As a singer-songwriter, Eliza Bennett released her music video earlier this month for Do You Think About Me and she has released her new single Metal Heart today. With her acting career starting at a young age in the West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Eliza went on to appear in many screen roles including as Tora in Nanny McPhee and Meggie in Inkheart before returning to live theatre many years later for Loserville. Now living in America, Eliza has most recently played Odessa in comedy series The Conners and was cast as one of the lead characters, Jules Thomas in MTV’s Sweet/Vicious and before moving from the UK, her screen work had included Broadchurch and Grantchester. Chatting with us, Eliza talks about her new single Metal Heart, being cast as Tora in Nanny McPhee and starring in Sweet/Vicious on MTV.
You’ve recently released Do You Think About Me, can you tell us about it and what’s the response been like to the single and video so far?
I have! It’s been really exciting. Partly because of the reaction and partly because this really signifies the start of this journey for me. I’ll be releasing music more consistently now so this first single will always be special to me. I wrote Do You Think About Me about a time when I was obsessing over this guy I fancied the pants off but couldn’t be with anymore. We just couldn’t make it work, we fought a ton and ended up being the worst versions of ourselves together. I would fantasise over nights we spent together and whether he was still thinking about me too and it was just very, very unhealthy. Ironically, by a crazy turn of events and years passing, the man I’m talking about in this song is now my wonderful husband. Funny how that worked out! Sometimes it’s a timing thing.
What was the music video like to film?
It was very fun and I left feeling very grateful. We made the video in the middle of the desert on a baby shooting budget so a lot of the creatives involved were working for free. They also happened to be my friends which helped sell it I think! It was just a very creative and collaborative weekend and the fact I got to do it with my friends made it extra special. We manage to capture some crazy lighting and I’m really happy how it turned out.
What can listeners expect from your single released today – Metal Heart?
Metal Heart is definitely written from a more vulnerable space so I hope listeners can connect with it on that level. I’m really proud of this one, I think it shows a different side of my songwriting and my producer Thom Macken smashed it out the park.
How do you get the inspiration for your music and what is your writing process?
There’s a little golden season in the beginning that I’ve heard other artists talk about where you don’t have any pressure to make music with a schedule or deadlines that maybe a record label might give you and I definitely see the fruit of that. I write when I’m inspired or when I feel like I have something to say and hardly ever because I’m just forcing myself to write a song. So honestly, the songwriting has come very easily and cathartically. It either comes from a concept I want to write about or because I’m playing around on a piano or with a melody and I find something beautiful.
We understand you held a livestream concert during lockdown, how was this and do you have any more planned?
Yeah, I think everyone and their dog has done an IG live in lockdown! I’m sure people must be getting sick of them. Joking aside though, they are a great way to connect with listeners and I think it will make sense to do more as I release more music. It’s nice to speak directly to your followers.
Have you always had an interest in music and what inspired you to start writing and releasing your own?
Music has always been a part of my life whether it’s doing West End musicals in London or recording songs for movies I have acted in. However, songwriting didn’t start happening until a few years ago. I think growing up as a child actor, I always felt like I had to pick one path and not stray from that and acting automatically became that path. After moving to LA, I met a lot more people that had a foot in each industry and I started to get an itch and a feeling of ‘I think I could do that’. Once I started writing music, I just fell in love with that feeling of instant creative gratification. So often with acting, you audition for months and then film for months and then wait months for something to come out. With songwriting, you can finish a song in forty minutes (if you’re having a magic forty minutes) and then boom, you have something you created right in front of you, ready to play live or record or share or whatever you choose to do with it.
Can you tell us about playing Odessa in The Conners?
I had a lot of fun working on The Conners. Firstly, the cast are just wonderful and the most incredible actors so that was a real honour to be around. Secondly, Odessa was definitely unlike anyone I’d played before. Tattoos, piercings, bad attitude. It was really fun to play when I’m normally auditioning for the sweet blonde sorority girl.
