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Powder Room - Jaime Winstone interview

Powder Room

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JAIME Winstone talks about the appeal of playing the brash, sexually confident Chanel in Powder Room and why she relates to the messages behind the film, including being satisfied with what you’ve got.

She also talks about working with co-star Sheridan Smith and reflects on her own career and why she likes to keep pushing herself, as well as the advice she gives herself.

Q. How closely do you associate with Chanel’s self-confidence?
Jaime Winstone: Not that close, to be honest. When I first read the script she just leapt off the page. I absolutely fell in love with her. I thought it was the first time I’d read a really strong female character who is confident about talking about sex, who is confident in herself, and is not a bad person and who is actually very warm. I just found that really inspiring and endearing. I just really liked her. I found her quite enjoyable and very funny and realistic. I think I just liked the idea of playing someone who is like that. I think as women we’ve all kind of met girls like this, or experienced friends who are hopeless romantics and do believe they’re going to meet the man of their dreams behind the bar while ordering a white Russian. In the real world, it’s maybe not going to happen. But she holds out for it and she believes in it and I just really love that.

Q. Did you have much chance to improvise?
Jaime Winstone: We had miniscule rehearsal time. But in that rehearsal time we plotted it out and knew where we were going with it. MJ [Delaney, director] would be closely watching us and would say “OK, go with that” or “actually, that’s really funny, we should do that”. So, that really helped because we were just developing it and also still becoming them. It was just growing on-set. It was great because it felt as though that was our intimate theatre space.

Q. How long was your rehearsal period?
Jaime Winstone: We didn’t have a rehearsal. It was before we did the take. We’d have a run through and then the live run because it was so tight. And the scenes do need to look different each time, the shots need to look different, so we’d line up the camera and have a rough run and piss about essentially, to see where it could go – excuse the pun! But it would grow and MJ would clock that and say: “Let’s go that way with it…”

Q. Looking at some of the film’s themes, I see it as being a transition from being a youngster and carefree to being an adult. Was that something you were consciously aware of and developing?
Jaime Winstone: I definitely had a sense of nostalgia. I thought: “Oh God, we all went through that.” Every girl can kind of relate to one of the characters in the film. For me, it’s the pressures that we need to be… that’s what I loved about Chanel. She doesn’t really succumb to the pressure. She likes who she is. She’s confident. Whereas Sam, her best friend, wants to change her life because she wants to be in Paris with this girl and talking about fashion – and that’s apparently growing up. But actually it’s got nothing to do with growing up at all. It’s completely the pressures of who you are and what you’re supposed to be, whereas actually if you’re just true to yourself you’re a much better person and much better off.

Q. Did you do anything to prepare by going to a nightclub together or anything like that?
Jaime Winstone: I think any girl growing up in London, or around… it’s a world-wide language. So, any girl who goes out clubbing will have been in this situation where there’s either a girl crying, or you’ve had to help someone hold their hair back while they’re being sick. All the boundaries go down in the toilet. There’s no status thing. You’re in there, you’re all getting ready, you’re all helping each other and advising each other… someone’s in tears, someone is trying to have phone sex in the cubicle… it’s all real and it’s very true. That’s why I think it’s brilliant and it’s naturally funny.

Q. Does a level of fronting drop when you’re in the loo then?
Jaime Winstone: Of course, of course! When women are in clubs, you have this certain thing. When you go to the toilet you’re sorting your shit out. You’re getting your face on, you’re spraying, you’re getting what you can from everyone, you’re scraping your hair… you’re getting into character and you’re getting it together and putting a front on. When you go back out, you’re fine again. And that’s what’s amazing about women in toilets because nobody judges anybody really. At the end of the day, you’re all in there to sort yourselves out [laughs].

Powder Room

Q. Do you have a favourite scene?
Jaime Winstone: I really love the stuff Sheridan and I do when we get together. We have that first conversation where by character is starting to clock like: “Wait a minute, who are you?” I really like that. And then she becomes Sam again and all of a sudden she’s off and Chanel clocks there’s something wrong but doesn’t judge her. I found one scene really hard, where we have a shouting match, because it just brought up… I just couldn’t do it. We kept doing it and doing it and I found it really upsetting because it brought back all these young memories in toilets where you’re having, or have had your first WKD, and you’re out of your face, and you’re going into meltdown [mimics high pitched voice] and you’re really emotional and upset. And this conversation is the most vital conversation you’re going to have. So, it literally brought back all these memories of “oh God, I’m shouting at my friend on the toilet because she’s been a complete dick to me” or whatever. You can’t really explain it. But I enjoyed doing the scene and found it quite emotional as well.

Q. You’re forced to do a lot of comedy and drama. Was that a challenge?
Jaime Winstone: For me, not really because I’ve always said that if you ask me to tell a joke, it’s awful. But I think Chanel was so there, she literally jumped out and got into me. She was so cool and so full of life and so funny that she doesn’t really realise what she’s saying. It’s not a joke. It’s very true. She’s going to meet the guy of her dreams, he’s going to be a barman and we’re going to have sex behind the club and it’ll be amazing. But that’s the dream. I think there’s something really quite innocent about her as well. I watch Chanel and think she’s really funny. But I didn’t try to make her funny at all because then you kind of go off her a bit. You think she’s a girl trying to be funny when she’s actually a slag. But actually she’s just really into sex and really confident and likes boys and I think that’s funnier.

Q. One of the ideas behind the film is accepting who you are. How has that been as an actress for you? Does it magnify the sense of accepting who you are or are you always looking around because it’s a very competitive industry?
Jaime Winstone: I don’t know. Have I accepted who I am? I think you have to, especially being an actress because you have to take on different roles and allow yourself to fill shoes that aren’t necessarily morally grounded or who you’d want to be. But I think that’s the one thing about yourself: if you can accept who you are, you can be who you want. I think that’s a really good weapon as an actress, to kind of go: “Well, you don’t need to know me, or who I am, because I know who I am. You need to know this character.” So, that’s been a really good tool for me throughout my whole career. I think it’s really important advice: don’t worry about yourself, so long as you know who you are, then people will get your character. And you’re confident with it.

Q. But is there a temptation to second guess yourself and worry about decisions – like should I be heading to Hollywood now, or should I take this play as opposed to that film?
Jaime Winstone: One hundred per cent. But that’s the drive. I’ve not decided who I am yet and I think that’s why you get different parts and why you get exciting new roles because you fight against the stereotype. People always want to pigeon-hole you, or want to know who everybody is just for yourself and well-being. But there are different levels to people. Not knowing who you are is kind of a good thing, or at least knowing that you’re just not there yet, or knowing that you’re not ready to admit that I’m adult. But I kind of like that because it gives me curiosity.

Q. How did you enjoy working with Sheridan?
Jaime Winstone: When I met MJ for the job I loved the script anyway and Sheridan and I had been in so many of the same rooms, so many times, with a view to working together [but it hadn’t happened]. But we get on a like a house of fire. MJ finally put us in the same room and we just were like: “Oh my God, we’re finally doing this!” She’s amazing because we are super close and we’re very similar. She’s an amazing actress and she’s really inspiring to me. I watched her in this and she’s got so much range. She’s such a down to Earth, beautiful girl. She’s f**king cool.

Read our review of Powder Room

Read our interview with director MJ Delaney