This profile of Andrea Riseborough was written over a decade ago, when she was sharp on our radar as “one to watch”. Since then, she has been working non-stop with recent roles that command the screen with her intense portrayals and wide range — from the vulnerable wife in Waco, to the tough drug deal broker in Zero Zero Zero. There is a fire inside Andrea, and in this article, she was just arriving Stateside, aiming her sights on Hollywood. The following piece was published in The Last Magazine.
IF SHE HADN’T WON A BAFTA AWARD FOR HER STARTLING PERFORMANCE AS MARGARET THATCHER, ANDREA RISEBOROUGH MIGHT BE CONSIDERED A RISING STAR. FACT IS, SHE’S ALREADY ENTERED THE PANTHEON OF GREAT BRITISH ACTRESSES, AND THIS YEAR SHE’S SETTING HER SIGHTS ON THE STATES.
“This week is all about what it means to be happy,” says Andrea Riseborough, who is sitting at Paradise Cafe in Manhattan’s Chelsea and sporting a Poison T-shirt. There is a lot to be happy about these days for the English actress, who is now demonstrating her serious acting chops Stateside. In 2008, the 28-year-old knocked socks off in the U.K. playing a young Margaret Thatcher in a British television movie called The Long Walk to Finchley. One review described her casting as the ex-Prime Minister as “ludicrously flattering.” Currently she is prepping for a play in New York called The Pride, about a complex love triangle with co-stars Hugh Dancy and Ben Whishaw. American audiences will see her onscreen this year in Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go with Keira Knightley and Brighton Rock along- side Helen Mirren. Riseborough, who is deeply entrenched in her theater rehears- als, played hooky with us to talk about breakthroughs, life-changing songs, and being a bookworm.
Jauretsi Saizarbitoria: Tell me about the “a-ha” moment when you realized you wanted to act.
Andrea Riseborough I wanted to be everything when I was little. I read Shakespeare for the first time and realized that might be the way to do it.
JS Explain your relationship to Shakespeare.
AR It’s like a love affair with the words of a dead guy.
JS What posters did you have taped up in your bedroom as a kid?
AR It was a poster of a charity about a one-finned dolphin and a guide dog. Salvador Dalí too.
JS Where do you live now?
AR Hackney in East London.
JS What is the one thing you cannot tolerate in the movie business?
AR The idea that only thin and beautiful [women] have relationships that are of interest to the “common” m
JS At age seventeen you dropped out of school. What was the motivation for this?
AR I was in too many plays.
JS Tell me about Whitley Bay, where you grew up. Did you know there was a Dire Straits song “Tunnel of Love” about a nearby town, Cullercoats?
AR That’s really interesting, I’m going to tell “me da” (my dad said with a Cullercoats accent). Whitley Bay looks unapologetically onto the North Sea. It’s silver and gray and purple and raw. I love it. I just needed to leave.
JS Tell me about your mother, father, and family influences?
AR My dad was a used-car salesman obsessed with film. His mum was an usherette in a cinema when he was very small, and he’d watch every film twice for free. Mum was a secretary who later in life got her master’s in Shakespeare and Jacobean studies. My sister went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art after I did.
JS You’ve played a broad spectrum of characters—from a Croatian Serb beautician in The Pain and the Itch to a 17-year-old girl during the Civil War in The Devil’s Whore.
AR When you were little I bet you played in the same way. As you get older, I think it’s a combination of imagination and research, and sometimes a little memory jogging.
JS Let’s talk about one of your breakthrough roles as a young Margaret Thatcher. For an American who doesn’t know much about the details of her life, what do you think a viewer will walk away thinking of Thatcher?
AR I hope they admire her tenacity, even if, like me, they think her politics smells of shit.
JS You worked with Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky. This is now your third time working with her. Tell me about it.
AR I think the absolute world of her. She’s a precious and extraordinary talent.
JS Director Mike Leigh has also inspired you in many ways.
AR The time I spent working with Mike on Happy-Go-Lucky was an apprenticeship of sorts. I’m indebted to him. My current apprenticeship is with Joe Mantello at the Manhattan Theatre Club. That’s one of the most fulfilling things, that there’s always more to learn.
JS What is the latest purchase on your iPod?
AR A band called Wire, the album is called Pink Flag.
JS In Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go, you worked as a “carer.” What is that?
AR The film is based on a Kazuo Ishiguro book, I don’t want to spoil it.
JS What draws you most to characters you choose to play and explore?
JS Musically speaking, what are the albums that changed your life?
AR Eugene McDaniels’s Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse, John Martyn’s Solid Air, and Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra.
JS Do you speak any other languages?
AR Bad Cantonese, bad Italian, and bad French. They all came from working tables in my late teens.
JS Do you read much? Which books have knocked you over the head hardest?
AR I spend most of my free time reading. Dostoyevsky gave me a good firm slap. Right now I’m reading a book about the intertwining lives of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving.
JS What is on your list for your next read?
AR I want to read Sarah Palin’s autobiography next. What is it they say? “Know your enemy.”
JS What is one small thing you do that not many people know about?
AR Shredding a duck correctly, my preferred method is fork and dessert spoon.
JS How did you discover you can do contortion?
AR One day I just tried to put my leg behind my head and I succeeded.
JS What is the one thing you have not accomplished yet?
AR No master’s from Cambridge…yet.
Written by Jauretsi
PUBLISHED IN: THE LAST MAGAZINE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANGELO PENNETTA | STYLING BY CELESTINE COONEY