Having already appeared as Susan in the mystery drama film The Falling in 2014, and more recently as regular character Mathilda Reid in TV series Ripper Street, Anna Burnett is quickly making a name for her acting career among film and TV. Playing a small part in 2018’s cinema release Darkest Hour as Pamela Churchill alongside Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Sitting down recently for a chat, we find out about wearing the costumes in a period drama, filming for her role in Darkest Hour and her audition preparation.
Last year, you appeared as Pamela Churchill in feature film Darkest Hour, can you tell us about the character and did you have to research Churchill before auditioning for the role?
It was really nice. I didn’t actually audition for the part, I got offered it, which was lovely and very exciting, and out of the blue, so that was really fun. As soon as I found out that I’d got it I did some research, partly just for my own pleasure because I wasn’t in too much of it, but it was really fun watching videos of Pamela Churchill and videos about the family. We had dialect coaches who helped us get into the accent, along with the costume, it was really fun just inhabiting a whole new persona in a different era.
How long were you on the set of the film?
We did maybe two rehearsal days and two filming days. It was a really short stint but really fun, it was great to be part of such a huge production, having such a small part. We were also involved in the readthrough and the rehearsal process so it made us feel a lot more involved and really part of the production which was really nice.
Did you get chance to attend the premiere?
We attended a cast and crew screening, not the premiere, but that was great. The director Joe Wright was in LA for the screening, he sent a letter which one of the producers read to the cast and crew, thanking everyone, it was really nice being involved in that.
You’ve filmed for an episode of Doc Martin, did you enjoy filming it?
Yeah, it was really good. That was another thing where I was only there for a few days but it was great being involved in a bigger production. Filming in Cornwall was obviously very beautiful in the summer. Really nice to do a day or two of filming.
Can you tell us about your time as Mathilda Reid in Ripper Street after joining the cast in Series 3?
That was really good fun. I started when I was at school so it was something I did in one summer holiday. I thought I was only going to be in a few episodes and then I ended up being in it for three series. It was really great working with incredible actors and a really well-established crew and cast. It was loads of fun.
What was it like on set of the series?
Really good. Everyone was really friendly and there was a really nice atmosphere. They’d obviously been doing it already for two series when I joined so they all knew each other really well. They were all very welcoming so it was a really good experience.
How did you feel about wearing the costumes on the show?
It was good. The first series I didn’t have to wear a corset but then as my character got older I did! It was really fun though, they had amazing costume designers who made the costumes from scratch. It was really cool being able to wear someone else’s piece of art, but slightly less comfortable in the corset when I got older!
What was it like filming your last ever scene as Mathilda?
Really sad. I can’t remember specifically what it was, but at the end of Series 3 I kind of assumed that it would be the end because the next year it would be my A-Levels, so I thought they would get in the way. The schedule changed for the next series so I was excited to be back on it, but then when it finally ended, I think everyone was just really happy with what they’d done, so it was sad but not too sad.
Is there anything you miss most about filming Ripper Street?
I would fly from London to Dublin and be able to walk around the city and go into work, it was kind of fun going between home and Ireland, so kind of having that lifestyle. Also, being able to really get my teeth into a character and hang around with people who I really enjoyed being with.
Would you like to play any similar roles in the future?
Yeah I think so, it was such a great part for me to play. I really liked how it developed over the three series, because it spanned, I think, four years, so that was really fun. I’d love another chance to maybe be a regular in a series or something like that, I really enjoy the period drama aspect. I wouldn’t necessarily want to repeat the same work again… variety’s good too!
You’ve previously worked on The Falling, how did you get the role of Susan?
I auditioned for that, just like a normal audition. I didn’t hear back for about four months, then I got a recall and, I think, got cast a few weeks later.
Have you stayed in contact with the rest of the cast and have you acted with any of them since?
Yeah, specifically a few of them. It was so great being around a group of girls, we all lived together in a house for a while. We all became really close on the shoot. I haven’t worked with them since, I don’t think, but I’d like to!
Do you come from an acting background and have you trained in acting?
Not really, my mum’s an artist and my dad’s a musician, so I come from a creative background. None of my family members act, but since I was young I went to acting classes and I loved it, it was kind of something where my parents, because they were creative, said, “it’s going to be really hard but you should go for it if you want to do it”. I went to a Saturday class when I was younger and I did drama at school and at A-Level. I haven’t done any formal training. I did National Youth Theatre so I’ve done bits and bobs but no formal training.
How do you prepare for auditions?
I obviously learn the lines and try and think of what’s been said about my character, how my character speaks, what kind of things they say, what they want to get out of the scenes. I try and relax, I don’t get too nervous usually with auditions, so I just go in there and do my best, then try and forget about it when I leave, hahaha!
Do you have any roles or projects coming up that you can tell us about?
I’ve mainly been auditioning and studying English Literature alongside that, which I find helps my acting too.
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