Don’t let Antonia Campbell-Hughes’s slightly fluffy role as Sam in Jack Dee’s sitcom Lead Balloon deceive you; this girl means (show)business. As a youngster, Hughes moved to New York’s Lower East Side to start her own fashion label and ended up designing a diffusion line for Topman. Disillusioned and creatively-undernourished in the industry, she fell into acting at 23 and has focused her efforts thusly, landing prominent roles in The Other Side of Sleep and this month’s Albert Nobbs – where the young starlet appears alongside Glenn Close.
Do you watch your own films?
It depends. If it’s my film – like this one I did recently called The Other Side of Sleep – where I’m in every frame of it, then I’ll watch it back, of course. They didn’t want me to see any of it during filming though, so during it I didn’t watch any playbacks. The role was quite method – it was beyond that in fact, complete immersion. I didn’t really speak to anyone for three months because the character is a social recluse – I lived in squalor above a pub on a mattress. It had to be done to reach the level of intensity the role require though – the character was completely selfless; she hadn’t even ever looked at herself in a mirror.
And what were your acting methods in preparation for Albert Nobbs. It’s quite an intense film, exploring gender roles in the 19th century.
I treat every project differently. I found Albert Nobbs fascinating – because Glenn was playing a woman who lives as a man, I was keen to see what her particular process would be. It was a joy to watch because, from bitter experience, I know method acting can be a painful process – but Glenn explored a different path. She didn’t cut her hair for the role, for instance – she was able to really hold on to her identity throughout. Every day she’d come in and spend hours in hair and make-up. But when that was done, she simply was Albert Nobbs. I actually felt more comfortable around Albert than I did Glenn, because I never got to be around her when she was out of character. She was ill a lot of the time, too – she got pneumonia. Working with Glenn, there was just an instant understanding. I find it happens quite a lot with those types of actors…I wasn’t nervous working with her at all. I think I’d get freaked out by some action hero-type.
What about the director, Rodrigo Garcia. He’s done quite a few hefty, HBO-launched projects like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. Was this intimidating?
Oh, he’s just incredible. He’s been involved with the best shows, really. He’s this big, Columbian man, but not intimidating at all. He’s very warm. He has a bear-like quality: very calm and very wise and strong, like a spiritual healer. You couldn’t help but listen closely to everything he had to say. The most interesting thing about Rodrigo is that his own projects – the films he writes and produces himself – are always about women.
Are you interested in feminism?
I’d never call myself a feminist, no. I always had a stereotype in my mind – especially when I listened to a lot of punk rock as a child – that feminists were weak; that they are the victims. But of course they’re not. I worked with two young female directors for the last couple of independent films I did last year – playing a strong, female lead. So I’ve always flirted with these kinds of themes.
Words: Jack Mills