How was it filming your episode of This Is Us?
It was just the one day but it was truly a joy. Mainly because my scene was with Sterling K. Brown who is perhaps one of the kindest actors I‘ve ever had the pleasure of working with. When you go into filming one scene on a show as established as This Is Us, you prepare yourself to feel very overwhelmed, nervous and you kind of float on the outside looking in, just praying that you do a good enough job that the crew aren’t wondering why you got cast. It’s especially intimidating going into a scene with Sterling who is as prolific as he is. The moment I stepped into the car to head to set, Sterling knew my name, where I was from and gave me so much time, I was put immediately at ease. I’ve been the series regular on a show before and you always try to make guest stars feel comfortable because you know how nerve wrecking it is, but I can honestly say that I’ve never met anyone that goes out of their way to be kind more than Sterling K. Brown. I will take that experience with me to all my future jobs.
You played one of the lead characters, Jules Thomas, in Sweet/Vicious on MTV, can you say more about the show and your character and what was it like to be starring in?
Sweet/Vicious will always be a very special show and job to me. The show is about two unlikely college students who take the role of vigilantes to avenge sexual assault survivors on their campus. It was a year before the ‘Me Too’ movement and we really worked hard to be a voice for sexual assault survivors that hadn’t had a story told about their trauma and what the aftermath of that looks like before. I’m very proud of that show and the incredible women that made it.
What was Broadchurch like to be part of as Lisa Newbery?
Broadchurch was a blast, even if my storyline didn’t seem to be! I was a huge fan of Series 1, so it was really a big deal to me (and my family who were big fans too) to be in Series 2! It shot very close to where I grew up so it was very surreal shooting in locations I had grown up visiting as a child. And obviously, any time I got to eat lunch with/vaguely near Olivia Colman was a dream come true!
What did you enjoy most about playing Meggie in Inkheart?
I was fourteen when I shot Inkheart and we shot in Italy for three months so it was pretty much the dream. Zero complaints. I literally had the time of my life on Inkheart. I hung out with an incredible crew and a ridiculously talented cast on the beaches and mountains of northern Italy for three months. I mean talk about peaking early?
One of your other early screen roles was as Tora in Nanny McPhee, what was the role like to film and what are some of your favourite memories from your time on set?
I feel very lucky to have Nanny McPhee on my resume. I was only twelve when we shot it so I have all these beautiful, fuzzy, fun childhood memories of shooting with five other kids on farms with donkeys, pigs, chickens and toys and ice cream trucks. Emma Thompson and the director Kirk Jones really made that shoot a heaven for children. They set the bar pretty high. On every set since, I’m always wondering where the ice cream truck is.
You appeared in the West End musical Loserville, what was this like to do?
I grew up going to West End musicals and there really is something magic about the theatre. I started out in the West End in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at nine, so Loserville was my first return to theatre in ten years. I had truly forgotten how gruelling it can be, vocally and physically! Eight shows a week is a lot and I have the utmost respect for performers that do musicals full time. I had a lot of fun though and we had a beautiful cast, many of which I’m still friends with now. I love film and television and I love making music but I will say, nothing beats the buzz you get on an opening night.
Had you always wanted an acting career and how did you start?
I have always wanted to act. I don’t remember a time where I didn’t. I started working at nine after finding an open audition for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in a newspaper called The Stage and even at that age, I really pushed my parents to let me do it. I don’t come from a showbiz family so I really took my poor parents along for a ride!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time and what are some of your favourite TV shows and films to watch?
I do love watching film and TV and there is just so much to choose from now. Right now I’m rewatching The West Wing with my husband because he hasn’t seen it yet but my favourite all time TV shows are Fleabag, Succession and Schitt’s Creek. Other than sitting in front of a screen, I spend a lot of time with friends, eating and cooking delicious food and walking my naughty golden doodle Otto!
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