Dakota Blue Richards returns to the big screen this week as she teams up with Catherine McCormack and Marina Stoimenova for The Fold: which marks the directorial debut for John Jencks.
We caught up with the actress to chat about the project, working with the experienced McCormack and what lies ahead.
- You are about to star in new film The Fold, so can you tell me a little bit about it?
It is set in Cornwall: on the Cornish coast. It is about Rebecca, who is an Anglican priest, who is taking her daughter to live in Cornwall. It is really her trying to escape what has happened to them, and make a new start with new surroundings and new people. They are both grieving the loss of the other daughter. It is very sad; it is a study of grief and how it makes us behave in strange ways.
When a mother is grieving a child, which is one of the worst things that can happen to you, but in this situation, she really tries to replace her daughter and find someone who can fill that gap. You realise over the course of the film, that that is not a very healthy relationship that she is building.
- You take on the role of Eloise Ashton in the film, so what was it about this character and Poppy Cogan's script that appealed to you?
Before doing this I had just been doing Skins - I had literally just finished when I was reading The Fold - and I felt that The Skins got so dark towards the end and the characters were quite screwed up. What is so nice about Eloise is she is not screwed up at all.
Yes, bad things have happened in her life, she is grieving, she is unhappy and her relationship with her parents is in a difficult place, but she remains very grounded and very sweet and her outlook on the world doesn’t change. It was very refreshing for me, to play a character who wanted to stay at home and play Scrabble with her mum, instead of wanting to go out and take drugs all of the time.
The contrast was something that really drew me in. Also, she is just so sweet and so caring, and I liked that what is actually quite a dark story, Eloise shines as this beacon of hope; which is something that Rebecca cannot see.
- This film focuses on three very strong central women, and I wondered how much that as a draw for you when you read the script?
That definitely was a factor in my wanting to do it. Like you say, it is so rare; the only times that you see a very strong female character or an ensemble of female leads is usually in chick flicks; that says something about the way women are portrayed anyway.
What is so nice about this is that there are not only three quite central female characters, but there are many women in the film in supporting roles. At no point are any of those characters there simply to relate to men; so often, even when they are strong female characters, they are in there as a love interest.
While there are romantic relationships, it is not about that all; it is really about the relationships between the women and how they interact with each other. Therefore, that was really quite striking about the script, and that really drew me in.
- The movie sees you star alongside Catherine McCormack and Marina Stoimenova, so how did you find working alongside them?
It was very different. They both brought something very different to the film. Catherine is very experienced and has been doing this for a long time and she has a real skill about what she does. She is incredibly natural, without being boring.
I think, when people come across as realistic, it means that there’s not much edge to the character, but she find the balance perfectly. I think the fact that her character is a real person really does make the film work. She is a real woman who is grieving a real loss, and I think that makes her incredibly relatable; that is one of the most important things when creating a character.
It was incredible to watch her work and feed off what she was doing. I felt like it really helped me build that relationship between Eloise and Rebecca.
Although I didn’t have many scenes with Marina, but we did get along really well. I didn’t know what to expect because she was a first time actress. Because I wasn’t around for most of the scenes that they did, I watched it as though I was an audience member; I had no pre-conceptions about her character or her acting style.
And you would never have known that that was her first role, both in the way that she played it; again, she was very natural and it came to her really easily. Also, her attitude on set, she was a complete professional and took everything in her stride. It was really inspiring to see someone able to do that on their first time, it is a really good feeling to be working with people like that.
- You have slightly touched on my next question. Eloise has a very complex relationship with her mother. So can you talk a bit about developing that onscreen relationship with Catherine McCormack?
That was one of things that I found really difficult. I am in a similar situation, Eloise does have a father, but he is not in the story that much; I am from a single mother/single child family. I am very close to my mum and I have never had that distance and that feeling of estrangement, which is present in The Fold.
That was something that I had to think about and try not to get too friendly within the scenes and too comfortable. They do feel separated and their grief really has pushed them apart, which is sad. It is so clear to the audience, that if their grief had brought them together they might be in a much better place.
