Hi Film Folk,
Today we bring you another In Conversation.
This time with The Infiltrator actress Juliet Aubrey!
Tell us a bit about your relationship with acting and how that led you to pursuing it as a career.
Well I loved acting from a really young age, I remember when I was 6 or 7 playing a doctor in a piece at school. My dad was a doctor and I just loved the idea of pretending to be him. I always loved drama at school and then I got really interested in archaeology. I studied classics and archaeology at university and while I was there I did all the university plays and Edinburgh festival where I directed a couple of things too, and gradually my focus became more and more towards acting.
In my third year I lived in Italy with the archaeology, in Naples. I ended up not doing an awful lot of that and a lot more acting, joined a travelling theatre company and sang in a band. I was 19 and these were things I would never have done in London. When you live in another country you get to reinvent yourself and get a bravery you don’t have when you are surrounded by people who know you. I loved the Italian language and learnt it by going to bed with the dictionary every night. I performed in Italian and English. We were on a boat for a while and just used to turn up at a beach and put on a play. It was an amazing time and I was sure then I definitely wanted to go to drama school so I applied for all of them.
I got accepted by three. Central was by far my favourite from the first moment I walked into the building, and spending three years doing exactly what I would love doing was a dream come true.
I took on an agent in my third year while I was at Central, and my first job out of drama school was playing Miranda in The Tempest for The Oxford Stage Company. Then shortly after that my first film was with Italian director Roberto Faenza, called Look to the Sky. It was myself and the French actor Jean-Hughes Anglade ( Betty Blue, La Reine Margot). That was a fantastic experience where I got to keep speaking my Italian with the director and crew. I remember the audition really clearly, I had a screen test, which was the first one I had ever done. My first thing to camera.
Roberto Faenza’s directing style was along a similar vein to Michael Winterbottom , where it’s very much a collaborative and creative process. I made another film with him a few years later. I often work with the same directors a few times; it’s great as you immediately have that shorthand.
And from there was it a case of continuing to do auditions? How did you build that in to the body of work that you have now?
Chronologically I was doing theatre, which I strongly believe is very important. It’s your craft where you rehearse and work together with people as a team. One of my first experiences for television, was having to walk into a room and looking at a neon mark on the camera instead of looking at the people I was supposed to be talking to because they couldn’t fit in the room. I was completely dumbfounded as to how this would work.
Film is so different to theatre and you just get used to that. We didn’t really do any of it in drama school. I was learning on the job and from directors and the older actors. On that film my mum was Jane Lapotaire and my dad was Brian Cox. Then again on Middlemarch, I learned from Elizabeth Spriggs and Robert Hardy – older people who guided me and I learned so much from.
It just gradually built and I got Middlemarch, which was an amazing role to get. The Director Antony Page had come to see me in a play and that went from there. It was a good experience as it was about a year filming for it, literally waiting for the leaves to grow on the trees for the seasons and we would rehearse for a couple of weeks, film for five weeks and then back to rehearse for a couple of weeks.
It was quite an indulgent period of time then in terms of television. When I made “Measure for Measure” directed by David Thacker, we got to rehearse for six weeks before we went into a studio to film it with multi cameras. So you could do whole long scenes, virtually a whole play and it was all filmed without cutting. So that was a good bridge from theatre to film, like an in-between link.
For theatre actors coming to film, what advice would you give?
I think the initial process is the same: the discovery of the character, building the character working out the foundations of who you are. Walking as many miles as you can in the characters shoes before you begin. Be relaxed and open to direction.
A lot of it is getting hold of nerves and not letting that block how you can express yourself. Nerves can get in the way. Enjoy it and learn as you go along.
I don’t think you can learn much from doing it on your own. You need other people to do it with. Keep grafting and trying new things, getting out of your comfort zone. Keep reinventing and being passionate about it.
You’ve done a lot of films recently. Were you actively looking to do more?
I love the passion of people that have fought to get a film made , people wjho have got things off the ground after so many years. People with a vision, not having to appeal to such a wide demographic.
Often there is such a desire to get a project made and that’s very attractive. It’s a nutshell… A total story in that timeframe which is a challenge.
I just started filming for something called Snatch for TV and it’s fantastic as there are many episodes so lots of time to develop the characters. That’s exciting about multi episodic things.
Its not that I’ve chosen any area in particular. If I respond to the script and the people that are making it then that’s what makes me want to do it regardless of the genre or format. But it is time for me to get back to theatre. I really want to do a play next year and I’m really looking forward to that.
Tell us a bit about The Infiltrator…
The Infiltrator came about when the script dropped in my inbox one day and I read it. It was absolutely brilliant. The director was in town and my agent set up a meeting with him, Brad Furman. He talked about the project and immediately I wanted to do it. It was a great character and I love stories that are based on real characters.
