Talent, hard work and persistence have led Georgina Campbell to an exciting point in her career. Already a recognisable face on British television – the Kent-born actress picked up a Best Leading Actress BAFTA in 2015 following her stunning performance in BBC3’s Murdered by My Boyfriend – she’s since wowed with roles in Idris Elba’s Five by Five and more recently her turn in Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur, which saw her directed by Guy Ritchie.
When we grab five over a Tuesday morning call she’s on set filming Krypton, the prequel to Superman in which she’s bagged the female lead; later this month she’ll make her debut in Charlie Brooker’s cult series Black Mirror. “I am so thrilled that I got the role,” she tells me of her part in this latest dose of warped reality, “I love the series so much. It was something that I was very proud of doing.”
With a passionate drive and give-it-your-all attitude, Campbell brings a unique empathy to every role she claims. It was with this in mind that I picked up the receiver to discuss the usual suspects befitting an actor interview, namely the reality of the graft, technology’s place within the industry, and what she would have told her younger self.
Jacket MAYA LI
Jacket MAYA LI
When did you first get into acting?
I used to do a little bit at school, but things really picked up when I was spotted on the street when I was 15. I went to an audition for a “MySpace” online drama and I got the role! I started working with an agent shortly afterwards and it kind of started from there.
Was it fate then?
It was kind of fate, it wasn’t something that I thought about doing. No one in my family had ever done acting, or worked in the film or television industry, so it wasn’t necessarily something that I thought of when I was younger, but I am very happy that things turned out this way.
You’re definitely blossoming as an actor. Is it everything that you imagined?
Yeah, it’s really exciting. The thing about being an actor is that you are always a bit on edge because there isn’t a safety blanket. You get a job and then you have to look for another one and you are always kind of hoping for that period to go. I still get those nervous days where I am like, “oh god! When am I going to get my next job?” I audition and sometimes I don’t get roles – but then sometimes I do.
It’s amazing when you are starting to gain momentum, but I always feel that fear of it not going the way you want it to. It’s never-ending, as you can’t ever take a rest and think, “things are going well now”, it really is a constant graft. You have to make sure that things keep going well because it is very easy for things to stop – there are lots of fantastic actors out there.
Obviously the role of women is increasingly at the industry’s fore. What’s your take on this idea of representation?
I think that we need more female directors and writers for female stories to be getting told. It does seem like there are lots of film and television shows that are going on with really strong female leads, and that is obviously doing well in the ratings and at the box office. Things are definitely going in the right direction, the more creative diversity the better.
Agreed. How does it feel to be making a contribution to the feminist gaze within television and film?
I think that it’s great! I suppose I have done it without realising. I feel like it is possible to always make a character complex, as an actor – even if it isn’t a part of the script – it is your job to bring it to that role. Whatever is written on that page, whatever that character is, it is always going to be complex because women are always complex.
Murdered by My Boyfriend won you a BAFTA for Best Leading Actress in 2015. How did you find this affected your career?
When you are an actor, it’s like any job, you are trying to get up a ladder – getting a BAFTA award put me up a few steps. I suppose that it has put me in touch with more people: more casting directors, producers and writers knew my name. These people were exposed to that piece of work specifically, because it did so well. So I got the opportunity to do more auditions and people were more aware of me.
You starred in Guy Ritchie’s Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur earlier this year. That must have been epic?
It was the most epic film that I have ever done – the scale of it was ginormous. It was filmed in Leavesden Studios, which is where they used to do all of the Harry Potters. There are hundreds of people on set, so it was quite a big production. But I really enjoyed it, it was a great experience and there were amazing actors that I got to meet – like Jude Law and Charlie Hunnam who are on the top of their game. It is always an opportunity when you get to work alongside actors who are really nailing it. Just to watch what they do, and how they behave, and how they act. It is kind of like work experience, you get to be a fly on the wall and see how those people work which is great.
And now you’re filming for Krypton right, the prequel to the Superman story? How did you prepare for that?
We did a pilot about a year ago, so there has been a good year to figure out what to do with the character. I started going to the gym a lot and lifting weights and stuff with a personal trainer. My body has changed, which was quite a good way to get into the character feeling strong. I read some of the comic books, getting introduced to the world of Krypton and The Man of Steel. And also by watching loads of television shows and films with strong female characters who are fighting. A lot of it comes down to reading the script and figuring out who the character is, as well as what her feelings are and why she is behaving the way she is.
I am so excited to see you in Black Mirror! Can you tell me anything about your episode?
My character is called Amy and our episode, Hang the DJ, is basically about these two characters Frank and Amy, who signed up to a dating system in which the relationship is mapped out in advance. Which I can relate to!
Jacket MAYA LI, trousers FILIPPA K, shoes ZARA
We all can! Technology is moving so fast. On that note, how do think the internet has affected your career?
Work-wise, it’s great – I am constantly online on my phone or laptop, constantly speaking to people that I work with. I think that where it’s a bit muddy is social media, it is quite an odd beast now and I think that anyone in the entertainment industry – if you’re an actor or a musician – social media has suddenly become very important. I think that is quite difficult, some people are very good at that social aspect and for some people it isn’t really in their nature.
I think that it can be tough when social media has an impact on people getting jobs – sometimes they are being pushed in a certain direction because they have a really good social media following. I don’t think that it happens as often as people think it does, but it does happen.
That’s fucked. How is social media for you then?
I am not anti-social media, it’s just sometimes that it gets a bit confusing. I enjoy social media, there are so many brilliant aspects of it, it gives people a direct link to their fans – who are important as they are the ones who are going to see your film, or buy your album or whatever, so it’s really nice that you’re able to have that communication with them. Also, all my friends have social media, if they are actors or not; it’s a normal part of everyday life now.
For sure. So what are your plans for the near future?
To be honest, I don’t really have a grand plan. That can set you up fail if anything. If you say you want to do something by a certain age and you don’t do it, you are so hard on yourself. I would like to do projects that inspire me – there isn’t much difference now between film and television, [whereas] in the past there would be a much bigger need to get into the film industry, but I am very happy doing television.
I want to act in more plays, as it is a great way to perform. I have been in one play this year – Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against a Brick Wall – and I found the process interesting. The rehearsals were good, they lasted for three weeks which was so different to film and television where you have less time. It really is a completely different feeling; I loved having an audience and being able to feel their energy.
And so finally, your younger self, what would you tell her?
I would say, be patient. The best thing to do is concentrate on what you’re doing, rather than thinking ahead or about what other people are doing. It is important to refrain from comparing yourself to other people, as it is a bad way to think. It is much better to focus on what you’re doing, and to do it well. If you’re in anything and it is the smallest role, just give it all you can. It is important to craft your own skills and make sure that you’re giving every job that you have the intensity that it deserves.