Interview with New Worlds' Freya Mavor
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Scottish born Freya is know to Channel 4 audiences as the teenage toughie Mini McGuinness in Skins, the role that first showcased her acting talents. Like many Skins alumni she has gone on to great things and most recently attracted attention in Dexter Fletcher’s film Sunshine on Leith which saw her singing The Proclaimers hits through the streets of Edinburgh.
Some viewers may remember Beth Fanshawe as the baby glimpsed on the knee of Andrea Riseborough’s Angelica Fanshawe in the final scene of The Devil’s Whore. Tell us a bit about Beth as we find her now?
We meet Beth on her 21st birthday, I guess symbolically the day she becomes a woman. Up until this point she has been living a very sheltered life in the bubble of a commonwealth created by her family and especially her mother, Angelica. This idyll is burst when she has a chance encounter with the roguish outlaw Abe Goffe who is clearly going to shake everything up. Abe’s arrival also triggers her discovery that her true father is not the stable, kind John Francis who she has grown up with but was the revolutionary hero Edward Sexby so not only does she experience falling in love for the first time but she also has to completely redraw her own identity. Abe exposes her to the political chaos around her and they realise they are kindred spirits who want to be active in a new future.
Beth is a bold character. She fights to get Abe to take her seriously and puts her life in danger by joining him and then has to survive huge turmoil and loss. What do you think drives her?
I think both the realisation that she has revolutionary blood in her and needs to follow through the ideals of her parents and also her love for Abe. Abe liberates her from her ignorance and emboldens her to challenge the world around her to discover and fight for what she believes in.
How did you get into Beth’s mindset on set?
Costume and hair (we wore virtually no make up) is always a huge one as it changes instantly your posture and how you move and see yourself. But I did some reading too and sought out detail especially of day-to-day life during that period from how and what people ate to medicines to how households were made up. I find the intricacy of the history fascinating. It was definitely a time of social extremes, which is why she is shaken to the core when she really sees how others are living.
The drama spans 5 years and Beth’s journey is huge during that time. I imagine that was challenging to play.
It has been unlike any other role I have ever had before. Beth’s story is truly epic and she is transformed in every sense from the innocent who we see at the start of episode one. It has been so exciting for me and you need to pace you performance so you really can do justice to all the big passions, trials and shifts she goes through. It has been such a privilege to play such a big journey. I have learnt a lot playing Beth and her character has probably pushed me further than anything I have done before as so much happens to her. I am almost speechless when I think about what she goes through. In each episode it was like playing a different character. I loved making the transition to America and that section of her story in the Indian camp.
Beth and Abe share a very romantic love story. What was it like playing opposite Jamie Dornan?
One of Jamie’s brilliant traits is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He takes the job seriously but he made being on set so much fun and between heartbreaking scenes we could goof around which was really easy. We became great friends, which I think really helped us play Beth and Abe are not only in love but also see each other as comrades and support each other. And he is gorgeous which helps as well!
New Worlds was shot around Bristol so a return to Skins stomping ground for you and Joe Dempsie. How did that feel?
I was a crazy, huge fan of Skins before I was in it. Me and my brother always watched it and Chris (played by Joe Dempsie) was always my favourite character and when I was 14 when Skins started I used to think I would just die and be totally speechless if I got to meet any Skins actor but especially Joe in the flesh. That really makes me laugh now. I would love to tell my 14 year old self that I would work with him – even with his wig!! In fact I grew to prefer all the men in their wigs and there was something about those leather trousers! While totally different it has been funny having so many Skins links in this drama not only with Joe but with the director Charles Martin and I think it will have the grit and intensity of emotion that young people loved about Skins.
You are living in Paris at the moment. How does that work?
It was a childhood dream I just felt honor bound to try to fulfill and I am loving it. I am bilingual so I am really inspired by actresses who are able to have a duel European career like Kirsten Scott Thomas or Tilda Swinton. To me that would be the ultimate achievement and it is beginning to happen as I am starting to get work in France. Equally having been raised as a proud Scottish gal it was amazing to sing those Proclaimers songs which are like anthems in Scotland and to be proudly showing the beauty of Edinburgh so I am feeling pretty lucky right now.
New Worlds will broadcast on Tuesday 1st April, 9pm, Channel 4.