Cutler sits down with Florence Hall to discuss her new film The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star starring Vanessa Hudgens. She tells us what it's like to play the lead as Detective Sergeant Matilda Stone in Queens Of Mystery and what inspires her.
First of all can I ask what made you want to start acting? It started off as a way of bringing me out of my shell, because I was a really shy kid. I quickly became fascinated with delving into the minds of other people. I’m lucky to have a mum who taught me from a very young age to think carefully about what life might be like for others and how that influences their choices and behaviour. As soon as I realised I could apply this to acting and disappear into another world, I was completely hooked.
How would you normally approach a role? I learned so many skills and techniques at drama school, and even more once I was out in the real world. I tend to feel instinctively which of those techniques are going to be most useful for each role I play. For instance, I might need to work ‘Outside In’, so starting with costume, music, mood boards, anything that makes me feel physically different from me. Or I might start ‘Inside Out’, which is a much more introspective approach, exploring how I connect to the character emotionally, what shared experiences we have and so on. Ultimately, most or all of the techniques will be applied; I will always consider costume and movement and music, and always work out how I connect with the character. It’s just a question of which order feels right for the role.
Do you find that each role becomes part of who you are, or do you prefer to leave the “character” on set? I definitely find that while I’m playing a role, I become a bit more like them off the set or stage. It’s particularly fun when I’m playing a character that is more ballsy than I am, because for those weeks or months I borrow a bit of that energy for my everyday life. It can be tough if I’m playing a very emotional character, particularly on stage when you know you have to hit those emotional notes eight times a week for the duration of the run. I did the original stage version of The Girl On The Train and had a very tough scene towards the end of the play. I had to develop a little routine in my dressing room afterwards, (which always involved a cup of tea because a cup of tea is the greatest thing on earth) before coming back for my final scene to shake off the intensity of that particular feeling.
What inspires you? So many things! Right now, I am inspired by stories and roles that are going to make positive change in our world and give voices to people who haven’t always been listened to. Things like Sex Education excite me so much. I wish that had been on while I was at school, as the way it celebrates the complexity and diversity of people in our world is something that wasn’t really on our screens when I was a teenager. I’m also inspired by actresses who refuse to be ‘squashed’ into a Hollywood mould, something that has a lot of risk and takes a lot of bravery. Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You are two of the best examples in recent years. Florence Pugh is another example - she seems like she couldn’t give a shite about ‘Hollywood’ and turns out consistently excellent and relatable work. I try to keep these people in mind when I’m feeling the pressures of our industry, and it inspires me to stay true to myself.
You have some great new projects out, can you tell our readers about them? Yes! It’s really exciting to have two such contrasting projects air at the same time. The Princess Switch 3 is out on Netflix, and I’m back as the brash and bold Mindy, side kick to Vanessa Hudgens’ character Fiona. The worlds of Christmas and heist movies are merged and it’s an incredibly fun, silly and uplifting watch. Perfect for the end of another challenging year globally. I’m also so excited about the release of Queens Of Mystery Season 2 on Acorn TV. I step in as the lead role of Detective Sargeant Matilda Stone who, with the unsolicited ‘help’ of her three crime writer aunts, is kept busy with the surprisingly high volume of murders in the sleepy English town of Wildemarsh. Described as ‘Midsummer Murders meets Amelie’ this is an absolutely gorgeous show to be a part of. One of the many areas of under representation on our screens is the positive portrayal of women over 45, and Queens Of Mystery really kicks that in the balls. Not only do we have the incredible Sarah Woodward, Julie Graham and Siobhan Redmond playing the funny, intelligent adventurous Aunts, we also have brilliant actresses like Jaye Griffiths and Sarah Hadland coming in to play interesting and layered guest roles. I’m really proud to be part of something that isn’t erasing and airbrushing real women out of the picture. They are also some of the funniest people I have ever met. I had the time of my life filming this series.
What advice would you give an actor wanting to break into the industry? I think it’s really helpful to try to not think of it as ‘breaking’ in, as this creates the idea that an actor just needs to get that one good job and they’ll be sorted. That does, of course, happen every so often but for the vast majority of actors, it’s a slow and steady burn. I believe it’s a healthier and happier life if you approach it that way. Take the smaller and interesting roles if it’s a project you feel good about, work at regional theatres, try not to endgame as you might let some incredible opportunities pass you by. Keep your life busy and full outside of your career. I wasted too much time early on not living my life and obsessing about my career - neither aspect benefited from that.
Who would you most like to work with? I think Taika Waititi is one of the funniest directors and performers around at the moment and I would love to be in one of his movies. It would also be a dream come true to work with Wes Anderson. Oh, and also Olivia Wilde! ‘Booksmart’ was so brilliant and I can’t wait to see ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ - her collaboration with Florence Pugh. There are so many people I want to work with!
Finally what would be your dream role? My answer to this changes every day, but right now I’m watching Secession and wish I was playing Shiv Roy. But then that would mean that Sarah Snook wouldn’t be playing it and I don’t want to live in a world where I don’t get to watch her amazing performance. I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed for a reboot.
Thank you so much for chatting with us Florence. Thanks for having me.
Photographer: Joseph Sinclair @josephsinclair
Styling: Krishan Parmar @krishanparmar_
Make-up: Justine Jenkins @justinejenkins
Hair: Adam Cooke @adamcookehair