Wonderland.

ELLA BALINSKA

From relative obscurity to helming one of the biggest reboots of the year, Charlie’s Angel Ella Balinska’s rise has been a remarkable one.

Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland van

All clothing COACH 1941 PRE-SPRING ‘20

Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland van
All clothing COACH 1941 PRE-SPRING ‘20

Taken from the Winter issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the issue now.

Last year, Ella Balinska — at the time a relatively unknown actress living in London — picked up a call from her agent. “So, we haven’t had any updates on the project, but we’ve got someone on the line who might.” Elizabeth Banks’ voice cut through: “Hey, Ella. The role is yours if you want it?” And then silence. The line had failed; Banks thought she’d just hung up on her, and Balinska was left to process the magnitude of her first film offer: to take over as one of the iconic lead trio in the buzzy remake of Charlie’s Angels that landed in cinemas this November.

It’s clear that sleeping on the opportunity wasn’t an option she’d actually think twice about taking. In conversation, the actress is earnest about her values and unapologetic about her ambition, and — in an age where it’s all too easy for those in the public eye to craft a glossy veneer of inaccessibility — that feels refreshing. She makes no strained attempts to make her stratospheric rise seem a little less like a fairytale, because it just does, and she’s been enjoying every minute of it.

Balinska, who started auditioning a few years ago in her second year of university, first heard about the project under the code name Silver Cloud. Before knowing the weight of the story or its star-studded cast, it was the character description of Jane — “a former MI6, well-educated precision fighter” and “no-nonsense professional” — that drew her to the role. See, while most of us would flinch at the thought of the intense physical training required to pull off stunt scenes convincingly, the 23-year- old’s repertoire already fit the bill pretty well. Having competed in track and field at a national level alongside studying at London’s most prestigious performing arts schools, she’d recently combined her love for drama and sport with a course at the Academy of Performance Combat. For those who aren’t quite sure what that entails either, Balinska tells me she had taken theory and practice exams to become a fully qualified firearms badge holder, trained to handle more than a dozen different weapons and developed “a certain savvy to know how my body moves in those sort of stunty scenarios.” Not a big deal, right? She laughs as I gawp, in awe and a little bit in love with her. “Obviously the producers go, ‘OK, what can you do?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, let me break out my CV…’”

Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland lying down
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland black and white
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland lying down
All clothing COACH 1941 PRE-SPRING ‘20
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland black and white

Balinska’s Jane can floor a full-grown man three times her weight and she could probably outsmart anyone else in the room. For want of a better phrase, she’s an undisputed bad bitch, and it feels good to watch. But while her skills and experience earn our admiration, Jane’s confidence feels more like arrogance, a bolshy insistence on her own capability that makes it impossible to rely on anyone else along the way. She’s cold compared to Kristen Stewart’s charismatic Sabina, and unforgiving of the newly recruited Elena, played by fellow newcomer Naomi Scott – but, as is common in the genre, the trio eventually realise that while they all know their shit, they’re stronger together. And that’s when it really gets fun.

Written and directed by Banks, who also plays their boss Bosley, the film channels all the glamour of both the original 1976 TV series and the early-00s films, though this time, the delivery is designed for a ‘feminist-friendly’ 2019. While the trailer paints this endeavour in a syrupy, somewhat predictable way (within the first five seconds, Kristen Stewart’s character states: “I think women can do anything”), the rest of the film is fantastical and funny throughout, successfully subverting the one-dimensional male gaze that undermined its predecessors. Inevitably, it’s this shift that most of the press surrounding Charlie’s Angels has focused on – which, while undeniably important, sometimes feels reductive. I ask Balinska if, as a young woman at the beginning of a burgeoning career, she feels like it shouldn’t be considered news to have three female leads portrayed in a way that doesn’t rely on objectification. “I feel like this is the kind of question that Elizabeth Banks would articulate incredibly well…” She deadpans, before rationalising: “If we keep telling stories that drive us to a place of empowerment and to a place of everyone listening and caring and coming from a place of truth, I feel like we could be heading in a great direction.”

