Actor Rose Leslie has appeared in TV series including Downton Abbey but is best known for portraying Ygritte in the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones. The 27-year-old British starlet was in Australia last week to promote the DVD release of the series’ third season. I caught up with Leslie to chat about her love of cooking, her hopes of one day playing Ophelia in Hamlet, and how she wishes she was as feisty as Ygritte.
What’s it like to be a part of Game of Thrones?
It is nothing short of phenomenal, it’s absolutely extraordinary and I feel very privileged to be a part of something that is so globally loved. It really is just wonderful.
Are you anything like your character, Ygritte, in real life?
I wish I was more like her! I wish I was slightly more feisty but, you know, I love the fact that in the relationship between her and Jon Snow, she is the one who wears the trousers. That is a lovely thing so I wish I was more like that and less of a pushover.
How did you land the role of Ygritte?
I was called in for an audition. For the first time in my life I feel that ignorance was bliss because I remember walking into that room, being completely oblivious to the fan base that was already behind the books, and season one was already airing on British television at the time but I hadn’t watched it so I was unaware of the show. I think if I had been kind of clued up, I would have been far more nervous.
I heard you had to learn archery for the role?
I did, I learnt archery and they put me on a special training course of several weeks of being in Belfast and making sure that you looked authentic when you were pulling back the bow and the string.
Did you always want to be an actor since you were a little girl?
I did. I come from a rather large Catholic family, mum and dad had five kids and so there are seven of us when we’re all home. I always wanted to be heard, because I was being slightly overshadowed by the older brother and the older sister and so I think from a young age I decided that you have to make myself louder than everyone else so that mum would hear. I think that a certain performance came from that and I decided to follow that route.
Did you always want to go into television?
Not necessarily. I was fortunate enough to go to drama school in London at a wonderful place called LAMDA. I was there for three years and had the time of my life. Drama school in the UK focuses a lot on classical training in stage so there was very little television training going on whilst we were there. It was a question, really, of being lucky enough to land a role in Downton Abbey and then working up and then being seen on that show by the writers of Game of Thrones, and they called me in for the part. So, I kind of fell into TV.
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
I would like to concentrate on screen and find scripts, whether that is in television or theatre. And just find something that I feel that I can relate to and a character that inspires me, whereby I’m fortunate enough to read something and just be like, “Oh my God, I have to be in this”.
What’s the best part of your job?
[It] has definitely been to be able to go to these different locations such as Iceland and explore the landscape. I don’t feel that I necessarily would have gone to Iceland before just because I would have been too lazy!
What is the worst part about your job?
The hours. Getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning is not necessarily fun because I love my sleep … If I could, I’d sleep for 14 hours a day.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
For fun, if I’m at home, I find cooking very therapeutic. My mum’s a big cook so I love to kind of follow her techniques. She cooks such amazing food and I think that’s such a lovely thing, to be able to host a party with your new friends, so I love to do that.
What’s your signature dish?
At the moment I’m going for a kind of like Moroccan chicken with quinoa and cous cous dish.
What would be your dream role?
It would have to be stage and it would have to be hopefully, fingers crossed, but it would be Ophelia in Hamlet … It’s just so heart-wrenching and I love that play.
Do you prefer TV or stage?
I genuinely love both and I feel that it is a privilege to be able to step in and out. [But] without sounding a little bit wanky, I think it’s a different craft, really, to be there onstage every night without the safety net of a camera, without the safety net of doing several different takes, and the fact that you let go [on stage] is exhilarating. It’s far more raw and I love that.
Which actors do you look up to?
I feel my all-time favourite [actor] would have to be Cate Blanchett. And then of course you have Helen Mirren and Judi Dench – they are inspiring, powerful, dominant women.
Are you an actor who enjoys watching yourself on screen or do you find that difficult?
I’m someone who doesn’t genuinely enjoy watching myself, but I critique it so that I know not to do that on a future job … I kind of huddle myself into a dark sitting room and just go, “OK, what have done wrong?” I’m slightly harsh [on myself].
WE WENT TO Swine & Co; Sydney CBD.
WE ATE Crisp pig’s tail with pine puree, grapes, pickled mushrooms and pistachios; black pudding with Harvey Bay scallops, foie gras, lime caviar and quinoa; South Australian calamari with fennel, squid ink and pea; heirloom tomato with mozzarella and basil.
WE DRANK Sparkling mineral water.
I WORE a LOVER dress.
For video of the date, see smh.com.au