Da Vinci's Demons - Lara Pulver interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
LARA Pulver talks exclusively about playing Clarice Orsini in Da Vinci’s Demons and getting to work with its visionary creator David S Goyer.
She also reflects on her career to date, including roles in Sherlock and Spooks, and looks ahead to playing the role of Ann Fleming in Sky drama Fleming. Da Vinci’s Demons airs on Fox from 10pm on Friday, April 19, 2013.
Q. What does landing the role of Clarice Orsini mean to you?
Lara Pulver: It has been a challenge and introduced me to the wonderful relationship of working with David S Goyer.
Q. What did you like about Clarice?
Lara Pulver: What’s been brilliant about her is that I’ve never played before a woman who is so comfortable in her own skin. Normally, you’re playing someone’s dysfunctions or a very layered, complex person. That’s not to say she’s simple in any way. She’s very layered but she is very confident in who she is, having been brought up by a noble family. She’s just very secure with who she is. So, when she says things, or her actions… nothing’s ever contrived and she’s not manipulative in any way. She can be seen and not heard for three or four episodes, as we see in the first season, and yet when someone asks for her advice or she feels she needs to step up for the love and protection of her family or the city of Florence, she is bang on the nose. She is an astute, shrewd business woman and politician.
Q. How much did you know of her before playing her?
Lara Pulver: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I knew of the Medici family. I obviously knew of Leonardo Da Vinci, the artist that painted the Mona Lisa, but it wasn’t until the project kind of came my way that I started looking into the conflict between Rome and Florence and how that impacted on their marriage and everything else… and the church.
Q. From what I can gather, she was also viewed as a bit of an outsider as well. Florence didn’t necessarily take to her…
Lara Pulver: No, they didn’t greet her with open arms and I think it’s because she was from a very religious background and she was coming in and taking a place of royalty, in a sense, within Florence. But her background conflicted with the free-thinking, Bohemian way of life that was being discovered and unearthed in Florence.
Q. A lot of people credit characters with being ahead of the time, whereas Clarice seems to have been very much of the moment… She was almost in conflict with those that were ahead of their time. Is that fair to say?
Lara Pulver: Possibly, yes. Like you say, she sits there like a solid rock or a pin… or like a compass in that sense.
Q. How historically accurate does the series remain? Or does it take certain liberties?
Lara Pulver: I’d say that we’re about 70-75% historically accurate. David Goyer is an encyclopaedia of the Renaissance time and these characters that he’s created, he’s an artist and a scientist and a genius [laughs]. But we do have that kind of theatrical, dramatic licence to play with.
Q. Where did you look for your own research? And how closely did you work with David?
Lara Pulver: I met David originally in Los Angeles when the project was first casting. Originally, I was meeting him for the role of Lucrezia, played by Laura Haddock, and he was writing this character, which was a principal character that he was bringing in kind of midway through the season that would end up being very prominent in the show. At the time, when the offer came, there was nothing on the page really about her. David said to me: “I’ve done this once before with Jack Davenport on Flash/Forward. And I’m asking you to take a risk on signing up to do this job and trusting me that I will write for you!” I was like: “Oh my God! What a predicament!” David Goyer was asking me to come on board for what looks like a fantastic show and the first two episodes read really well, and yet I had no idea what was in store for me or my character! So, it was literally walking in blind.
Q. Is that the first time you’ve ever done anything like that?
Lara Pulver: Yeah.
Q. Is it in any way freeing, to a certain extent? How nervous were you?
Lara Pulver: It’s lovely because you relinquish control and you work much more on instinct. Obviously, we get the scripts in advance. But I didn’t have prep time on her specifically. It was more the culture, the politics, the period and working a lot with the costume designer, Annie Symons, and that side of things, which was really interesting. So, it wasn’t until I could own her words that I could feel who this woman was, which was unnerving at times. But when you’ve got a great writing team it’s there on the page for you to inhabit her.
Q. And does having a background in theatre help with that?
Lara Pulver: Um, I’d like to think that I’m quite a playful actress in that sense. I’m used to throwing the ball at people and being very spontaneous, having worked a lot in live theatre, which I think for episodic TV is sometimes very useful because I can give the team maybe four different takes that offer them a lot of variety, so that when they get to the edit if we’ve had that beat previously, we can play something else because I’ve given it to them. And that’s a skill that I’ve learnt from Martin Freeman, to be honest, on Sherlock. He’s brilliant at just playing extremes. You’ll do 10 takes opposite him and he’ll give you every colour in the rainbow of what you could possibly use. And then when we go in for the close-ups, Martin will just check in with the director to find out which one he was feeling to make sure he gives him that option. When you’re learning from people like that, it’s not a bad place to learn your craft.
