Alexandra Roach

Alexandra Roach

One Chance has hit the big screen today and sees Alexandra Roach team up with James Corden as Paul and Jules Potts, in a film that looks at Paul’s struggle to pursue an opera career.

We caught up with the actress to chat about the film, what drew here to the role and what lies ahead for her.  

- You are back on the big screen this week with new British comedy One Chance, so can you tell me a little bit about it?

I play Paul Potts’ wife, Jules Potts in the film. It is essentially a story about a boy growing up in Wales who doesn’t have much confidence, isn’t really understood by people and is bullied. He has a passion for opera that no one understands, until he meets this girl: she understands him completely and become his confidence and tries to get him to achieve his goal and his dream.

They hit so many barriers and set-backs along the way, but she picks him up and pushes back up on that stage. We all know how the story ends: our film ends with him winning Britain’s Got Talent. Essentially the journey of how he gets there.

- You take on the role of Julie-Ann in the film so what was it about this script and this character that made you want to get involved?

As soon I head that they were making a film about Paul Potts I was a bit sceptical, I didn’t know his story. Then I got sent the script and as soon as I read it, it was so heart-lifting and a story of the underdog and a boy wanting to achieve something that is so far-fetched.

We all know that he did get there and he has achieved that, but the journey of how he gets there is really funny along the way. It is your classic British rom-com.

-  You have touched on my next question really. When people hear that it is a film about Paul Potts, they may think it is just a film about a reality TV star. It is so much more than that. What were your first thoughts and how did your opinions change as you read the script?

When I did hear that they were doing it I was sceptical and I didn’t really understand why they were doing it. I read the first couple of pages of the script… maybe it is because I am Welsh but I understood the humour and I understood where he came from and that world: it is very much like where I came from.

 I guess, in my own life I have had knock-backs and things along the way that haven’t made it easy and so I empathised with his journey. It is a lovely, heart-warming, funny story and I think people will be surprised by that.

- Can you talk a bit about the character of Julie and how we are going to see her develop throughout the film? She is very much the rock for Paul.

They spoke for about a year online before meeting: they meet in a train station in Swansea. From that moment they completely fall for each other and there is a deep understanding of what kind of people that are. They just really really get on. As soon as I read that scene in the script, I knew that I wanted to play that part.

She is like a saint and she has such grace about her and she picks him up whenever he falls down and pushes back up on stage. She has such patience as well: more patience than I ever have. So it was really great to play someone who brings out all of the best qualities in you.

- Did you manage to spend some time with Jules Potts as you were preparing for this role?

I spent time with her when we were filming: she and Paul came on set and James and I spent some time with them. When you see them in real life it is exactly how we are trying to portray them as they are so in love. It is lovely to see that. I didn’t get to meet her before filming as I was on something else.

I did a lot of online stalking, if I am being honest. I found her on Twitter – she didn’t add me back: she has now as we are friends. I have played quite a few real life people before but I have never been able to add them on Twitter. I can see what makes her laugh and look at the photos that she posts, so that enabled me to get to know her on a whole new level.

- What sort of pressure comes with playing a real character – not to mention one who is still alive?

I have had that before when I played Margaret Thatcher, but it was completely different. I guess I had more artistic license than James did: I wasn’t playing the famous one in the relationship. No one really knows about Jules, and so I didn’t feel any pressure: if anything I felt quite liberated playing her.

- The relationship between Paul and Julie is a key theme to this film, so how did you find working with James Corden as you worked on pushing this relationship forward?

I met James for the first time in New York during the audition process: I had put myself on tape and then Harvey Weinstein had said that he wanted me and James to meet and have a chemistry test: it’s like having a first date but with lots of people watching you to see if you really get on. We did: in fact, I got on with him so well that I actually forgot that I was in an audition. I think it was apparent to everyone that we would get on. We had such a ball filming this movie.

I went home to Swansea for two weeks of filming and so I was able to show all the cast my home and take them to some really cool places. I learnt so much from working with Julie Walters: she is just an icon of mine. Just to be able to sit and watch her work and ask her questions about her career. I had a great time doing this film.

- David Frankel is in the director’s chair and he has been behind some fantastic comedy movies over the years. So how did you find working with him? And what kind of director is he?

He is so calm. He runs a very tight ship, and yet he is so calm and so approachable. He had a lot of trust in me and James: the heart of the film is the relationship and that really does carry the film along. Every day we would film and James and I would start improvising: lots of it has made the cut so it can’t have been that bad.

He did have trust in us to do that and took a step back, but he was there when we needed help. I have never met such a calm and intelligent man in my home life. He understands humans on a whole new level: he gets human beings and he gets human relationships and he brings them to life so beautifully on screen.

- I was actually going to ask you how much improve was on this film and how comfortable you were with that?

I love all of that, I really enjoy it. It was great to be able to work with someone like James because he was so quick and so witty; you have to join him on that level. It felt like a very free set in order to try new things and to improv our way through.

If a scene wasn’t working myself and James would go off and be like ‘how do we make this better?’ We would work through stuff before coming back to the set: David would always let us do our thing. 

- One Chance is a film that is funny as well as quite moving, so how challenging was it for you as an actor to find the balance between these two aspects of the script?

When I read it I could see that there were lots of different tones that I needed to hit during the filming. There is a lot of comedy there and that is what I honed in on. I have a best friend who has a lot of the qualities of Jules, she if funny, charming, and bold and strong when she needs to be and I just needed to bring all of those qualities in.

There are times in the film where it is really funny, but there are also times when they are really struggling for money and he has been injured, yet again, and you just go to places in your own life when it hasn’t all been easy: we have all had those moments. I think that is where audiences will empathise with the film as it is the underdog story. 

- The movie is hitting the big screen this week so have you been able to gauge any early response to the film?

It is quite difficult. I saw the film for the first time by myself – so I wasn’t able to gauge anything except my mixed up emotions. I watched it again at the premiere in London, where everyone is dressed up and all jolly to see it.

On Friday I think I am going to go to the cinema and just sneak in the back and gauge everyone’s reaction to it: what those people think of it is what interests me as that is who we have made this film for.

- Throughout your career you have moved between TV and film, so how do those mediums compare? And where does your heart truly lie?

That is quite tricky. I love working on TV because we have less money and you don’t have as much time to pour over a scene: you have to work on your instinct a bit more and on the front foot. With film there is more money and, because of that, there is more time for you to find your feet in a scene. There is not much different between the both of them except the time aspect.

Growing up I worked in TV and that has given me the quickness: I think I can work fast now when it comes to learning lines and everything that I want to hit in scenes. In film you can relax into it a bit more and so you feel less pressure and less stress (laughs).

- Finally, what is next for you?

I have done a thriller called The Thirteenth Tale with Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Coleman, and that will be on the BBC at Christmas, I think. I saw a bit of that last week and that looks really scary and really different to anything that I have done before. 

At the minute I am filming in Leeds for a couple of months as I am filming the second season of Utopia, which will be on your screens early next year.

One Chance is out now. 

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