The unassuming Rose Leslie is as sweet and strong-willed – not to mention as naturally beautiful, as her name would suggest. At just 25, this wild Scottish rose has notched up critical praise and coveted accolades, as well as proven herself a versatile actress able to traverse the spheres of period drama and action fantasy with aplomb. From her home in London, the wonderfully affable star-in-the-making reflected on her childhood spent kicking about in puddles and dirt, loving Mike Leigh’s films and inspiring real-life heroines with Indigo Clarke.
You’re originally from Scotland, where do you live now? Have you considered making the move to LA?
Rose Leslie: I’m currently based in London living with my elder sister – it’s really lovely. I haven’t seriously considered making the move to the States – but I’m really looking forward to going back to LA. I visited for the first time a month ago for Comic-con and it was phenomenal, so much fun – people are so unbelievably warm and friendly, it just blew me away. I am definitely keen to come out to America at some stage and give it a go.
Did you always dream of working in film?
Rose Leslie: Not really actually – my dream of acting came from the stage, from going to the theatre in the West End in London with my family. So my love of acting really grew from seeing plays, and then from performing in them. Doors were opened to the world of film and television once I started going to TV auditions – it was an organic introduction to the screen, that grew from working on stage. I used to be in plays all through school – so it’s always somewhere in the back of mind to return to theatre at some point.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
Rose Leslie: I was incredibly lucky to grow up in the most beautiful countryside in Aberdeen Scotland. My childhood was spent running around outside with my siblings – playing in puddles and dirt (laughs). I am one of five, in the middle between two brothers and two sisters.
Were you always creative?
Rose Leslie: Yes I was, I was always playing around with accents and making people laugh – I’d love going full throttle putting on all different kinds of accents with my brother. I always knew I wanted to pursue an acting career and loved drama class at school, I also loved studying English Literature.
In just a few short years you’ve racked up memorable roles in two major television series and a feature film – what has it been like to find success so quickly?
Rose Leslie: It really hasn’t been a difficult adjustment funnily enough. It doesn’t really feel like much has changed in all the good ways – except of course for feeling so grateful to have been able to play such amazing characters. My family and friends have always been so supportive from the very beginning – that support is just wonderful, and because I’m well aware that success of any kind in this industry can fluctuate, it’s so important to have the support of those you love.
Would you describe yourself as ambitious?
Rose Leslie: I would, I would. I am a firm believer in being ambitious – if you don’t take part in the race then you can’t sulk if you don’t win. It’s not about being cut-throat or taking opportunities away from others, it’s about working as hard as you possibly can to attain your own personal goal – if you’re wanting to pursue what you dream of doing for the rest of your life then you have to count yourself in the race if you want to succeed.
You’ve taken on pretty diverse projects such as Game of Thrones and the amazing Downton Abbey - How do you select your roles?
Rose Leslie: If I read a script and relate to a character then I am immediately interested. With Game of Thrones, my character Ygritte was just so much fun, so cool, I fell in love with her straight away. It’s such a fantastic show, and such fun to play her.
Do you see some of yourself in Ygritte?
Rose Leslie: I did see some of myself in her – she’s strong-willed and tough and I like to think I am in my own way too, so those traits definitely struck a chord with me. With every character I play though, I find similarities or a way to relate so that I can play them with a sense of authenticity.
What do you love most about being on set? What has been the most enjoyable experience so far?
Rose Leslie: So far going to Iceland to film season two of Game of Thrones was the peak – it was so exciting. It really was the pinnacle of any job I’ve had so far – first of all because the crew is all amazing, but also because we all happened to see the Northern Lights, which was so beautiful. We were outside surrounded by darkness, and suddenly it appeared as though glowing blue and green ribbons were undulating in the sky – it was magic.
Working on your first feature film New Town, for which you won the Scottish BAFTA, while you were still a student at the London Academy of Music and Art must have been exciting…
Rose Leslie: Yes it was amazing – I was still in drama school when I was lucky enough to get that role, my first in film or television. We shot it up in Edinburgh, it was so nerve-wracking to be completely thrown into the deep end as I’d never done any film work before, but it was such an incredible and enjoyable opportunity.
Are there actresses you’ve grown up watching that you particularly admire?
Rose Leslie: Yes absolutely – Vivien Leigh is at the top of the list, what an incredibly talented actress, so beautiful and serene. Kate Winslett and Cate Blanchett are also incredibly inspiring – they’re both so poised and gorgeous, but it really comes down to their acting ability. They are both so on top of their game, and have such versatility – when I watch them act, I completely forget that they are film-stars and I can escape into the story with them – that is such a rare talent.
Is there a dream character you would love to play?
Rose Leslie: Given the opportunity I would love to play the character Leonie from ‘These Old Shades’. It’s by Georgette Heyer, who was famous for her Restoration fiction, phenomenally easy-to-read romantic comedies – Leonie is basically my all-time favourite heroine.
I can imagine you playing Flora Post from Cold Comfort Farm! She’s the best character…
Rose Leslie: Yes completely! I love Flora! Cold Comfort – such a great book!
Which director would you love to work with if given the opportunity?
Rose Leslie: Mike Leigh – I would absolutely love to work with Mike Leigh. His style is so natural, so effortless. I’ve loved working with all the directors on Game of Thorns – they have truly all been phenomenal, I’ve been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such talented people.
Which women throughout history have inspired you most? Is there someone whose life or achievements you’d love to see adapted into a screenplay?
Rose Leslie: Yes – I read the biography of this hugely inspiring woman, Katherine Swynford, the Duchess of Lancaster, married to John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and think her story would make a brilliant screenplay. Her rags-to-riches story of humble beginnings, of trials and tribulations and finally overcoming her obstacles is amazing – she was an incredibly inspiring woman who achieved so much at a time (1300’s) when women were rarely empowered.
Is 2013 going to be even bigger year for you than this year?
Rose Leslie: I hope so! I have some exciting projects on the cards – but I’m sworn to secrecy I’m afraid, so can’t reveal much right now! Honestly – I feel so lucky to be working in the first place, everything that happens next is just a bonus.