Q. Were you able to adopt that approach when working with David?
Lara Pulver: What I loved about David, just in the audition, was that he’d say: “Look, I don’t know if this is right but how about if we tried playing the scene like this…” And he’d give me a complete curveball and turn the scene completely on its head. That’s really interesting for me as an actress. So, instantly I remember calling my agent after the meeting and saying: “If this project doesn’t work out, let’s definitely work with David in the future.” Because what I loved is that he was brave enough and trusting enough in me to go, “here, do that with it”, and let me just roll with it. Now often, with the nature of filming schedules, you don’t have time to do that many takes, especially with episodic TV. So, it’s nice to know that you’re on the same page as your creator where he’ll just throw you a word or something and you can kind of run with it.
Q. How was working with fellow Brit Tom Riley? And how gratifying is it that two British actors have such an awareness in the US from someone like David Goyer?
Lara Pulver: I can’t wait to hopefully do a season two so that Tom and I have more to do. I’d say Tom and I work in a very similar way. We’re good listeners and can, as I say, bounce off of each other. We had a lovely scene to do in episode three or four. You’re just tasting what those two character’s relationship could be and it was really electric and exciting. We did a chemistry test read together before I was offered the role and, again, the sparks were flying. It was really, really lovely to play off him. He’s really instinctual and very spontaneous, and yet he is in every scene and has every bit of dialogue, in the same way Benedict [Cumberbatch] did in Sherlock. They’re driving, they’re leading the show, and it’s wonderful not only to be able to support them in that task because it’s exhausting, but also to kind of muck in and join them and be really playful with them.
As for the gravitas of someone like David, it just opens people’s eyes as to where we’re at with television. If you look at the last few years, you’ve had [Martin] Scorsese doing the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire. Movie-makers are crossing the genres just as much as actors now. I just read that John Malkovich is going to be in a new TV show. It’s so exciting because television is thriving right now. So, it’s wonderful to kind of collaborate with people like David.
Q. How do you feel about the emphasis that’s now being put on whether a show will be picked up for a second season? The reporting of it almost turns the whole renewal thing into a lottery, especially for freshman series. So, does that ever enter your mind when committing to something new?
Lara Pulver: Someone once said to me you’re only as good as the last take you do. So, for us as actors, or my mind-set, is that you do a bloody good job when you’re on set, you knock it out of the park, and just hope that good work will always breed more work, whether that’s a second season or whether it’s that the phone rings because someone watched Sherlock and someone wants to offer you a new Warner Bros movie. With this profession, as I’m sure it is for yourself sometimes being self-employed, it can turn on a dime. One phone call can just change your day and change your life. Who knows whether we’ll go for a second season but I think we’re all enormously proud of what we’ve achieved in this first season.
Q. What was the biggest lesson you learned from your experience on Da Vinci’s Demons?
Lara Pulver: For me, personally, it’s such an ensemble show and what was wonderful and also disconcerting at times was that you’d shoot maybe three or four scenes a day for three or four days and then you wouldn’t work for a week. It was kind of like an all or nothing shoot where, you know, we’ve got so many wonderful lead characters and supporting characters on the show, and you would have no idea what they were doing. There are characters in the show that I never meet in season one. It’s kind of disconcerting… are we all on the same page with the show? And it was so interesting to then see them at a cast dinner and go: “How have you been finding this? Have you been enjoying it?” But everyone was having such a whale of a time. You just had to be kind of confident that you were doing your bit and be okay that what you did was enough. Having come from a theatre background, you’re used to being in every day and having that little bit of control and that little bit of the feeling that you’ve grafted. Sometimes when it comes to an ensemble TV show you’ll come in and you’ll do your 14-hour day and then you won’t be needed for three or four days and you’re like: “Oh what? The production can go on without me? And you don’t need me to sweat blood and tears today?” [Laughs] And on other days they demand that and 10 times more. It’s kind of odd that all or nothing thing. So, whether that’s patience… I don’t know what it is. But when you’re needed, you’re ‘on’ and when you’re not, it’s okay.
