Where do they come from?
That never ending stream of British actresses.
Lily James, Gemma Arterton, Hayley Atwell, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Dockery, Imogen Poots.
And now we have Claire Foy, whose breathtaking portrayal of Elizabeth II in The Crown made her a household name and earned her endless awards as best television actress.
As a result she’s been cast as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl In The Spider’s Web, and next month she’s co-starring with Ryan Gosling in First Man.
Did the success of The Crown change you?
It didn’t change my life, but it changed my career. And winning the Golden Globe completely changed how people perceive who I am.
I haven’t really changed over the past 10 years. But now people are willing to give you responsibility, entrust you with important roles, and that’s really magical.
You just had a baby when you started shooting The Crown. So, what was it like breastfeeding and at the same time playing one of the most famous women in the world?
I was so lucky because Left Bank Pictures and Netflix were so amazing and so kind.
In this day and age, it’s really difficult for women to go back to work (after a confinement.) There’s not a lot of support, but I was supported all the way, and I am so grateful.
I did things that I never would have done, things I would never have been brave enough to do, much less forced to do. When you are an actor, doing your job well is just not thinking about it and not getting stressed out about it.
So having a baby is ideal because you can’t think about yourself at any point. You just have to be there and respond. It wasn’t easy, so I have nothing but respect for anyone who manages to do it.
Did you come from an acting family?
Not at all. I come from a massive Irish family. I was born in Manchester and then lived in a little village in Buckinghamshire for the majority of my life.
There are no actors in my family. But there probably will be now. We were always a really big, loud family, but none of us did any acting or anything like that.
So where did it come from?
Someone sort of decided for me. I went to university, and one of my lecturers in the final year said, “I think maybe you should think about applying for drama school.”
And I thought, “Just do it and see what happens.” It was a lot of stupidity on my part, but it was also serendipitous in a way, and I am really glad that I did.
Growing up, which actresses did you admire?
I had an odd obsession on Doris Day. I loved Calamity Jane. Later Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter.
I always loved watching films over and over again and watching people’s performances; it wasn’t not normal, but I really invested in it.
When did you decide you could do it professionally?
I don’t know. I didn’t have an agent and I didn’t have much money. I was living in London, working in a call centre, when out of nowhere I got a phone call saying they wanted me to read for a part.
And I was like, “What, what?”. I had never done an audition in my life apart from drama school. I had no idea how they worked.
What were your expectations then and what are they now?
The expectation I had was that I would not work. I went to a drama school where you had a very, very realistic idea of what the industry is like.
You weren’t there to be a movie star – it wasn’t there to build you up. If you want this, you have to work really hard, you have to want it for the right reasons. And I’m so grateful for that because that’s given me a really good basis of how to approach it all.
My expectation was that I would fail. I knew I’d have to make a living, so I just worked (odd jobs) and then managed, at a certain point, to be able to stop working and started acting.
And even now I have no expectation. It could all end tomorrow so I am not going to not make the most of it.
I’m not going to not enjoy it, and I’m not going to not work hard, and I’m not going to not enjoy playing these parts.
I just intend to keep on rolling with the punches and just keep having a good time.
What were some of the jobs you took?
I did catering, I worked at Tesco for a long time. That was actually an absolute dream. I always wanted to work on a till.
I did lots of telemarketing. I gave out free magazines at tube stations.
I worked at Wimbledon as a security officer. I worked at a pub, a barista at a coffee shop. I was a piano teacher for a while, anything to make cash, it’s ridiculous.
How has motherhood changed you?
I think when you have a child you really have to face up to yourself. Once you bring another human being into the world you really have to think, “Gosh, do I want to be like that? Do I want to be that sort of person? Is that who I am?”.
So, I’ve grown up a lot in the past two years.
I thought I was relatively mature but parenting is a different kind of growing up. It’s taking responsibility for myself as well as someone else, which is really hard, but it’s amazing.
The Girl In The Spider’s Web opens at cinemas nationwide on Nov 8.