Lounge Talk: Laura Haddock

I’m particularly invested in the women in the show—Lady Mary, Lady Edith, Daisy Parker, Anna Bates. They’re all played so brilliantly,” gushes the new member of the extended Downton Abbey family, actress Laura Haddock. Known for her complex performances that ooze with innate sensitivity so delicately reflected on-screen (Da Vinci’s Demons, Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: The Last Knight, and White Lines, to name a few), Haddock joins the cast of one of the most anticipated cinematic releases of the year—Downton Abbey: A New Era. Dearest reader, pour yourself that cup of tea, indulge in that sponge cake you’ve been feasting one’s eyes on in that bakery window, and gracefully greet Laura Haddock in The Laterals: Lounge Talk session.

Congratulations are in order for your performance in Downton Abbey: A New Era. Do you recall what went through your head when you received a call to join this production?

Thank you! I was so pleased to get the job. I’ve been a fan of the show from the very beginning, so it was a thrill to be asked. Also, I loved My Week with Marilyn, and its director, Simon Curtis, was also attached to direct Downton Abbey, which was really exciting.

We had just come out of the second lockdown and I felt so ready to work again. Watching how the production got this huge film up on its legs in that tricky time gave me huge faith in our industry and the drive everyone has to create content. The content which got most of us through such a strange and isolating time.

When you’re a fan of the series, does this make a mission to audition easier, or harder? Also, who’s the character that you were mostly rooting for, or the storyline that you’ve enjoyed the most looking back at the earlier episodes of the series or the first movie? I must say that Moseley’s (played by Kevin Doyle) storyline left me in stitches.

I totally agree. I think I’m right by saying that when Kevin Doyle came into the show, he had a very small part, but the work he did and his beautiful, nuanced, heart-warming performance awarded him a greater character journey. He’s also so loved on and off screen. The moment in A New Era where his character Moseley is acting out a scene he wrote for The Gambler is probably my favourite scene in the whole film. You could hear a pin drop in that scene because we, as an audience, are so with him.

I have honestly loved all of the character journeys. Julian Fellowes has masterfully curated a world where 20 or so characters all have their moment. They grow and change and develop over the seasons and throughout the movies, which feels so satisfying for an audience to be a part of.

Now, not giving away any spoilers for those who haven’t seen the film yet, but what can you reveal about your character, Myrna Dalgleish? There’s definitely a surprising downstairs-upstairs dynamic unfolding in the movie, isn’t it?

Myrna is a silent movie star who comes to Downton to film her next movie, called The Gambler. Halfway through the filming, the characters learn that other studios are making talkies and that silent films are becoming a thing of the past, so they decide to transform this new production into a talkie. This terrifies Myrna as she has not been vocally trained and she knows that this could mean the end of a very successful career, but also offers her an opportunity for some self-reflection.

Was there a particular inspiration behind this character of yours?

I researched a lot of actresses who went through this same transition. It became clear to me that not many actresses were actually able to make it. For many of them, English was a second language, so not only would they have to learn it, if they wanted to continue working in Hollywood, but then they would have to learn the accent too. Given how quickly the industry changed, they couldn’t keep up and a new influx of actresses was cast. I remember reading about Norma Talmadge and the demise of her career, and realizing how terrifying this would’ve been for her and many others at the time.

I think Michelle Dockery said to Joanne Froggatt, whilst in character and describing Myrna that you should not be meeting the stars you adore. Were you ever in a similar situation when meeting someone that you really admire didn’t turn out to be as expected?

I met Elton John once. He was lovely, but it was me that fell apart. I bowed. It felt to me like I was meeting the pope, and I think I’ve asked him if I could kiss his ring. It’s all a blur now, if I’m honest. And I think the lesson learned is that I need to find my chill when meeting people I admire. I also had a whole conversation with Oprah once. She thought I was someone else, and I never corrected her.

Speaking of Downton, I also wanted to add that I would absolutely watch Myrna conquering the Hollywood spin-off. Perhaps, it’s worth pitching this idea to Julian Fellowes.

Oh, yes! That would be so fun. I’ll send Julian a note. Where’s Myrna now?

What would you say to your 17-year-old self when doubting a decision to move to a big city while following your dream?

Keep going. Find a tribe of people doing the same thing and support each other through it. Learn to cook. Break down your fears, listen to your instincts, and see as much theater as you can.

The best career advice you’ve been given and also shared with someone else?

The camera is your best friend. You’ve had an argument, but she knows you inside out. You’re ignoring each other, but deep down you know she’ll always have your back. It’s a way to both trust and yet ignore the technical side of a set.

You’ve portrayed strong heroines across many different genres, and I recall that in one of your interviews you mentioned that you’d love to star in a rom-com. If you were to be writing the script for this particular genre, what story would you be pitching?

Such a hard question! There was a funny story I heard the other day about a couple who had met just before the first lockdown. They traveled to her family home in the countryside and couldn’t get back and stayed there for the coming weeks. Not only the guy was getting to know the girl but also her family under very intense circumstances. Hot pot of things going on there, which sounded very funny. A mad situation to be in!

I believe that you’re also a fan of the rom-com greats—Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron. If you’d be doing a rom-marathon, what five movies would you pick?

Well, I’d sayIf I had to pick five, I’d choose When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve got Mail, This Is 40and Father of the Bride. They just don’t make them like they used to.

Something you say that you’d love to be doing but haven’t done yet?

Direct.

What’s one vice you wish you could give up?

Not necessarily a vice, but I wish I worried less. I’m trying to encourage myself to believe in what will be will be. Worry is the thief joy I think people say? Having said that, it’s in my genes. I’m an over-thinker and my imagination can be pretty wild so I can trick myself into worrying about anything!  

What’s one thing about you that surprises others?

I’m, if I do say so myself, an exceptional catcher. Chuck anything my way and I’ll probably catch it. In another life, I would’ve been a cricketer or a baseball player.

Most favorite and underrated spots in the city, and in the countryside are

They’re not underrated per se, but my favorite spots in the city are Portobello Road, Brick Lane, Kew Gardens. I love Spitalfields Market when everything has just been set up. A bunch of us went to a Greek restaurant the other night in Notting Hill called Travernaki. I’d never been there before, but it was such a great vibe. They have a tree in the back of the restaurant which made you feel like you were in the Med. I think perhaps every restaurant should have a tree in the middle of it? Another of my favorite restaurants at the moment is Farmacy. The food and the cocktails are amazing.

With storytelling at the core of all your performances, what stories are you most looking forward to telling through your next projects?

I just worked on a film called The Laureate. I played Nancy Nicholson who was Robert Graves’s first wife and a lifelong feminist. She was and still is fascinating. I’d love to revisit her and develop a film about her. What she did in her life and how forward her thinking was—allowing and campaigning for people to have a choice regardless of their gender, position in societyShe walked the streets, children in tow, explaining to women how to use contraception. And this was in the 1920s when it was still illegal. Nancy believed in choice and freedom of speech. I felt sad to leave her. I could’ve gladly stayed with her a long time and told more of her story.

Is there a question that no one has ever asked you in interviews?

This one.  

Where will we see Laura Haddock next?

I’ve just wrapped up a TV show for Netflix. Its working title is Graymail. All I can say is that it’s completely different from Downton Abbey.

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Downton Abbey: A New Era is now playing in UK cinemas and will release exclusively to theaters in the US on May 20th 2022. Watch the trailer below:

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