Lounge Talk: Rose Williams
With her talent radiating on our screens in the historical drama Sanditon (Britbox and PBS) and the western series That Dirty Black Bag (AMC), we meet actress Rose Williams. The Ealing-born performer is known for her multi-layered roles (Reign, A Quiet Passion, Changeland, Curfew, The Power) telling the stories of strong women, using her own creative voice unabashedly, and inspiring others to follow, with masterful storytelling at the core. Dearest readers, meet Rose Williams in a special The Laterals Lounge Talk session.
Congratulations on such an array of exciting projects — the western TV series That Dirty Black Bag and the long-awaited season 2 of the historical drama Sanditon. When looking through a script, what are the key elements that you’re looking for in your character that make your acting chops tingle from excitement?
Thank you so much. I feel very lucky to have played two characters who were so different next to each other. I loved moving from such different worlds, so I suppose, when reading scripts, I’m conscious of exploring a person in a time, place or emotional space that I haven’t before. I don’t have a rhyme or rhythm when it comes to connecting with a character, as I think it comes down to a gut feeling that’s hard to put into words. That being said, I did enjoy playing a woman with ruthlessness in That Dirty Black Bag and would love to play more characters down the line with that quality.
As the stories about the Wild West are often told via the male gaze, what would you say are the pivotal qualities of Western women that make them better anchors for telling the stories of that period? A female-led western would be something that I’d definitely tune in to watch.
That Dirty Black Bag is a pretty male-centered show, but there’s a quiet yet confident undercurrent of powerful female characters, led by our brothel Madame Eve, played beautifully by Niv Sultan. I loved the scripts, but when reading the story, I truly fell in love with The Red Lantern girls. The knowingness, ingenuity, focus and grit that was required to successfully survive as a sex worker in the post gold-rush era piqued my interest. Big time. These girls were smart, tough and had no choice but to be unafraid.
There are also fantasy and steampunk elements to the show. In spaghetti-western style, the world exists between a dream and a version of reality. I drew inspiration from the lives of Dancehall girls, prostitutes and female fugitives, bandits and sharpshooters that lived in the Old West. I’m most definitely also all about women in westerns.
Tell us three things that we ought to know about your character in the series — Symone.
She has been misinterpreted her entire life and has yet to figure out what to do with that….
She quite enjoys being a prostitute. It makes sense to her.
The most important person in her world is Eve.
What’s the most surprising thing, factual or skill-based, that you’ve learnt on the set of That Dirty Black Bag?
Probably having the opportunity to do a bit of horse riding. I have done it here and there on jobs in the past, but I definitely was challenged the most in a scene, riding up high on a cliff-like slope. On the day, I was terrified to start with, but I absolutely loved it. The horse masters were amazing. We had training and shot at the iconic Fort Bravo in Almeria.
Sanditon Season 2 — how would you describe Charlotte’s journey this season?
I see Season 2 as a transformational second chapter for her. She’s grieving a loss and trying her best to forge a path of independence, which was near impossible for young women at the time. She seeks to continue to explore life’s possibilities and further discover her voice in the world.
Which Jane Austen novel is the most underrated, and why?
Probably Persuasion, it’s my favorite. Maybe the adaptations aren’t as famous? I adore Sally Hawkins’ portrayal of Anne. It makes me emotional thinking about it.
What have you taken away, on both a personal and on a professional basis, from being immersed in the Jane Austen era for quite some time now? Name two things.
A deeper appreciation for her message and legacy and the magnitude of that reach.
A deeper understanding that no matter what time in history we revisit, human emotions remain the same. Surroundings, environment and circumstance aside, the human experience remains and will always continue to ultimately be about feelings.
Is there a Rose Williams-tested and approved method to learn one’s lines? If so, how does it work?
Ha! Absolutely not. It could be in the make-up chair in the morning (I have had to do that many times with last-minute scripts), could be on a walk, same time as watching telly… I have no technique. But when it comes to getting the words in my head, I have to be doing two or three things at once for them to sink in. I need noise to focus.
What’s the best cure for anxiety?
It’s different for everyone. I guess for me — a good conversation with a friend or journaling.
When was the last time you felt the most vulnerable self?
What place makes you feel the happiest?
A friend’s sofa, or being in the ocean.
What’s your favorite movie or television series finale that once again made you appreciate the artistic industry that you’re a part of? What’s the worst, and how you’d rewrite it if you’d have a chance? No Titanic references, please.
Most recently, I watched The Comeback, what a beautiful finale it had. The worst… I don’t know, that Bad Vegan documentary. I wish she never met him!
If you could direct a movie about your life, what would be the title?
I would want it to be a stop motion animation with voice actors and the characters to be all animals. The jury’s out on the title.
What’s one thing about you that surprises others?
That I have an Ugly Doll collection.
You’ve been described by many as an accomplished dancer. What’s your signature dance move?
I just love going out dancing, but I’m not a professional. No signature move, I guess just a lot of two-stepping and hair flips.
What’s something you say you’ll do, but haven’t done yet?
The hike to Paro Takstang.
What’s the best career advice you’ve been given and have also given to someone else yourself?
What makes you, you — is your superpower.
Your guilty pleasure is?
Excessive carbohydrates, reality television and iPhone puzzle games.
Are you a binge-watcher? If so, what are the 3 best shows/movies you’ve seen on a screen recently?
This past week I binge-watched the new Top Boy. It’s an excellent slow burn. I also watched Boiling Point yesterday, which I thought was incredible. What a piece of work. And this afternoon, I and my friend binge-watched The Apprentice. It’s scream out loud funny.
Is there a question that no one has ever asked you in interviews? If so, what’s the question and your response to it?
This question and this question. Inception.
In these uncertain times, self-care is a crucial part of one’s life. How do you practise it?
I suppose focusing on true kindness. I’m working on trying to find a balance in nourishing the mind, body and spirit equally, which in this world, especially now, I find to be a big challenge. I think role models are important, sacred space is important, and community is important.
What’s the best story that’s been told to date?
Probably one of my best friend’s anecdotes about Snoop Dogg from the 90s, but that’s a secret.
Sanditon series two is available on Britbox and weekly on PBS Masterpiece. That Dirty Black Bag is streaming now on AMC+. Watch the trailers below: