I recently got the chance to talk to Sally Reeve about her role in ‘Jane Eyre’. Here, Sally talks about how the film keeps true to the original text and how she got into acting in the first place…
Hey Sally. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Jane Eyre’…
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
It’s a classic story, one of the greatest novels ever in my opinion, telling the story of a young girl, unusually strong and self-assured for the period, who has had a quite horrific and isolated childhood and comes to be a governess at Thornfield. It’s a house of secrets and mystery and is owned by Mr Rochester, one of literatures most brooding bad boys! It’s a truly wonderful, emotional story, and one which is still relevant to a modern audience – there’s a reason this novel has been filmed more than once.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
Martha is the cook at Thornfield and is married to John, (played by the wonderful Ewart James Walters), who is Rochester’s right hand man – the only member of staff who came with Rochester from Jamaica. They have a daughter together who also works in the Thornfield kitchens. I had a great time with all the period props that were in the location – I spent a whole afternoon plucking pigeons and am now a dab hand at it! There was a huge sub-plot that Cary (Fukunaga) worked out with all the actors playing the staff – about whether we “knew” the big secret of Thornfield; and although none of it made the final cut of the film, we all worked really hard on it. My character particularly had a shock when she discovered her husband was aware of it, and had kept it from her. As is often the way with a film shoot, so much of this footage wasn’t included in the final edit – I’m waiting for the director’s cut to see if he puts it back in!
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I was lucky enough to be cast in another period film the year before, Jane Campion’s ‘Bright Star’ and the same casting director, Nina Gold was working on ‘Jane Eyre’ – she called me in to audition and I was lucky enough to be cast.
How would you say the film is different and unique from it’s original text?
Moira Buffini, the writer, has been very faithful to the original novel but the structure of the film is slightly different – you almost begin in the middle of the novel– with Jane fleeing Thornfield – and then learn, as the film continues, what happened to her as a child, and what has just happened to her to make her run away. It’s a really clever way of making this film a more unique re-telling of a classic story and draws the viewer in. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the novel, you’ll be desperate to find out what on earth has happened to her…
The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Jamie Bell, Michael Fassbender, Holliday Grainger, Tamzin Merchant and Craig Roberts – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I was a little nervous about working with so many actors whose work I admire – in particular I got to achieve one of my dreams and work with Dame Judi Dench who plays Mrs Fairfax, the housekeeper of Thornfield and basically Martha’s boss! Cary, the director, is so laid back and easy, he made the working environment so much fun, so no one was being the big star – we all just got on together. My first day’s work involved rehearsing with Mia and Ewart, helping Mia with her Yorkshire accent (which is brilliant in the film) and doing improvisations with Romy to help develop our characters. On-set we would all eat together – we all stayed together on location and everyone was totally down to earth. After a while you forgot you were sitting next to an Oscar winner, you were just colleagues. The crew were all fantastic – one of my favourite things was watching Cary direct multi-lingually – he’d speak Spanish to Adriano, the DOP, he’d speak French to Romy and Eglantine – and English to us. He’s amazing. He also did something I’ve never experienced on a film set and decided to leave the storyboard and just improvise a scene. It’s incredibly freeing, as an actor, to be allowed to just inhabit your character, forget the script, and create something spontaneous. I’m used to doing this in rehearsal or in the theatre, but to do it in front of a camera was wonderful.
Let’s talk a bit about you Sally. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else! I was very driven as a child – did every drama class or youth theatre going! I joined the National Youth Theatre when I was 17 which was an amazing experience, did a degree in Drama and then set up my own theatre company. It’s the most amazing job – you get to explore different personalities, dress up, meet people, travel – there are plenty of downsides too but I couldn’t do anything else. Of course I do do lots of other things as well as acting – I don’t know any actor who doesn’t have more than one string to their bow – we all have to eat in between jobs!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Be prepared to be unemployed! It’s a seriously tough industry and so many people out there are chasing very few jobs. Be prepared to have something else up your sleeve to depend on – I temped a LOT when I was in my 20’s! I now teach pre-school music which I love, which gives me a chance to sing and perform and also is regular work which pays my mortgage! Keep learning – I learn more on every job I do and I also go to classes at The Actors Centre – you never stop training in this job. See as much live theatre as you can, read plays, learn your craft. And believe in yourself. You get a LOT of rejection so you have to be able to bounce back and go for the next audition.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
I have quite eclectic taste in music! Since I teach music to little people there are a lot of nursery rhymes and children’s music. I love Adele, Eliza Doolittle, Jason Mraz. I am also a complete Gleek – I have every single Glee album and Gwyneth Paltrow’s version of Landslide is my most played track at the moment! I also love to have a good boogie and so have a lot of Abba and Michael Jackson! And finally can I highly recommend Hugh Laurie’s Blues…..the man can play!
If you could have a dinner with three historical guests, living or dead – who would they be and why?
Blimey….King Arthur because I love Arthurian legends (I used to live in Glastonbury), Elizabeth Taylor, because I was such a huge fan of her work, and just to balance those two…Hugh Laurie (again!) – not that he’s particularly historical, but I have the hugest crush on him! I actually worked with him on ‘Maybe Baby’ many years ago before he got the ‘House’ cool vibe…I didn’t make the most of my time with him then so I’d love to spend an evening in his company and make him play piano for me.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month or so?
I suppose the riots were the most “interesting” thing that has happened recently! I live in south-east London and they were literally on my doorstep which was a bit frightening. I must admit to being a bit of an ostrich with news. Sometimes watching the news depresses me too much….I tend to read books rather than papers!
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?
I’ve had a bit of a career break in the last 7 years as I’ve had two children! I was really lucky to be able to fit in two feature films and a little bit of TV but it’s only really this September, now my youngest son is at school all day, that I’m going to be able to get my career back up and running. I’m hoping to get back on stage, it’s where I began my career and I love it. I wish I could list a whole load of projects but there is nothing concrete yet – watch this space!
Thanks for the interview!