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Introducing Jessie Buckley

We spoke to the star of 'Beast' and 'The Woman in White' about her journey from a BBC talent show to the big screen

By Phil de Semlyen
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Who is she?
A 28-year-old actress from Kerry, Ireland. She’s getting raves for her edgy new thriller ‘Beast’. 

Who does she play?
Buckley is troubled Jersey native Moll who falls in with a hard-edged local man (Johnny Flynn). ‘It was like being plugged into a wire,’ she says. ‘One of the script notes was that she was the kind of girl who ate worms at school. I was like, “Excellent!” She’s got this feral sexiness about her, and this intelligence and observation.’

Didn’t she almost win a BBC talent show?
Yes, she was on ‘I’d Do Anything’ as a teenager and came second. Since then, she’s built a rep on stage alongside Jude Law in ‘Henry V’ and on TV with ‘Taboo’ and ‘War & Peace’.

How did she get into acting?
Her first love is music – both parents are musicians and she's an accomplished pianist, harpist and clarinet player – but she changed course when she moved to London at 17. ‘I started doing musicals, but the acting bug bit when I did a four-week Shakespeare workshop.’

So she’s an adopted Londoner?
Kinda. ‘I love London but I miss nature,’ she says. ‘I am such a gypsy. I’ve moved at least once a year for the past ten years.’

Who are her heroes?
It’s musicians rather than movie stars who adorned her bedroom walls as a kid. ‘Dad would always play Ray Charles in the car on the way to swimming, then we’d sing musicals. Now my heroes are Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt and Max Richter.’

Any dark secrets?
Oh, yes: she was once sent to harp camp by her parents. ‘That was just mean,’ she laughs. ’It was just me and a lot of 50-year-old women. Do I still own a harp? I do but it's back home in Ireland.’

Where can we see her next?
Before ‘Judy’ with Renée Zellweger, she’s got ‘The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle’ with Robert Downey Jr. ‘I don’t know what I can say about it,’ she laughs. ‘They told me to just say “yes” to all questions.’

‘Beast’ is in UK cinemas Apr 27.

Read our review of 'Beast'

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