Wonderland.

MARAMA CORLETT

The Watch‘s tough-talking crime-fighter spills all on Terry Pratchett’s lawless dystopia.

Full look DAVID KOMA

Full look DAVID KOMA

Marama Corlett is an on-screen talent not to be underestimated. The multi-hyphenate actor has already tussled with the best of them, whether it be The Libertines or Keira Knightley in a series of roles that span thrillseekers, dancers and even a Grindhouse dominatrix, naturally.

Born to two go-getters swept up by the New Religion movement of the ’70s, Corlett’s career in showbiz began with dreams of becoming a dancer. Having studied ballet as a child in Malta, her passion would see her move to England, getting her first professional role in Lee Tamahori’s war flick The Devil’s Double. Not one to be pigeonholed however, Corlett’s talents saw her take to the West End for a 2011 rendition of The Childen’s Hour, with additional roles in Disney epic Maleficent and Desert Dancer following soon after.

Now she’s taking on an entirely new beast in the lawless dystopia that is The Watch. Based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series of fantasy novels, Corlett plays Angua Von Uberwald, a mock law enforcer deployed in a city where all crime is legal. Stripped of purpose and reason, the series will uncover her character’s tough facade as she tries to survive and protect those around her. Did I mention she’s also a werewolf? Yeah. She’s a werewolf.

We caught up with Marama Corlett below, and spoke on-set antics, covid complications and colossal career challenges. Take a look…

(Left) Jacket and shorts ROCHAS, Necklace BVLGARI (right) Jacket BALLY, Ring ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

(Left) Jacket and shorts ROCHAS, Necklace BVLGARI (right) Jacket BALLY, Ring ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

Hi Marama, how has this uncertain time been for you?
What a mad year it’s been. I was working in Cape Town when the pandemic hit back in March and I was out there for 7 months prior. Things escalated so fast, and like every other production, ours was also shut down and everyone was sent back home. I travelled to Malta and after two weeks quarantining spent a few months with my family until it was OK for everyone to get back to work. It’s been a devastating year for so many and it sadly still seems very uncertain. The world needed a little pause and it definitely put things into perspective, reevaluating what, and who is most important to us.

How has it impacted your creativity?
Despite all that’s gone on both personally and globally, I’ve found this pause has been really nourishing in some ways for me. I’m usually always out and about finding things to do or working but I’ve had a lot of time to myself and somehow the solace has sparked a great sense of imagination, encouraging me to write. I’m by no means a writer, but I’ve found comfort in it. I’ve been based in London for many years, so it was also really special to spend the entire spring and summer at home in Malta with nowhere else to go – something I hadn’t done in a long time. Malta’s so rich in its history, the old baroque churches on every corner and streets draped with old statues, and enveloped by the Mediterranean sea. I found it extremely cathartic to be back there for so long. Because after all, that’s where my hunger and love for the arts truly began to take shape.

Congratulations on The Watch – will you tell me how you first heard the script/got involved with the show?
Thank you! Making it has been a wonderful ride. I sent a self-tape in after receiving the scripts through my agents, and was called in for a recall with casting directors Victor Jenkins, Andy Brierly and producer Johann Knobel in London. I had a few scenes to prepare for our lead director, Craig Viveiros. The casting process for The Watch was quite long, but once I got the good news I was flying out to South Africa for prep pretty soon after.

Had you always been a fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels?
Our Executive producer and showrunner Simon Allen’s scripts for The Watch were my first introduction to Sir Terry Pratchett’s extraordinary multiverse. I really enjoyed reading them and fell in love with all the characters and this quirky eccentric world they inhabit. Sir Terry is clearly one of the most prolific and successful authors of his generation and I have huge admiration for him now. It’s been such a privilege to be trusted with one of his beloved characters. Hopefully we’ve managed to capture the spirit of Sir Terry Pratchett’s incredible world we’ve been greatly inspired by. We all put a lot of love into it!

A lot of people have likened the show to the Game of Thrones that’s missing in our lives – what do you think of this?
We definitely stole a couple of their brilliant actors! You’re gonna love Richard Dormer and Paul Kaye in The Watch. Some people may liken it to Game of Thrones since they both loosely belong in the Fantasy category, but The Watch leans heavily into the fun, crazy, comical and even ‘sarcastic’ elements of that genre. I’d also like to stress that the show doesn’t take itself terribly seriously, but there’s an undercurrent of human stories and emotions that run throughout. One thing I’m proud to claim in common with Game of Thrones, though, is that The Watch always champions the journey of the underdog in society.

