September 21,2014
Tania   /   0 Comments   /   Holliday   Interview

Holliday Grainger is not, repeat not, posh. But she is also well aware that there might be a perception problem here.

‘I think a lot of people assume that I am a posh, public-school blonde, and a lot of people are shocked that I’m not.’

The assumption, she admits, is forgivable. First there’s her name, like something straight out of an F Scott Fitzgerald novel (her parents were just playing word association with Mollie and Billie, she says). Then there’s her recent career, where she has shone in an array of well-heeled roles, many of them with her brown hair dyed a regal blonde, playing every shade of aristo from Lucrezia Borgia in the TV series The Borgias, to a baroness in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina and Estella in Mike Newell’s Great Expectations. Not to mention Lady Chatterley, the role she starts filming next month (opposite Game of Thrones’s Richard Madden as her gamekeeper-lover Mellors), in the new Jed Mercurio-directed adaptation of the D H Lawrence classic, to be screened on BBC One next year.

Her latest role in Lone Scherfig’s film adaptation of Laura Wade’s award-winning stage play Posh, now called The Riot Club, might also suggest a degree of la-di-da-ness. Except that in The Riot Club, for once, her character is the working-class heroine.

The film charts the course of one anarchic evening gone bad for a crop of filthy rich, entitled and thoroughly spoilt students at an Oxford University dining club – evidently The Riot Club is based on the Bullingdon Club, the exclusive all-male society at Oxford notorious both for its illustrious former members, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson, and also for their heavy drinking and sometimes dreadful behaviour.

The film boasts some illustrious names from the cream of young British acting talent – Douglas Booth, Freddie Fox, The Hunger Games’s Sam Claflin, Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay and Game of Thrones’s Natalie Dormer. Holliday’s Lauren is the chalk to the braying poshos’ cheese, a grounded Northern girl who falls in love with new recruit Miles (Max Irons) and tries to steer him away from the club. Lauren was a character created especially for the film, and it’s hard to imagine that Laura Wade didn’t have Holliday Grainger in mind, so striking are the parallels.

‘I do see a lot of me in Lauren, actually. She’s a Northern girl, not posh, who is obviously very intelligent and quite socialist in her views. She has got into Magdalen College along with the boys. I think of her as representing the modern Oxford, Oxford as it is now – except the truth is that there are still elements of The Riot Club at Oxford even today. Some of the male actors did their research and chatted to people, and it actually sounds as though what goes on in this movie is quite tame compared to what happens in real life.’

Holliday has been acting since childhood, in a string of roles from the BBC’s 1994 comedy All Quiet on the Preston Front (when she was six), via Where the Heart Is and on to Waterloo Road, before her big break in The Borgias. But in all that time, Lauren, she says, is ‘the only character I haven’t had to research. She’s the only one that I wasn’t nervous about because, basically, she’s me.’

Not only is Holliday from Manchester, smart and engaging, but she applied to Oxford herself – and to Magdalen College. ‘I went for four days of interviews at Magdalen. I didn’t know it was the most oversubscribed college. I just basically chose it because it looked pretty and had wi-fi. I arrived at the interviews and I was the only Northern girl there.’

What she also didn’t know was that Magdalen has a reputation. ‘It’s the very posh, old-school college. I was shocked when I arrived at how “other” I felt. I was always sort of the posh one at my local comprehensive [her mother, who raised her, was a graphic designer] and so I had never experienced feeling so working class and Northern – even though I’m not!
‘After a couple of days at the interviews, some jokes started to go round about the “two Northerners”, which was me and this guy from Birmingham. I was, like, “Mate, Birmingham’s not even in the North.” But I’m not sure they were too bothered about the geography.

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September 19,2014
Tania   /   0 Comments   /   Interview   Posh   video

September 18,2014
Tania   /   0 Comments   /   Holliday   Interview   Posh   video

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September 17,2014

September 17,2014
Tania   /   0 Comments   /   Holliday   Interview

Congratulations, you’re one of the most likeable characters in The Riot Club.

