Your new movie Muscle
- in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your
character in it?
about a woman who cares for her sick husband. One day she
decides to drive upstate to a country bar to seek out
some unanswered questions. I play the lead, Amanda, who is
trying to make sense of why sheís doing what sheís doing.
Itís a complex, layered drama with a twist.
What did you draw upon to bring your
character to life, and how much of Fiona Graham can we find in Amanda? And
to what extent can you identify with the situation Amanda finds herself
take character development very seriously. Its work that involves finding
the essence a character, and what motivates her. It's a long, careful
process, but one I embark on with joy. Luckily, for Muscle, I
was able to spend a lot of time during pre production with my acting coach
and the director, Heidi Miami Marshall, exploring the aspects of Amanda
that dwell inside me and creating the aspects that donít. I have never
been in Amandaís shoes, but I have experienced betrayal and loss. And
I do feel that itís the actor's responsibility to share their humanity
in character, so I hope that came across.
How did you get involved with the project in the
and I had wanted to work together for some time, ever since I auditioned
for her a few years back when we just hit it off. When I asked the
brilliant Tom Wilton to write me a screenplay, Muscle
born, and Heidi and I spent a year analyzing and developing the script.
How did you end up on the production sice
of Muscle as well, and
what were the challenges from a producer's side of view?
think itís important for woman in the industry to forge their own brand
and create their own roles with the stories they want to tell. Muscle
a story I wanted to tell, so I was motivated to get the movie made and
took matters into my own hands. In this case, that meant stepping up
as one of the producers, something I have experience with, having
previously created film and theatre in London. However, this
time, with Muscle,
I was working alongside two other talented producers, Tom Wilton and
Johnny Sanchez enabling me to step back a week before production
to concentrate on character work.
of the executive producers of Muscle
is legendary Frank Oz - now how did he get involved with the project, and
what was working with him like?
simply, he is a friend of Heidiís; he has mentored her over the
years. When he saw Muscle, he
wanted to support it. Lucky us! We were thrilled!
Do talk about your
director Heidi Miami Marshall, and what was your collaboration like?
is a bold and courageous director and now a dear friend. We
spent almost a year picking apart the script and analyzing it.
Heidi was paramount to the development of Amanda and her
emotional journey, which was something we discovered together. I
loved working Heidi and hope to do so again and again.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shoot was smooth, easy, and full of joy. We picked a team that we
mostly knew and had, in one way or another, worked with before. We
rented a massive house for all crew and cast out in the woods upstate New
York, which was a lot of fun, and over three days, we got the film in the
can. It was hard work, yet fluid, and focused. I have
subsequently worked with most of the crew again on another
(a super slick little short), and will again in the future. We are like
you can tell us about critical and audience reception of Muscle
its world premiere at Greenwich International Film Festival in June 2016
and in the same weekend plays its NY premier at The Soho International
Film Festival. We have several other festivals globally, in which we are
selected for competition. I can't announce them yet, but itís
thrilling to see Muscle
received with such love. Iím delighted and honored!
Any future projects you'd like to share?
will be playing the lead in three features this year, one alongside Ryan
Donowho (The O.C.), one written by Stephen Fetcher (The Woodman with Kevin
Bacon) and a horror (my first)! Iím also currently in rehearsals
for a play going to Broadway, so I am thrilled and excited to be part of
these projects. This is a busy time busy with good stuff. I feel very
got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
Itís just something I did from
an early age. I would gather all the kids on the street and create
stories, make scenery out of cardboard, put myself in the lead role,
rehearse and then make all the parents watch. I was quite bossy!
Then as a teenager I joined an organized drama group and started
planning how I could move to London and get formally trained. I
havenít stopped taking classes since, I think, as actors, we have
to push our boundaries, expand our training, knowledge, references and
work with as many coaches and disciplines as possible. It keeps us
open, courageous and creative.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Muscle?
started with a master class in film making and acting, and it snowballed
into the rest of my career. I had the opportunity to work with
a BAFTA nominated director, Dan Hartley, in London in making the film Flea.
It was a thrill and a huge learning curve. Dan was a fantastic and
experienced director who taught me to enjoy each creative adventure and
stay open. Subsequently, each film since has been an adventure, a learning
experience, a trip! I loved working on Flea;
I felt that Dan understood my sensibilities from the get go, which then
set a tone for future work on my part: the fragile woman with strength.
From that smart start, I have had the opportunity to work with
some amazing people.
late, you've increasingly stepped behind the camera as well - so why is
that, and what are you looking for in films you choose to produce?
to the USA was clearly the next step in my career, as was starting my own
production company. The indie market in the States is exploding; itís a
transformative time. I love collaboration; I value it highly, and I
enjoy working with both genders. However, statistically women have fewer
jobs in the film industry, yet women are half the population buying
tickets at the movie theaters. Iím passionate about telling stories from
the female experience, not just as the wife, the mother, the lover, but
from also from the myriad of other experiences women have. Itís not
necessarily about telling a woman's story, either, and certainly not
necessarily a womanís problem story. Itís about coming from the female
perspective, a human story that just so happens to be female led. I
am also keen to see more women working in the industry, both in front of
and behind the camera. So I have my work cut out as Hollywood
desperately needs a lot more female driven narrative, something Europe is
already very comfortable with. So Muscle is
part of my contribution to that.
films you've also done your fair share of theatre - so what can you tell
us about Fiona Graham, the stage actress, and how does performing on stage
compare to acting in front of a camera ... and which do you prefer, even?
just adore theatre. I love everything about it, from the way a play
is written to the process and discoveries during rehearsal ó a
luxury so rarely given in film. I love the ensemble and
play of connecting with other actors, the live, moment-to-moment action
that performance brings. Live theatre is like stepping off a
cliff edge; one never really knows what will happen, and it canít be controlled.
Itís an exercise in total trust and sheer commitment to the other
actors, the characters and our imaginations. Itís
magical. I think of camera acting and theatre acting as
different sports, both extreme sports but totally different.
Both disciplined in different ways. I love the
play of camera work and the option to give three takes in entirely
would you describe yourself as an actress, and some of your techniques to
bring your characters to life?
like to think that I share my whole heart. I definitely strive to do so
anyway. Iíd say Iím a committed, hard working, playful
actress who will step into the boxing ring with the best of them to
spar. I may be frightened, but I like the fear; I like being
challenged, and I like it when everything is spontaneous and
unpredictable. I do my research and find out: what was it like
during that era; what where the injustices; how did the culture affect the
character; and how is the story important? I expand my experience of the
human condition, getting into the mindset of the character, and asking:
whatís makes them tick?
Actresses (and indeed
actors) who inspire you?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Your favourite movies?
a hard question! It always depends on my mood and my purpose of turning a
film on. However, I love a good USA indie fix, unforgettable performances
like Blue Valentine,
The Wrestler, and I also indulge in European films, particular
French, Danish, Swedish and German. Recently I loved 45
Years. The pace and cinematography were stunning. Victoria,
again, cinematography truly brilliant, and all one take!
And Jack O Connellís performance in Starred
Up was mesmerizing.
and of course, films you really deplore?
I havenít got deplore, but, I have got a ďnot-my-favoriteĒ.
Sorry to say, I donít prefer Coen Brothers films. I know they are
genius! I see it! I just donít relate to their style or content. In an
all together different vein, I struggle to watch horror movies.
I donít like gore and jumping out of my seat! Iím not cool that
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
been such a pleasure to connect with you and do this interview! Thank
PS: I LOVE Search
for the interview ... and for the compliment!
Special thanks to Richard S Barnett,
founder of IIWYK!!!