Written by Nikki Baughan Tuesday, 09 March 2010 06:52
We grab an exclusive interview with Brit actress Jemma Powell, soon to be seen in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland!
A graduate of the Oxford School of Drama, Jemma Powell has been steadily carving out a career for herself with roles in TV shows like Foyles War and Footballer's Wives Extra Time, and films including The Hole (2001) and Francois Ozon's beautiful Angel (2007). And now she's on the brink of the big time, taking the role of Alice's sister Margaret in Tim Burton's hotly anticipated Alice in Wonderland; we caught up with her to find out what the future holds for one of the UK's brightest young stars.
"If you are wearing a corset, ask to have it loosened at lunch!"
When I was 6 I used to have a crazy dressing up box with all my grandmother’s old clothes. I would make my brothers dress up as girls (because I didn’t’ have any sisters) and force them to do plays! So I think from an early age I was fascinated with creating and being part of a different world and making up characters through these beautiful old garments! Later on in my childhood I went to the National Youth Theatre every summer, rehearsing and taking plays into London and the Edinburgh festival. Through that I met casting directors and I got a film called The Hole. But at the time I was at University and wanted to finish my degree and then go onto drama school.
You've done a mix of TV and films: which do you prefer and do they throw up different challenges?
I think there is more time when you are doing a film. You get a number chances to get it right! Also the preparation for doing a film is more extensive. When I did Alice in Wonderland, there were numerous make-up/hair/ tests…..and a lots of costume fittings beforehand…I love this because it gives you a chance to spend some time in the final ‘look’ that has been created for you by the costume and hair/makeup designers, prior to shooting.
We'll see you next in Alice In Wonderland; can you tell us a bit about how you got involved with the project and your role?
The casting director Suzy Figgis saw me in a film called Angel directed by Francois Ozon, and got me in to meet Tim Burton. I went to his office and that afternoon my agent called me to tell me that I had the part,
What was it like working with Tim Burton, and other members of the cast?
It was such a pleasure working with Tim, and he had a great warmth and ease amongst all the cast. I think for me what made him very special was his ability to make me feel confident that choices were the right ones. He praised or gave feedback after every take, which was such a relief. Sometimes you are left in the dark thinking ‘Was that any good, what I just did?!’. In terms of the big names my scenes were mainly with Mia Wasikowska who plays Alice, as she plays my little sister! Mia is an incredibly talented and intelligent actress; real pleasure to work with.
If you are wearing a corset, ask to have it loosened at lunch!
You were previously in the wonderful Angel; do you hope to continue doing a mix of large and small films?
Absolutely…I will always be attracted to good scripts- whatever the budget. I really admire actresses like Julianne Moore. She has carved out a career for herself playing all sorts of women….her choice of scripts have been brave and she has taken big risks.
You're currently in LA auditioning; do you think that it's important for British actors to find success in the States?
I have a lot of girlfriends out here at the moment. I think we all agree that there is just MORE work in LA! I always hope to be working both sides of the pond though!
You've set up your own production company; can you tell us a bit about that and the projects you are involved with?
This has always been a dream of mine…and in this way I get to be part of developing the scripts and working with writers I truly believe in, the fresh, young talent that are on their way up. At the moment we are developing two scripts. One is a story of grief seeking resolution, of a family unpicking it’s past and of the complexities of modern love confronting the deeper rhythms of childhood hopes and dreams. The other is a quirky off beat romantic comedy about internet dating. Both films break their generic mold; I don’t really want to make films that have boundaries. I get excited by films that break all the rules.
Do you think having experience in the business and production side of filmmaking will help you as an actress?
Well, you get to see the amount of work that has gone into getting the film to the casting stage. Now when I am in castings I feel like congratulating everyone- it is such an achievement to have got to this point.
Finally, what are your hopes for the future? And what will we see you in next?
The next film to come out is called The Symmetry of Love, a quirky urban comedy set in London. At the moment I am in LA, but I will be back in London for the Alice premiere; after that I will have meetings with potential investors for the films I am hoping to get off the ground. Also meeting with actors and getting them attached, that’s the fun part!