Bottomley discusses the delight in performing in a female-driven piece, telling us of her own experiences as a woman in cinema, and how the industry has changed across the past decade in that regard. She also talks about working alongside her close friend Maxine Peake, and tells us a little about her next project, In the Club.
Having been lucky enough to be on set for Keeping Rosy, I’ve spent the past few months desperately waiting to see how the final production would end up – putting me in the shoes of an actor. Is that what’s it like for you? Can it be a nervous time between shooting a movie, and then seeing the finished product?
It can be a tentative, certainly, but as an actor you just have to be able to give it away really, you have to give it over and move on to the next project. You soon learn that once you’ve left the set, and you’ve done your bit, it’s in the hands of other people. It’s a tricky thing to get to grips with at first, but you just have to have that faith, in the same way they have faith in you while filming it, it’s out of your control. I’ve learnt to let that anxiety go now.
Has there ever been a time when you’ve shot something and then what you’ve eventually seen has been vastly different to what you had envisaged?
The Arbor was a difficult one to judge, as you were never sure if it was a documentary, or an out and out feature, but that was an exciting wait, because it was a film made by the artist Clio Barnard and so it wasn’t tentatively waiting, but we didn’t have any idea what it would be like – but we had full, massively genuine trust in her, and because we didn’t know what we were expecting, it was a real surprise to see it really.
Keeping Rosy is a very female driven piece, not just given the lead casting, but the maternal themes explored – is that encouraging to know that films like this do exist, and there are filmmakers who are creating roles like this for actresses?
Oh yeah definitely. It’s glorious to read a script with two decent female roles in it. Two women that, both have their flaws and are well-rounded. We’ve had a good year for women, people are realising that women, as they get older, are interesting. I love watching pieces where I see a female on screen that’s 55 and has lived a lot of her live and has a lot to give, I think we’re getting that now really, there is space for more female parts and more female stories coming to the forefront. But, we’ve still got a way to go, but hopefully more and more parts like this will come to light and we can see women of all ages on screen. Because I want to keep working! I want to be working when I’m 55 and it not just be the wife of somebody, you know. Hopefully it continues to get better.
You’ve been in the industry now over a decade – have you noticed the change in that time? Has there been a rise in stronger, female characters during those years?
I’ve encountered in the last few years, a lot more women in all sorts of capacities, you know, female producers, female writers, and it’s encouraging, very encouraging. There are young women now who feel it’s a place they can write, and take risks in their writing and that’s good. I haven’t experienced a great deal of sexism in the workplace at all, but if you speak to older actresses, I think it was so prominent, and that thankfully is something you very rarely encounter now – it’s incredibly rare.
One of the actresses at the forefront of the rise is strong, female leads, is Maxine Peake. You remind me of her in the eclectic range of projects you undertake – is she something of an inspiration in that regard? Daniel Radcliffe once said that before taking on roles he asks, “What would Michael Fassbender do?” – has Maxine got a similar reputation amongst actresses?
Maxine is actually a very good friend of mine, and she was prior to me making the film, I’ve worked with her a lot. She’s absolutely wonderful and if I ever need advice I will ring Maxine. She’s always there as a mate, and somebody that’s a bit of a guiding light really. I have massive respect for her as a friend and as an artist, I think she’s brilliant and brave. So yeah, younger people coming up through drama school, particularly in the North, can really look to her, because has done such diverse projects and she’s brave and that’s brilliant. Peakey for Prime Minister, I say. No seriously, she’s politically brilliant as well!
I’d vote for her. Anyway, considering she was a friend before the project, and nearly every scene you do is just with her – it must have made for a quite intimate, collaborative project? I know it’s a cliché to say that this film was such a passion project, but having been on set, it did really seem to be.
Yeah it really was. It felt very collaborative, and the writer Mike and director Steve, they were really, really approachable. There were no egos on set, Maxine is glorious to work with, and Blake I think challenges his Inbetweeners persona so much, and it was lovely to see him. He was an actor who was very excited about the challenge, he was playing somebody who is the polar opposite to what he’s well known for. So we had a giggle, but it was a focused set, we wanted to get it right. It was filmed in London and I live here, so I could go from home, knowing I was on the way to see a really good mate of mine, and to work with people who I admired – so it was a passion project, everybody wanted to be there, they really, really did. It was a happy shoot, it really was.
Do you enjoy shooting in London, or do you prefer being out on location?
It depends on the piece, it really does. It’s always nice to get home, but I remember when we shot Hush, which was a thriller, over six weeks and we lived in Sheffield and it was all nights on this film, and by the end of the film it was claustrophobic, but it really helped on the film. It was useful. So you make what you can out of the circumstances. It’s nice to go home, but it’s also nice to be out on location – it can really help.
You mentioned before about Mike Oughton being on set – and he certainly was the day I was there – was he around often? And is that quite common, to have the writer involved directly with the shoot – and can it be helpful having them around?
They can do, and with Mike it was really good to have him around. He was so encouraging and really helpful. If you have a problem with anything, he was able to help and assist you. He was around a lot, but that’s because he was excited to see it all coming together and that his film is being made, which I can understand. It’s hard to get a film made, so it’s such a massive achievement that he took time off out of his advertising job and didn’t want to miss a second, and I understand that.
Have you been interested in one day working behind the camera yourself one day?
I think actors do think of it, but I don’t know, for the moment I like having some direction and I don’t know if I could take those two steps back and look at something in that different way. Maxine would be a good director. I know she’s done a bit before, but yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see.
You’ve done a lot of TV in your career too, and have moved between that and film effortlessly. These days the line between the two mediums is so blurred – at the moment, are there more opportunities actors such as yourself, in that you don’t get TV actors and then film actors these days, it’s all much of the same thing.
Yeah, and I think that’s brilliant and a very mature outlook on our industry. When you get a classy piece of television, it can challenge a really good film. I think I’ve been lucky to jump between the two and I’m proud of the body of work I’ve done in both. Maybe it’s actually quite rare in our country to be able to do that, I don’t know how it works in Europe. Like, if you’re a French film star, do you do French telly, or vice versa? But I think we get it here, it’s just about doing the best work in all sorts of fields. Like theatre, I’m a massive fan of doing that every few years to keep that piece of me going as well. So yeah we’re good in our country right now, I don’t think there’s that snobbery where you can either do one or the other, which is good.
Talking of TV projects – In the Club is coming up soon, can you tell us a little bit about that, and who you’re playing?
Of course. I play Vicky, and she’s an NHS midwife and she helps all the women that come to this specific parents group and pushes their stories along. It turns out she’s actually expecting a baby herself, so the challenge for this role, is playing somebody who is a consummate professional, she’s a brilliant midwife, but when she finds out that she is about to be a mother, she finds it really scary and it puts her professional role up in the air and she runs with her gut feelings and the fear of becoming a new mum. It’s written by Kay Mellor, who is a respected writer and really writes from the heart, and again, writes very well for women. It’s all about expectant mothers who are all terrified by the propect.
When can we expect that one?
I believe it’s around September time, so it’s out of the way, get the World Cup done, we can enjoy that, and then the new batch of programmes come out.
So finally, what else have you got lined up? Are you working on anything at the moment?
I do. I just finished Cucumber, which is by Russell T. Davies, and is like Queer as Folk ten years on. It’s going to be very good I think, he’s a bloody brilliant writer. Then a couple of other things, but I’m not allowed to say because my agent will shout at me! But I’m always touching wood – so far it’s been a good run of it. Hopefully that will continue on for a bit.
Keeping Rosy is released on June 27th.