For Balinska, the main takeaway from the film was how much fun they had making it. “It was extremely hard not to have a good time on this thing. Every day was amazing,” she gushes, crediting the bond she formed with Stewart and Scott for making the film so infectious to watch. “We kind of clicked straight away. We’re a group of enthusiasts and we all just dove straight into it. You know how easy it is when you’re with a bunch of people who are all like, ‘Yes, we want to do this, we’re going to go for it, and we’re going to give it our all’? That was the mood between us three.”

Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland van
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland rollerblading
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland sofa
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland van
All clothing COACH 1941 PRE-SPRING ‘20
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland rollerblading
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland sofa

On what she enjoys most about acting, Balinska reiterates the value of working
with people who share her passion and positivity. “I’m a student at heart,” she says, explaining that before set, her focus is on composing a complex personal history around a character: “The socio-political. The economical. What do people think about them? What do they think about themselves? What do they think others think about them?” But then, on set, any internal analysis goes almost entirely out of the window. “Because I always want to be in the present moment. You can’t predict what you’re going to do. You can’t predict the future… The person that you’re sharing the scene with is always going to be my priority that I’m listening to and responding to, and that’s the part that’s exciting. You get to play a character who has their own world going on, and being present with someone else who’s discovered that as well, it’s just… Electric. I love it.”

Next, Balinska will appear in upcoming Blumhouse Productions horror Run Sweetheart Run, “a bit of a 180° from the amazing land of Charlie’s Angels,” the actor playing a victim running away from all of the action (another 180° from the IRL angel that was Jane). And looking to the future, it’s making “well-intentioned, interesting choices” that she christens as words to live by, and her guiding principle to navigate the influx of attention she’s received since reconnecting that fateful phone call with Elizabeth Banks. “Sorry for swearing, but fuck it,” she laughs. “The worst that’s going to happen is that you’re going to [need] another take, you know? Be in the moment, absolutely immerse yourself into whatever you’re doing, and something really awesome could come out of the other side.”

Not just as an actor, but as a person, she holds herself accountable to “find the truth” in every project she takes on, and underlines that it’s taking these intuitive risks for no one’s approval but her own that matters most. “Even if I wasn’t an actor, doing all of that stuff ties back to the responsibility of just being you, doing what gets you up in the morning,” she muses, slipping seamlessly into the Friday night pep-talk I never knew I needed. Balinska feels like the kind of person who’s used to giving advice – not just because of all the superhuman skills she’s acquired, but a natural empathy, authenticity and straightforwardness that permeates our entire conversation. “We’re all put on this planet, and I want to enjoy myself whilst doing it. I feel like this film is like — and I’m not ruining anything here — yeah, we’re Charlie’s Angels. But we’re real women. We laugh, we cry, we win, we fail, we make mistakes, we learn from them, we build. That’s a reflection of what we do in everyday life, and I’m like… Let’s celebrate that.”

Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland bicycle
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland hand
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland bicycle
All clothing COACH 1941 PRE-SPRING ‘20
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland hand
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland shooting
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland phone
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland shooting
All clothing COACH 1941 PRE-SPRING ‘20
Ella Balinska in the Winter issue of Wonderland phone
Photography
Ellen von Unwerth
Fashion
Toni-Blaze Ibekwe
Words
Rosie Byers
Hair
Rio Sreedharan at The Wall Group using Hair by Sam McKnight
Makeup
Nikki Wolff at The Wall Group using Les Ornements de CHANEL and CHANEL Sublimage Cleansers
Manicure
Sabrina Gayle at The Wall Group
Production
Federica Barletta
Digital operator
Cavit Erginsoy
1st Photography Assistant
Charlie Ryan
2nd Photography Assistant
Gary Sobczyk
Fashion assistants
Anastasia Busch and Rocco Nereo Masi
Production assistant
Tesa Pavic
ELLA BALINSKA