Lenora Crichlow interview for Black Mirror
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In a relatively short space of time, Lenora Crichlow has played a fashion designer, a car crash victim, an auctioneer, a ghost and an Olympic athlete. But nothing prepared her for her latest role, in Channel 4's dystopian futuristic drama Black Mirror. Here, she reveals more...
You're in the new series of Black Mirror. You play Victoria. What's her story?
When we meet Victoria, we don't know her story, we're as confused as she is. She doesn't know who she is, or where she is, or how she got there. And we go on this journey with her which turns into quite an adventure - she's chased and tormented for the whole episode, while people appear to be watching her unmoved, and filming her on their phones, until we get to the end, when it becomes clear.
What was it like to film?
It was really interesting, because Carl, who directed it, often wouldn't let me block it out with other actors, so that when we were going through it on camera, it would be the first time I saw something, or walked along a certain path, so I wouldn't know what was coming next. It just helped add to the weirdness of it. It was the most unglamorous, weird, surreal shoot ever.
Was it quite exhausting to film, being on the run all the time, and not knowing what was going to happen next?
Yeah, it was very demanding. The hours that we filmed - it's always extreme in TV. We were up very early, and left very late, and then you just crash out and then you're up and on set again, so that's pretty hard work.
What was it that attracted you to the part?
Well, one, they offered me the job. That's usually a winner! But really and truly it was that I‘d watched the first series and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a really well-respected series within the industry; people were talking about it a lot. I read a different script and initially went in for a different episode, and I was absolutely in love with it. I was devastated when it didn't go my way. So I was really chuffed when they called me back in for this one. And I was attracted to the challenge. I read it and thought "This is going to be a nightmare to shoot! I'm in!" It keeps me on my toes. It's so different to what I've been doing before. Having left a series like Being Human, you want to be sure the next things you do move you on. You need to shake off the old ideas of who you are on TV. I couldn't have really got further away from Annie as a character than playing Victoria. It ticked all the boxes for me. And it was lovely to shoot in London as well - it rarely happens.
Was your role in Being Human the one that really changed everything for you?
Yeah, it's been a brilliant platform for me, and a very significant job in both my career and my personal life. I was in it for four years, and the actual shoot takes place for five or six months, and then you've got the press and the travel, so it ends up taking most of the year. It's been an amazing journey, and one that I've loved. And certainly it's been a training ground for me. I've been really blessed to work on a job like that.
Your first big role on TV was Sugar Rush - what did that mean to you?
It was the title character, so I suppose it was significant. It won awards and it was very mainstream, so yeah. It's hard to know what did what for me, because it's all part of the journey. If I didn't do Sugar Rush, where would I be? I have no idea, it's not really a question I can ponder for too long, because there is just no way of knowing. Everything I've done, I've been really blessed to do, and I've learned a hell of a lot. What I love about my job, and what also makes it so scary, is that there are no guarantees. You don't know, when you're on a job, how it will be received, so I try not to get too attached to the outcome and just enjoy the job. Anything else that happens is just the cherry on the top.
Fast Girls, in which you played a sprinter, was out earlier this year. Is it true that, to prepare for that, you trained with professional athletes?
We sure did! I would like to milk that for all that it's worth, but the truth is, the way they trained for the Olympics was probably not quite the same as the stuff we were doing. But it's all relative. I definitely got faster as a result of the training, but considering where I was coming from, it wasn't that hard.
Were you really doing the reported thousand sit-ups a day?
Yeah, we were doing that. You do them in sets of 50, but yeah, you get there.
How do you think you'd get on if you tried doing that now?
I think I'd be really disappointed. Having done it, and having achieved so much, physically, on that job, it's made getting back into the gym that much harder, because I have such high expectations of myself, as a result of what I was able to lift and do after all of that training. I've also been taught stuff that I can never unlearn, like efficient ways of using your time in the gym, knowing the best way to eat and train for maximum results quickly, what you need to do if you're looking for a bit more stamina. The really annoying thing is that knowledge doesn't burn calories, otherwise I'd be really ripped by now.
Your dad Frank was an activist and a leader among the black community in Notting Hill through some very volatile periods. What was it like growing up as his daughter?
It's really funny to think about it in that respect, because it was just my childhood. It's something I took for granted growing up, but now I have a huge appreciation for the political climate I grew up in. I was exposed to a lot of very passionate, influential, very highly educated people who were making and shaping the kind of London that I can live in today. That's such a gift. My father retired when I was quite young - he had us quite late - and I had a very, very hands-on dad, so I had the best of both worlds, I guess.
Do you ever think you'd be interested in making a film of the story of his life one day?
Oh my God yes. That's the dream. There's scripts and documentaries and writers, people have always been interested, but it's something where the timing would need to be right, in terms of me getting involved in that. My father passed away a few years ago, and there needed to be a bit of distance from all of that. But absolutely, I think it's a story that - selfishly - I want to tell because I'm so proud of my dad, but also because it's an important part of British history. It's a lot bigger than my dad, obviously, but there's a whole time and era that's so important, and I think it's definitely a story worth telling.