It’s a true story about Robert Mazur who went under cover in the 80s and I play his wife Evelyn. Whilst we were filming they were both there the whole time, which was great. They had also been advisors on the script. We filmed in Tampa, Florida, and Watford.
I was really annoyed as I was training for the London marathon! I had been training all through the winter and then the film came along. The Florida filming was over the same weekend as the marathon so I had to pull out, as I didn’t want to lose the film. The cast on the film were wonderful.
The woman that wrote it Ellen Furman was very interesting. It has a female producer, Miriam Segal, a good female-led base coming from the production and writing front and Brad I just loved. I really liked his last film; the Lincoln Lawyer and I really wanted to do it. It was a no brainer.
— Juliet Aubrey (@julietaubrey1) April 11, 2015
How much preparation did you have before shooting?
I walked through the door and the assistant said “Juliet right we are ready for you on set” and bang that was it so Bryan Cranston and I didn’t have any time to get to know each other before shooting. We made up for time really quickly as we just constantly spent loads of time talking about the characters and their life. He had spoken a lot with Robert who he plays and I had spent a lot of time talking to Evelyn who I was playing. So we both believed we could play these characters with understanding.
Bryan also has a theatre background like me so he was very keen to improvise and mess around with it. We had a really concentrated period of time in our house in Watford where we filmed all our domestic scenes.
You have an immediate short hand to that provided you have someone who wants to play and work in that way, and luckily I always have. I haven’t had anyone who didn’t want to discuss it and share ideas. As long as you have someone who is up for that you find quite a quick road in.
I remember actually on the first day he had some spinach stuck in his teeth from lunchtime just as we were about to roll, and he was trying to get it out and couldn’t so I did it. We laughed so much : “we have only known each other for half an hour but we are playing husband and wife and you just took spinach out of my teeth”.
It’s a good way of establishing a relationship..
Well he couldn’t do it so I had to help! His nails weren’t long enough!
How long was the shoot?
About three months all-together. More maybe. In Florida for about a week doing all the exterior stuff. Even then things were being invented on the hoof.
Any other interesting stories from the shoot?
Oh I got stopped by the police in Tampa! I was running and I jaywalked and they came. Basically Tampa is a big bay and I was going on big runs every day. It was so hot and I was on this bend with no palm trees or shade and I needed to get in to the central reservation so I ran across the road.
They got out of the car and said “Ma’am your not allowed to do that”. They asked me what I was doing and I told them about the filming. They were aware of it, as it was quite a big deal in Tampa so they knew. I got off. They let me go!
We talk to a lot of editors who often talk about getting a huge selection of different performances from one actor to edit with. Do film actors offer a lot of different styles of one line/scene on set?
Keeping it fresh, new, and keeping it alive is the point. There are a million ways of saying something. When a film is shot out of sequence, unlike theatre, you need to have in your head a graph of the arc of the characters and temperature of the character at different times. It’s important to give different levels of that. As long as you are ok with continuity you can keep inventing it each time.
So you keep a literal graph on set?
No I mean in your head! It’s an emotional graph of where you are at the time.
Really recently I did “An Oak Tree” at The SOHO theatre. A two hander. One of the other actors is played by the same guy Tim Crouch, who wrote it, and then the other part is played by anyone, its been played all over the world. Men, women, different ages, whatever. De Niro did it in New York and Susan Sarandon did it there as well. A load of us did it here.
Basically you don’t get the script until you get on stage. You are given a headpiece or pieces are read out to you. The premise is you can’t prepare. All you do know is that your child was killed in an accident by someone you are going to meet on stage but you don’t know how, when or where.
I called the director the night before and said “when did the child die?” and he said “Juliet it doesn’t matter.” You’re liberated, totally and absolutely in the moment, responding with no preparation. That was an Interesting approach, terrifying but great. I would absolutely recommend it to any actor. You just have to jump. It’s exciting.
You are married to a production designer correct? How have you managed to squeeze everything in and how important is to have a partner in the same industry, or a partner that is understanding of the industry?
I don’t think it’s important to have a partner in the same industry but someone who understand the demands and challenges of it. Also it’s a timetablings thing with both of us. We have two kids 11 and 13. For instance he’s in France at the moment and I’m in Manchester and I have my good friend Fiona looking after the kids this week, but generally there is often one of us out of work (laughs).
It’s really important to make sure the kids are put first. They don’t want you to not be working, they love to see how much we enjoy our work, and you want to be a role model for them. It’s a balancing act.
Thank you, Julia!
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