Interview: Joanne Froggatt

From the interview archives.

English actress Joanne Froggatt is arguable best known for her role as Anna Bates in the critically acclaimed Downton Abbey. This fall you can see her alongside Ioan Gruffudd in the new six part mini-series Liar, created by Harry and Jack Williams. VULKAN caught up with Joanne to talk about the series and her upcoming films One Last Thing and A Crooked Somebody.

Your new series Liar debuts this fall, an emotional thriller that showcases the aftermath of a couple’s first date. Can you tell us a bit about Laura Nielson, who she is and how she met Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd)?

My character Laura, is a strong minded, intelligent woman. She works as a teacher in the local secondary school (where she teaches Andrew’s son.) She knows Andrew well enough to say hello to at the school gates. Laura’s sister Katy works with him and sets them up on a date. Events that unfold that night change both of their lives forever and embroil them, and the audience, in a web of lies and deceit.

With a title like Liar, is anyone truly to be trusted in this series?

Every single character in Liar is embroiled in either their own lie, or unknowingly embroiled in someone else’s, which makes for a brilliant and multi layered thriller.

Would you say you’re good at reading people, knowing when they’re lying?

I think I’m a pretty good judge of character.

These days shows that focus on twists and tricks to keep the viewer guessing often also keep the actors in the dark about where the storyline is heading as well. Was that the case with Liar or were you pretty well versed in how the season was going to unfold throughout?

We did know the main storyline for the whole series before we started shooting, but we didn’t have episodes 5 and 6, so there were still so many brilliant surprises.

How was working with Ioan Gruffudd on this project?

It was brilliant working with Ioan. He’s a great actor and such a generous person. We actually had a lot of fun when we weren’t filming the really intense scenes.

Harry and Jack Williams have stated that the series explores “modern issues of gender politics” What are your thoughts on how gender politics are changing in the world today and what changes do you hope to see in the future?

Wow, that’s a hard question to answer in a few sentences! But, I believe we should all simply take people on their merit, whether that be in a professional or personal way, and that a person’s sex, skin colour, sexuality, social background etc. should have zero influence over our opinions. I believe in true equality.

Do you think social media has been influencing gender politics, and how so?

I think there are so many things that influence gender politics. Yes, social media holds the danger of younger teenagers seeing overtly sexual posts and thinking that that’s how they should be (or want to) perceive themselves, but you can argue that, for both males and females.

Aside from getting to dive into new roles, what do you think is the greatest gift that comes along with being a full time actress?

I feel hugely grateful for the experiences my work has brought into my life. The people I’ve met and the places I’ve visited

How does preparing for a role like Laura in Liar compare to acting in period dramas, like your upcoming Mary Shelley? Are you drawn more to one than the other?

I love playing contemporary and period roles. It’s hard to choose. I like variety and so it’s great to be able to go play different characters who live in completely different worlds.

You’ve been able to portray so many different characters over your career thus far, who has been your favourite that you would definitely be pleased about returning to one day?

I have so many favourites! Some characters you love because you love their personality (like Anna Bates, Downton) some you love because they are totally polar opposites to anything within yourself (Mary Ann Cotton, Dark Angel). I do like playing the baddie though.

Speaking of other characters, you’ll also be starring in One Last Thing. You play Jamie. How does she fit into the storyline? Is she the reason the dentist is inspired to go out of his comfort zone to find his daughter, or does she support him along the way? Both?

Jamie really gives Dylan the support and strength he needs to try and find his daughter. She loves the person he is and believes in him and that gives him the confidence to follow his heart.

I’d also like to touch on A Crooked Somebody. I imagine there is something freeing about working on a “dark” comedy. Could you tell us a bit about the film and your role?

A Crooked Somebody is such a great watch. It is based around our lead character Michael Vaughn (Rich Sommer) who is a con man psychic, hell bent on furthering his career by any means. I play his best friend and business partner. It’s a dark, comedic thriller in a way, I’m not sure how you box it but it’s a great movie. Ed Harris, Amy Madigan and Clifton Collins Jr also star.

In today’s age it seems everyone wants attention for one thing or another. Why do you think we are facing this with such prevalence today and do you believe it is helping or hindering our growth as a society?

I do think ‘celebrity culture’ has got a little out of hand. I think it’s very easy for people to see this perceived perfect life in the media, along with all the material possessions that can come along with that. I hear lots of young people say they want to be famous, but being famous isn’t a profession or a skill or a passion. Being ‘famous’ doesn’t really mean anything to me, it’s something that isn’t real, it’s perceived by others. As far as material possessions, we all like to be able to pay our bills and have nice things but ultimately, someone can own a lot of diamonds, houses, cars etc and still be bloody miserable!

When you’re not filming, auditioning, or busy with your family, what’s your favourite way to spend your time?


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