I just tried to draw on the elements of my own relationship with my mother, which I could relate to Eloise. There are times when you feel that the people around you don’t quite understand you, and you feel that you are not connecting with anyone. It was really those moments - and there are not too many of them thankfully - that I tried to put into the character’s relationship.
- John Jencks makes his feature film directorial debut with this film, so how did you find working with him? And what kind of director is he?
I really liked working with John. Firstly, John is a really lovely guy. I have always said that I am up for working with first time directors because they have this enthusiasm for what they are doing. It was clear that he was so passionate about this project and he really wanted to make it as well as he possibly could. He was really thoughtful.
It is nice to work with directors that give you a lot of direction; he was very clear about what he wanted and he really knew where he wanted to take the characters and the story. That was really helpful - it is always good to have a director who has a very clear vision; that was evident from the first audition as he gave a lot of notes and feedback.
Equally, he is able to listen to other people’s ideas. If I came into rehearsals and said ‘I thought it was like this’ then he would take that on board, think about it and come back and give me something that was more formed that worked for both of us. It was a good creative process.
- We are also going to be seeing you in The Quiet Hour this year, so can you tell me a bit about that?
The Quiet Hour is a sci-fi/drama/thriller, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world where aliens have taken over everything. What is really nice about it, is while it is a sci-fi/alien film, it is not about the aliens at all; it is really about the people that have been left behind and what people in desperate situations will do to survive.
The story circles around brother and sister Tom & Sarah, living in this farmhouse in a remote area. They are faced with a decision - to surrender and probably die or to fight back and probably die (laughs). There options aren’t great. It is really about Sarah fighting to protect her home and to protect her family.
- So far you career has seen you work in TV, blockbuster film and now British Independent film - how do all these different mediums compare?
The thing I have always thought is most important when choosing a role, is how I relate to the character and if I am really passionate the project and like the story. The medium that it is conveyed through has never been a deciding factor in how I choose my roles; it means that I have been able to do a real variety of things.
They are all very different processes; film is much slower and you have more time to really think about each scene and really develop the character, plot points and the relationships between people. Whereas TV is much quicker and you have to have a lot more done in a much shorter space of time. That means that you have to think on your feet a lot and be quite impulsive in your character decisions; again, that is nice as it leads to very different outcomes.
It is nice to experience both ways of working, because it means that I am better prepared for any role that I happen to get in the future and I can incorporate both of those creative styles into what I am doing.
Overall, I prefer working in film, because you have the whole story right from the beginning and you can see the whole journey that your character is going to make. Quite often in TV, the scripts will develop as you are filming; sometimes on Skins we wouldn’t get the scripts until we were about to film them. That is quite difficult sometimes if you are faced with that challenge.
- Are there any particular directors that you are keen to work with?
There are loads. I could list the names, but you will have heard them all before; it is the same names that everyone wants to work with. It is because they are great and everyone knows them.
I would like to work with more female directors; The Quiet Hour was directed by Stephanie Joalland. There were a couple on Skins and Dustbin Baby as well. It is a very different process, especially if you are playing quite a complex female character; it is nice to have another woman’s insight on that. I believe that men and women are different, we grow up with very different experiences of the world and we do think and see things in different ways.
Since I am a girl and I, most likely, will always be playing female roles, it is nice to have female insight and female ideas to bounce off of. I would like to work with more women directors and it is a shame that there are not more of them.
- Finally, what's next for you?
It is always a very difficult question to answer. I am really excited about the release of The Fold, I have seen it already but I am looking forward to how everyone reacts to it and what people think of it. The Quiet Hour is coming out soon, and I also have a short film that I finished quite recently called Girl Power.
Again, I am looking forward to seeing those two as I have not seen them at all. I am busy meeting people and reading bits and pieces all of the time. There are a few quite collaborative projects that I am working on with a couple of my friends.
It is really nice to take quite a different role in the creation of a project, and to be quite involved with the ideas behind the story, rather than just taking a script and working from there. They are all quite early days and I am looking forward to getting properly stuck in on those.
The Fold is released into cinemas 28th March and simultaneously released online on Video On Demand including itunes and Virgin.