Florence Pugh: 'I'm Not Prepared For Fame'
By Hannah Flint Posted on 6 Nov 2018
In an autumn that has made household names of Richard Madden (Bodyguard) and Jodie Comer (Killing Eve), the most recent reason to stay in arrived last Sunday – in the shape of the BBC’s new spy thriller, The Little Drummer Girl, adapted from a John le Carré novel.
Widely tipped as ‘The Night Manager 2’ (the actual second series of which is apparently in the works), the show is set in Europe in 1979 and follows a team of Israeli spies. And despite being a slower burn than The Night Manager, it was hailed after its first episode as ‘gripping espionage’ (The Guardian), a ‘beautiful and oddly disconcerting piece of film- making’ (The Independent) and ‘more plausible than previous Sunday night incumbent, Bodyguard’ (The Times).
But beyond that, critics praised the woman at its centre: 22-year-old breakthrough actress Florence Pugh. She plays Charlie, a young actor recruited as an agent for the Israeli secret service by a mysterious man (Alexander Skarsgård) while on a work trip in Greece. Charlie is the exact female character in a spy thriller we’ve been waiting for: she’s forthright, intelligent and crucially not just a male character’s love interest.
‘People are ready for roles like this, they need it,’ says Florence when I meet her for coffee in Soho. ‘When I started there were lots of conversations about it needing to change. What’s great now, though, is that before it was a bit of a luxury. Now, it’s like, “No, these characters need to be written and women need to be playing them and people need to be seeing these stories.” I’m incredibly lucky I’m able to enjoy the outcome of what so many people have been talking about and fighting for.’
Florence is more than happy for The Little Drummer Girl to be compared to The Night Manager (‘It’s not a bad thing, as it’ll make people watch it,’ she says), but she seems reluctant to admit that the series could change her life (just look at how Tom Hiddleston’s name soared after his turn in The Night Manager, another Le Carré adaptation). ‘I haven’t been prepping myself for fame. I’m just excited for people to watch it. I don’t know how it’ll change me or my life, but I’m hoping for the best.’
Florence’s previous credits include a much-lauded performance as Lady Macbeth, which won her a nomination for the BAFTA Rising Star award last year, and a part in King Lear with Emma Thompson, who Florence has described as a mentor. I suggest to Florence that it feels like she is on the cusp of superstardom. Indeed, The Little Drummer Girl’s director, Park Chan-wook, has said, ‘I am excited at the prospect of seeing how the drumbeats of Florence Pugh, the most energetic female actor I have seen recently, will resonate with the audience.’ She has also been described as the ‘next Kate Winslet’.
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Florence takes a sip of her coffee. ‘You’re making me nervous,’ she says with a laugh. ‘But it’s nice knowing that you don’t necessarily have to prove yourself every time you go to work or every time you go for a meeting. It’s been a couple of hard- working years, which have paid off.’
Her next part – which she rushed to the US to start filming as The Little Drummer Girl was released – is in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women, alongside a seriously A-list cast including Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep and Timothée Chalamet. Not bad for a 22-year-old who many people had never even heard of this time last year.
‘Those women are who I’ve been looking up to since I was tiny,’ she says of being chosen to star in the film. ‘I can’t believe that I’m there. I’m so aware that that is a very special treat.’ And then she adds, rather sweetly, ‘I’m pretty amazed that Greta knew who I was.’
That’s something she’ll have to get used to.
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