Q. How much of a game-changer was Sherlock for you?
Lara Pulver: It was the game changer so far I would say. I’d say I’ve had two kind of really lovely steps. One was being at the Donmar Warehouse in a production of Parade, which opened the door for me to transfer to America, and then Sherlock took me into the next field. I think as an actor you’re just waiting for that vehicle that you can really flex your muscles with. It was just a gift. It was written so well. Paul McGuigan shoots that show with such finesse and style and Benedict and I just… it worked. Something worked. I remember even up until it airing I was a bit apprehensive because there were so many fans of the show who loved the fact that Sherlock was asexual or possibly gay and I thought: “God, coming in as the love interest, I might be the hated woman.” Fortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. Again, credit to the way it was written I think. And then, Akiva Goldsman, who has just made his directorial debut, an Oscar-winning writer, called and said: “Would Lara come and do this supporting role in my film?” It’s just opened so many doors and I can’t wait to have the time in the schedule to embrace those opportunities.
Q. Were you surprised by the controversy surrounding Sherlock?
Lara Pulver: With that 90-second scene? Yes, in a way because naively I remember reading the script and no flags came up when reading that scene because it was so brilliantly written that it was just a moment in her journey. Now, filming it was the most bizarre day of my life! But when I watched it on New Year’s Day, and we all went round to Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue, my producer’s house, not for a second did I think that would be the scene that everyone would want to discuss because you actually saw more of Benedict in the Buckingham Palace scene than you ever did of myself [laughs]. And yet… yeah, it became a bit of a phenomenon. I remember someone later telling me that that episode is the most downloaded episode of all-time on BBC iPlayer, by over 2-point something million. And I remember a journalist saying to me: “How many people have probably paused and played that scene?” And I was like [screams] because it didn’t stand out for me. For me, the moment where he deciphers the code in her phone was more of a powerful scene for me. But I guess it’s the bravery or the nudity that people wanted to…
Q. I think it was the nudity…
Lara Pulver: But Sherlock is such a well loved show internationally that I think the second you write an article on feminism or violence on television and mention anything to do with Sherlock, you’re guaranteed a certain number of hits on the Internet. So, I think it was for about eight months that I was in the press every day in one form or another – that picture was in the press because they would use it tying in with any sort of article they could relate to Sherlock. But they have huge fans and a huge following on that show.
Q. So, how much fun was it getting into her mindset?
Lara Pulver: It was so much fun. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun on a job. I think it was a combination of them not expecting season one to be such a hit, so they were all riding the crest of that wave, and going into what they felt was an even stronger season two. They had already filmed episodes two and three and were doing it out of sequence and finishing off with A Scandal in Belgravia. So, I was entering their final table read of season two and I think I was in a place, as well, where I was just up for the challenge and it was sheer joy. Sue Vertue and Beryl Vertue, the producers, are so wonderful at creating a very family-orientated, safe environment for you to just go and do your job. It was like being back at the playground and being able to get into the dress-up box and the world was your oyster [laughs].
Q. Did you have to audition? And was there a chemistry test involved?
Lara Pulver: I sent a soft tape across from Los Angeles, which they responded to, and I then flew back to London and did a chemistry test with Benedict and got the job the next day and two days later was doing the table read.
Q. Chemistry tests always sound daunting to me. Is there a technique for cracking them?
Lara Pulver: Yeah, David Goyer actually gave me a little bit of insight into this. I’m not sure if it was a movie or a project that he was doing but he auditioned the female lead and the male lead and he said they were both very sensual, sexy individuals. They cast them, they got them on set together, and they just as two people didn’t get each other. And I think when you’re building a show, especially if it’s a new TV show or a movie, and you don’t buy the core relationship you’re doomed. And so these chemistry tests have recently become more and more popular. It’s something that you can’t necessarily control and I think you need to be okay if it doesn’t work out because actually it would probably be hell on earth if you were with someone that you didn’t really gel with for six months. I’ve been really lucky that I’ve worked with Tom Riley, Benedict Cumberbatch, I’ve just come off a shoot with Dominic Cooper, and every single one of them has been so easy to work with and be intimate with and do ridiculously uncomfortable, intimate, sensual scenes with! So, I’ve been really, really fortunate. But I think also as a person, without blowing my own trumpet, I’m very good at supporting my male counterpart. I understand there is an ego involved [laughs].
Q. How much did you take away from your scenes with Benedict? And are you looking forward to seeing him play the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness?