Yeah, mind you, I don’t think it’s that hard. There was a scene in a pub that was a hard scene to shoot. We tried to find the point when it turns from a bunch of guys being bloody rude to her feeling quite sexually threatened.

What do you think is the message of the film?

I think it’s about social injustice. What these boys do is almost forgivable when you look at them as just young lads who have taken a lot of alcohol and drugs, and things spiral out of control. But it’s what they do mixed with their political viewpoint. That’s what’s quite scary, when you think that this is a privileged class of boys pushing each other into positions of power. If they’re in the position of ruling an entire country, how are they going to have empathy with a different class?

Have you ever been a member of a club?

I was a temporary member of a private members’ club when I was at the Donmar Warehouse for a few months and I’m a gym club member. How boring!

Do you go to the gym a lot?

I never bloody go! It’s a complete waste of money! I used to go swimming before school. I was disgustingly motivated back then but for the last year, I haven’t actually used it. I enjoy jogging. I’ve got quite addicted to jogging.

Any other addictions?

Not that I can tell you about, darling!

Did you hang out with the boys during the shoot?

Not really. It was necessary for them to feel a sense of camaraderie. They’d be chatting in the back of the car about what they were doing at the weekend and they were like: ‘Oh, do you want to come?’ And it’s like: ‘It’s OK, guys, this is some process you need to go through as a group for this movie.’ But bless them, it worked. They’re a group of peers who all probably go up for the same parts but there was no sense of testosterone or competition. They could not be more polar opposites from the guys they were playing, they are so sensitive, they’re lovely.

How was working with Max Irons?

Max is lovely, we got on really well and we work well together.

You have great chemistry with him in the film.

It’s not hard. You just have to have rather sparkly eyes!

When did you last laugh really hard?

I laughed so hard my belly hurt after a whole day of press. I couldn’t formulate my words over the phone to my mate, the phone call just descended into ten minutes of me going BLLLLWWWW! [blows a raspberry] and for some reason it’s that very childish toilet humour – literally talking s***. It’s like your tongue needs a warm down, it sends you slightly psychotic when you’ve been on the same thing all day so hysteria comes out.

What do you get up to when you go out with your mates?

Usually it involves going out for dinner and going back to someone’s house and sitting on the floor drinking wine, listening to music, more wine and no one ever sits on the sofa.

What gets you excited?

When I’ve not had a day off for ages and I wake up and have that sort of anxious feeling of what time is it? What am I doing? Oh, nothing! [cackles]. And seeing my mum when I haven’t seen her for a while. Also starting a job that you’ve prepared for so you know you can just dive right in.

What gets your goat?

My mate and I were walking down the street and some guy followed us on a bike, being quite weirdly sexually threatening. Then some guy shouted at us out of a van, then another one shouted at us down the road and what did we get called? A slut, or a bitch, for not turning round. You forget that exists, then something like that happens and you think: how is that possible? Are you not embarrassed with yourself for doing that?

What’s coming up work wise?

I’ve got Cinderella, I’ve got Tulip Fever, it’s about love, lust and desire, set against the backdrop of the tulip trade. Then I’m doing Lady Chatterley’s Lover and a film called The Finest Hours about coastguards.

You sounds busy – nicely busy or manic busy?

Yes, nicely busy until you look at your schedule. People are like: ‘Are you going to book that horse riding lesson in?’ Literally, I’ve just been in Toronto, give me a minute! For the first time ever, I thought: how much is a PA?

Did you hire one?

Nah, I’ll go on to my phone’s calendar.

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September 10,2014

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June 19,2014
Tania   /   0 Comments   /   Interview   media   Posh   video

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But don’t get too used to seeing Holliday in a corset just yet. “People always ask me if I worry about being typecast, but I think you only get typecast if people can’t imagine you outside of that role,” she says.

And with her next role, as feisty Northerner Lauren in the film adaptation of Posh, just around the corner, it looks like we won’t be waiting long for Holliday’s next move. “Lauren is the character who reflects my own personality most accurately. So it’ll probably be my worst role yet,” she laughs. Somehow we doubt that.

