s End – can you talk a bit about the character you’re playing?

“I play Lady Bobbie Pelham. She is very fun and very naughty, she’s Sylvia’s best friend. Sylvia is hung up with a lot of Catholic guilt and Bobbie is very much not. Sylvia isn’t the ideal wife but Bobbie is far worse.

“Bobbie’s out for enjoying the world. I think it’s something that’s of the era because she is highly intelligent and capable but this was the time of the idle woman so it was a world of balls and parties and country houses and Saturday-to-Mondays – that’s what they called the weekend.

“Really, for a woman, there was just not that much else and so for Bobbie the intrigues and anything sexual or any way to have any interesting course to your life has to be through a man. So I feel kind of sorry for them because they were so trapped. I mean they were corseted to begin with, I don’t know if you’ve ever worn one, but it’s kind of hard to think sometimes with all your organs getting squashed.

“Bobbie would have been a brilliant business woman if she wasn’t born just after the beginning of the last century; she would have been very industrious.“

What did you love most about being on the show?

“I think the language overall! Tom Stoppard he’s brilliant, at one point Bobbie calls her husband a ‘poor old sausage’. I loved all the old words, like ‘ripping’ and ‘beastly’.“

Parade’s End has a pretty stellar cast all round, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Anne-Marie Duff, Rufus Sewell, as well as people like Tom Stoppard and Susannah White behind the scenes. Who were you most excited about working with and who turned out to be the biggest revelation?

“Susannah White is such an incredibly astute director, very insightful and very warm and a real genius I think and I’m a massive fan of Rebecca Hall’s, I think all young actors should be like her. I was also very excited about working with Queenie, Miranda Richardson. I’m a huge Blackadder fan, and she is a wonderful woman.

“On first read through, we sat around the table in Pinewood studios for three days and Tom Stoppard talked us through the script – I mean, I would pay money to do that anyway – and then Miranda came and sat next to me and I thought, ‘I’m sitting next to Queenie, I can die happy’. I hope she doesn’t read this!”

You’re also starring in Gambit coming out soon; what’s the film about?

“Gambit is about a Rupert Murdoch like figure, a media mogul played by Alan Rickman, I’m his secretary, and Colin Firth looks after his art collection. Colin’s character decides to swindle his boss with an art forgery.

“It involves a fake Monet and a rancher in Arizona who lives in a trailer, but has the same surname as the paintings last known owner, which is where Cameron Diaz comes in and then it all goes from there.”

The film’s scripted by the Coen Brothers and, as you’ve mentioned, stars Cameron Diaz, Stanley Tucci, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth – lots Hollywood royalty! What was it like working in that environment?

“That was a wonderful environment to just watch and learn. You learn so much from watching people on set and Colin Firth has the perfect set etiquette so it was wonderful to work with him. And it was exciting to be part of Gambit because Mike Lobell, the producer, has an extraordinary tenacity and he’d been trying to get the film made for 11 years.

“So many directors and actors have been attached so it was great to be a part of something that everyone had been working so hard to get made.”

Do you have any particular highlights from the production?

“The highlight was getting to work with Colin Firth. It was just a few months after he got the Oscar and he was still very humble and generous and it was hard to imagine that that had happened.

“And working with Michael Hoffman! He’s such an incredibly talented director who takes the time to craft and think about every single moment. He isn’t afraid to go back for another take if he thinks there’s a hidden possibility there.”

You’ve had a taste of lots of different kinds of film and TV projects this year, big and small budgets and scale. Do you have a preference of what you like to be working on or is there something else you’d like to try?

“That’s interesting. I think for me it’s the people that you work with so the budget is immaterial. I’m lucky enough to have a job that I would happily do for free. It helps that I can pay rent but it is a job that I love.

“I think it’s about creatively interesting people, which I’ve been very lucky in the last year. I mean, Tom Stoppard?!”

Any cult series you wish you could be a part of?

“I don’t know. Probably something older, maybe like Brass Eye or Red Dwarf!”

Are there any other projects you’re excited about coming up?

“I’m filming a TV series called Spy for Sky One which will be airing this Autumn. It stars Darren Boyd, who last year won the Best Comedy Actor Bafta, so it’s really exciting to be a part of the second series.  I play the girlfriend of Darren’s character and she is actually psychotic so it’s really good fun.”

> Buy Series 2 of Lip Service on DVD on Amazon.

> Buy Parade’s End on DVD on Amazon.

What would you like to see in the next series of Lip Service? Are you enjoying Parade’s End so far? Let us know below…

Watch a clip from Lip Service