It’s been four years now since renowned model Agyness Deyn first made her acting bow – in the 2010 endeavour Clash of the Titans. Since then she’s been the female lead in thriller Pusher, to now take on her first leading role, in Bryn Higgins’ creative, and emotive drama, Electricity. Though still considered something of a newcomer, only now is the talented performer able to consider herself an ‘actress’.
“I’ve been doing it for four years now, and not modelled in that time,” she told us. “If I was asked what I do for a living, I’d say an actor – and now it feels like that. Having experience in movies and doing a play, I start thinking that I am an actor.
“I remember doing Pusher and though I was the lead female role, it wasn’t the lead – and at the end of that the director said something and referred to me as an actor, and it took me back – but then I thought, I guess I am.”
But for Deyn, acting is the profession she always felt she would end up in – despite achieving such success in the world of modelling. “I definitely knew I wanted to do something creative and to express myself, but I didn’t really know what and I felt like I was led to this. I started doing it and thought, wow, this is what I was supposed to be doing,” she said.
Deyn is not the only model-turned-actress either, following on from the likes of Cameron Diaz, Uma Thurman and Halle Berry. Having also seen the debut performances from Suki Waterhouse and Cara Delavigne in the past year or so, Deyn explains that the two industries can go hand in hand.
“Like acting you are creating a world, to some extent, when you’re modelling and you are have a camera in your face a lot, so you do feel comfortable with that, and comfortable having people look at you, a lot. When you do a shoot it’s just people looking at you the whole time.”
In Electricity, Deyn is given the opportunity to test herself, playing the challenging role of Lily; who suffers from epilepsy, and heads to London in a bid to find her long-lost brother. The 31-year-old, and wife of fellow actor Giovani Ribisi, tells us what it was about this character that appealed to her, and the research she had to undertake in the process.
“I liked it because it’s really from her perspective and what she experiences when having a seizure, which was fascinating, because I didn’t realise how kind of crazy, amazing and magical and dreamlike it must seem to somebody.
“I wanted to do so much work. Even after I started I was always finding new stuff out. I worked with a doctor, a specialist in London and watched video after video and he gave me documentaries and explained how epilepsy manifests, and how people feel on an emotional level. And also how people become unemotional towards it, it just becomes normal, like making a cup of tea. You have your routine; you start feeling it, you take off your jacket and put it on the floor, make sure you’re in a safe place. You go down and hope for the best, then get up and get on with it – because what else are you supposed to do? You’ve just got to go with it. I also met people with epilepsy to explain and help me portray it as real as possible.”
During this research, Deyn admits she was inspired by those she met, and their attitude towards their disorder. “They’re such strong people and they experience the world in this way that is really cool,” she explained. “They’re experiencing something that we’re not and I think that’s what I found from the documentaries is people who were offered the operation to take it away, with the chance of being normal, they were like ‘no thanks – I don’t want to be, this is me’.”
Talking of inspiration, Deyn’s next project is Sunset Song, a picture by British director Terence Davies, where she again takes the lead. She told us what it was like working with such a venerable filmmaker.
“It was just great to be inspired by somebody, and have them believe you can do it – and Terence is such a gentleman as well. He’s so classy in everything that he does. In scenes with a lot of extras, he would go round and say thank you to every single person. Who does that?”
As we anticipate that next project, we wanted to know if Deyn now sees her future predominantly in acting – and whether she may again return to modelling one day.
“For now I just want to make movies. I really want to make movies. But there’s such a crossover, a lot of actors model, so you can never say never to anything.”