IN THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS YOU’VE BECOME KNOWN AS THE QUEEN OF PERIOD DRAMAS. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THEM THAT YOU LOVE SO MUCH?

It’s not like I went out specifically to do period dramas. When I get a script I don’t think, “What period is this in?” It’s more about the story and the character, and who I’m going to get to work with. The fact that they’ve all been in corsets is just coincidence! The corsets keep getting more and more difficult, though.

WAS THERE A PERIOD DRAMA THAT YOU WATCHED GROWING UP THAT INSPIRED YOU?

No, I wasn’t a big TV period drama fan. But when I was a teenager, I read a lot of novels. Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters… those were the kind of stories that got me into reading. I read a lot of Dickens too, and then I went on to study English literature at university. I was always interested in the 19th century novel. That era captivated me. At university I wrote a feminist essay on Jane Eyre and what Bertha Mason represents. Hearing women’s voices, like Charlotte Perkins Gilman, within an era that was so repressive made me think about how much times have changed. I think the reason why I’ve always enjoyed acting is the element of escapism, like you get with a good book. When there’s that added element of being in a different time period, it just adds an extra level of escapism.

IT’S CRAZY TO THINK THAT THAT KIND OF OPPRESSION EXISTED UNTIL VERY RECENTLY?

Society has changed so much. A few centuries ago doctors genuinely thought that when a woman was hysterical it was because her womb was moving around her body! Not because you’ve put her in a corset. That’s clearly not the reason why!

IN YOUR TEENS YOU PLAYED ROLES LIKE ‘PREGNANT TEENAGER’ OR ‘SUICIDAL TEENAGER’ IN TELEVISION SHOWS. WHEN YOU MOVED INTO PERIOD DRAMAS, WAS IT QUITE NICE TO GET AWAY FROM MODERN ROLES LIKE THAT?

Yeah. I feel like there was a change in my career when I stopped playing them. The roles I did in period dramas were a lot more interesting. There was more emotional complexity beyond “Oh no, I’m 16, and I’m pregnant”, which has been done over and over again. Not that Great Expectations and Jane Eyre haven’t been adapted again and again, but there are different levels to the characters. Being in period dramas was my switch from playing teenagers to playing women.

WAS IT DIFFICULT LEAVING BEHIND THE ROLE OF LUCREZIA BORGIA? YOU PLAYED HER FOR THREE YEARS.

The hardest bit was when I realised that we weren’t going back. When we left we didn’t know that that was the last season. It becomes so intense when you’re on location. I spent most of my life in Budapest when we were filming. It wasn’t even a second home; it was home! So when I found out we weren’t going again for the summer I was initially really happy because there were two projects that I really wanted to work on, but then when it came to August and I realised that we wouldn’t be going back at all, I really missed it. I used to think of Budapest as insanity valley because our experiences there were crazy, and I wanted my Hungarian lifestyle back!

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF AS AN ACTRESS THROUGH PLAYING THAT ROLE?

Playing Lucrezia was great because I got to develop her from a 13-year-old to a young woman over the seasons. I felt very in control of her, and I felt like I grew up with her in a way. When I started, it was my first long job away from home. It’s almost like going to university. I don’t know how much I learned as an actress, but I definitely grew in confidence. Sometimes life imitates art with confidence; when I’m playing a character who is very self-assured, I become more self-assured myself because I have to bring it. I was the only young girl in a hugely male-dominated cast and crew, and I think when you have important men around you all the time, you do need to learn how to assert yourself without being the “pretty little girl”.

DO YOU THINK IT’S HARDER FOR WOMEN TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY IN THE INDUSTRY?

I think there’s a switch side to that, in the sense that men in general have bigger egos and sometimes there can be this testosterone contest on set that you’re automatically not a part of. I do sometimes feel like I have to assert myself in ways that I wouldn’t normally, or if I don’t, I have to be happy to take a backseat and watch what goes on around me.

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