I recently got the chance to talk to Serena Brabazon about her role in ‘Albert Nobbs’. Here, Serena talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and how she got involved in the industry in the first place…
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The film is set in the 1890s in Dublin and all the action is based around a posh city centre hotel. The plot moves between several characters that work in the hotel, the main character is Albert Nobbs himself, (played be Glenn Close) who is the head butler of the hotel. Only he is actually a she who was driven to disguise herself as a man whilst a teenager in order to save herself from destitution. She has managed to keep her true identity hidden throughout her life – only during the film do the cracks begin to show as she meets a woman she loves and another woman who has also disguised herself as a man in order to be able to work. Albert Nobbs finds himself/herself torn between being able to finally share a secret, the release of pressure this brings and the formal society within which she is trying to live.
Trying to find an escape and some sort of freedom from her situation she latches on to a young maid at the hotel, pinning her dreams on marriage and financial independence in the form of running a tobacconists. However the dream is sadly not founded on any reality the girl doesn’t love him/her and Albert finds no opportunity in which she can reveal her true identity to the girl and not frighten her off. Albert sadly dies at the end of the film in a fight with the maids lover, the owner of the hotel finds Albert’s secret stash of cash and new life is breathed into the hotel thanks to Albert’s legacy.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a character called Mrs Amelia Moore. She is married to George Moore which is a reference to the original short story, written by an author of the same name from the 1890s. They have two small children who also feature in the film. They are landed gentry and often stay in the hotel, they are familiar with Albert Nobbs and make several references to this through out the film. Amelia particularly seems out of all the guests staying in the hotel to have a certain empathy for him, finding him kind and solicitous to her needs, often commenting on this though no one else seems to notice.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Through the audition process.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
The film is unique because it is a period drama that deals with more contemporary problems than we normally see. Issues of sexuality and cross dressing. The plot also focuses on the servants rather than those in charge and shows a grim world of inequality and poverty. While the posh people can bed hop and dress up as men or women, can basically behave how they like and nobody bats an eyelid those who rely on employment must tow a very strict line in terms of their own sexual behaviour. The film highlights the tough social system and fashions of behaviour that existed in 1890s Dublin.
The film stars Glenn Close, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Mia Wasikowska, Pauline Collins, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Mark Williams, James Greene, your good self, Michael McElhatton and Dolores Mullally – with Rodrigo Garcia onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
There was a very warm, family feeling on set, plenty of laughter and easy banter between people. Jonathan Rhys Myers and Glenn Close are good friends and would often play chess together. During the party scene where Jonathan and his friend dress up as women and their ladies dress up as men we had a huge amount of fun and were absolutely useless at getting the steps right because we were laughing so much. At the same time there was a wonderful focus and intensity the whole time. Glenn Close very rarely stepping out of character – it was a strange role reversal as landed gentry and a guest at the hotel to be ignoring the star most of the time!
Let’s talk a bit about you Serena. What made you want to get into the acting industry in the first place?
I always was on stage, right the way from primary school, also within my family we made up constant shows and pantomimes with all the cousins at Christmas. It seemed like a very natural progression for me then to want to continue on the stage – I was always happiest either there, in the art rooms or on the sports field. When I left school I first went to art college, studied sculpture and several years later decided to go for it and started to train as an actor/ musician in London.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Have other ways to earn money. At the same time stay focused, keep training, learn about as many different elements of the industry and craft as you can, but don’t make it your be all and end all. If it’s not making you happy do something else.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Marilyn Monroe, George Bush and Nelson Mandela.
- Marilyn Monroe is so extraordinary – she fascinates me.
- George Bush because I find him fascinating in another way…terrifying – is he really as dumb as he seems and if so how on earth did he get away with so much?
- Nelson Mandela because I would like to learn his way of peace.
Which film was your favourite of 2012?
‘Django Unchained’ is the most memorable…
What’s coming up for you in 2013?
A little bit of film work lined up in July and a show in Edinburgh festival in July/August.
Thanks for the interview!