Tell us about your character Angua?
I play corporal Angua Von Uberwald. Angua is a member of the City Watch, a bunch of misfits living in Ankh-Morpork, a city in which crime has been legalised… which renders The Watch itself somewhat redundant. So when we first meet them, our characters are stripped of their purpose, scrabbling to survive in a mean and corrupt social set-up. In the first episode, a bored Angua passes the time shooting at pigeons in this stagnant city, but as the story unfolds, we learn that she’s just laying low to protect herself, and those around her. Angua is very much a loner, who keeps to herself because it’s safer that way. On the outside she’s tough, but on the inside she’s suffocating in fear and guilt. Oh and by the way, she’s a werewolf too! So her struggle with duality is very much borne out for all to see.

What drew you to her character?
I love that the women have equal power, if not more, than the men in our show. One stand-out line used to describe Angua from Sir Terry’s books really resonated with me: “Angua, she’s not the useless type. She doesn’t stand around and scream helplessly. She makes other people do that.” How could I not be excited about playing her after reading that?! I had many in depth character chats with Director Craig Viveiros, Simon Allen and writer Catherine Tragenna who co-wrote episode 5 with Simon focusing on Angua’s story.

It was important to us that she was relatable. What also resonated with me was that all our main characters are flawed, what I love is that they take courage in acknowledging their weaknesses and unite together to move beyond their limitations. Really, it’s just one big love story. They are on this journey to save the world, but in the process they also learn to accept and love themselves.

Suit NANUSHKA, Shoes MANOLO BLAHNIK, Necklace and Ring CARTIER

Suit NANUSHKA, Shoes MANOLO BLAHNIK, Necklace and Ring CARTIER

Are you similar to her in any way?
In The Watch we see the aftermath of Angua’s transformation from werewolf to human and the implications it has on her emotional and mental state – it’s horrific! Born with this uncontrolled power we see her struggle with this polarity and journey to self love. I had a bit of an unconventional upbringing. My parents joined a new religion in the ’70s and had an arranged marriage by a man they believed to be the messiah. I was born into this new belief system, let’s say, and growing up on an island very much dominated by the Catholic Church, I definitely struggled with a certain duality. I always felt like a misfit, very uncomfortable in my own skin. My dad jokes with me .. ‘it was diffiCult’.

It takes time and hard work but as you get older you’re not as pained by the moods the moon brings with it or the whispers in the dark and learn to embrace yourself, the positive attributes you’re given, be kinder to yourself and see the power others see in you but ultimately be who you want to be.

What did you enjoy most about filming The Watch?
I absolutely love working in Cape Town, I’ve been lucky to have worked on three different productions out there in the past few years. It’s stunning! We were absolutely spoilt for locations and the South African crew and cast are so incredibly talented and always welcoming. I miss Cape Town and the members of The Watch, who have become like family now.

What were the biggest challenges?
I guess the biggest challenge was planning picking up the shoot after the pandemic hiatus. We had to shoot the rest of the show in London a couple months ago as South Africa’s borders were still shut at the time. Our Production Designer Simon Rogers and his team did a wonderful job replicating the set and luckily a few of our South African crew including my make-up artist Marie Maggio and our make-up/hair designer Amanda Ross-McDonald happened to be stuck in Europe and were able to join us but it was really sad not to have the entire cast and crew with us when wrapping.

Your roles have been so varied – across horror, fantasy, action – what is your favourite genre to act in?
Looking back, I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been given the opportunities and have not been pigeonholed at all. What excites me the most is being able to transform completely, whatever the genre. I really enjoyed being immersed in 1692 playing Betty in The Crucible at The Old Vic theatre, then flipping that completely playing a grindhouse Dominatrix in the TV series Blood Drive or working with actor Karl Pilkington in a modern-day dark comedy. It’s so much fun! I’d say I’m drawn to physiological thrillers, then again I’d love to continue working on comedy also: I have great respect for people who master that craft.

How did working with The Libertines and Suede come about?
The “You’re My Waterloo” music video taken from their album Anthems for Doomed Youth was co-directed by a wonderful Director/Photographer called Roger Sargent and Carl Barat himself (of The Libertines). I believe they had come across me in a British indie film called The Goob, and felt I was right for the part along with actor Freddie Highmore, and so they got in touch. Roger worked with The Libertines for many years, travelling with them, documenting their tours, and directing their music videos. So Roger and Carl already having a great working relationship made it a lot easier – and really, quite fun!

To run around in freezing London to shoot the video. The video is so intense and romantic. I’ve always been a fan of The Libertines and it was really cool to be part of that. Roger got in touch again a year or so later as he was directing a music video for Suede – “The Invisibles”. I remember telling Roger… “I’ve got a shaved head now”… but he was obviously cool about it. I really love working with Roger. I find myself humming to that song from time to time, it’s so beautiful and haunting…

Marama Corlett stars in The Watch available on BBC America now.

Photography
Joseph Sinclair
Stylist
Olga Timofejeva at The ONLY Agency
Stylist's Assistant
Elena Garcia
Make Up
Buster Knight at The ONLY Agency
Hair
Shukeel Murtaza at The ONLY Agency
MARAMA CORLETT

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