Lara Pulver: It’s extraordinary. I saw him probably a month ago at the LA BAFTA tea party and he is the talk of that town right now. He is just on fire. And it’s so wonderful for a guy who has worked, probably for about 12 years very steadily and quietly… he’s having his time. And it’s lovely to see. It was an absolute pleasure to work with him. He was a gentleman, he is a genius, he would come out with words that I’d have to stop him mid-sentence to explain what the hell he just said to me [laughs]! But what was lovely was the camaraderie between him and Martin, because Martin is just that one word, one quip comedian, and it would just bring Benedict slap bang to earth. The duo they’ve created on-screen… I remember seeing that Buckingham Palace scene where they’re having tea and him not wearing underpants, it’s glorious. That’s them! So, the fact that they’re both doing so incredibly well is brilliant.
Q. Could you make a comeback in future seasons?
Lara Pulver: They did the table read yesterday for the first episode of season three and when Mark Tweeted it I got butterflies in my belly because it took me back to 18 months ago when I was doing my table read. I trust them that they’ll either leave me as a one episode wonder or they’ll bring her back in some form very slyly or cleverly. But I don’t believe that she’ll be in season three as far as I know.
Q. I wonder if they’ll keep hold of them any longer than season three given how in-demand they are?
Lara Pulver: I think, to be honest, they both love playing those roles and love working together, so if they can keep it going for 10 years and they just keep coming back every 18 months or two years to do it, it’ll be wonderful and I think it’ll end up being one of those duos that we’re very proud of within British television.
Q. How was being part of the final season of Spooks?
Lara Pulver: It was a bit bittersweet because I literally got my feet under the table and then we found out about two thirds of the way through that it was going to be the final season. It was lovely to go out with a bang and to be part of historical British television. And yet we’d barely got started. However, I think they were right to bring it to a close when they did. They’d had 10 brilliant seasons. And when I look over some of the cast like David Oyelowo, Anna Chancellor, Matthew Macfadyen… it’s extraordinary… Rupert Penry-Jones and Richard Armitrage. All of them have gone on to extraordinary things. So, to be a part of that kind of family was really, really nice. And just to work with Peter Firth, who is a hoot. He’s naughty and he’s very, very funny.
Q. Did you enjoy doing the action scenes in that?
Lara Pulver: Yeah, very much. And some of the action stuff was really fun. Kind of being a part of that procedural-type spy world. You have to do all the character work yourself because what you’re delivering is often expositional.
Q. Did you talk to any former spies?
Lara Pulver: Yeah and also because they’d done the show for so long, they were brilliant at saying: “Look, this is a good way to come in at this stuff.” Or: “This is where we’re heading with this.” What was wonderful was they knew that I had a very physical theatre background. Chris Fry, the producer, was very keen on getting me doing lots of stunt stuff and getting me to hang out of reversing cars… all that stuff that you wouldn’t normally get to do – firing Walther PPKs! It was being back in the playground type stuff.
Q. Talking of spies, you’re now involved with the world’s most famous spy [Fleming]…
Lara Pulver: I am! The ultimate spy. We’ve just wrapped on the Budapest leg of Fleming and, like Sherlock and Da Vinci’s Demons, it’s just a gift of a role… an absolute gift. The one thing that is so different from playing Clarice Orsini in Da Vinci’s Demons is that Ann Fleming is so dysfunctional and so acts out of her kind of wounds. I remember reading the four parts of the script and thinking: Why is this woman putting herself in this situation again? Why is she setting herself up for this fall? And yet the second I did research on Ann Fleming and realised that she’d lost her mother when she was 18 and had been raised by quite a strict and sometimes, you could call it abusive nanny and passed around like an aristocratic waif, showed little love or affection, vomited the first time her boyfriend, at 16, kissed her because she hadn’t been used to someone being in her physical space… I thought: “Oh, no wonder this woman ends up mistaking a very animalistic, sadistic relationship with love! No wonder!” And that’s how I come to most of my characters. If I understand their choices, then anything goes.
Q. What was it like working with Dominic on some of the more intense stuff? I gather it’s going to offer a darker look at the life of Ian Fleming?
Lara Pulver: Yeah. I think what was really interesting is that… I guess it would have been diagnosed as depressed or bi-polar now. Nowadays, if we were to analyse his personality… and what’s brilliant is that this four-parter doesn’t shy away from any of that behaviour. Dominic was wonderful. What’s brilliant about Dom is that he’s charming and a good looking chap and yet there’s this danger about him. He was just so lovely to work with. Some of our stuff is very intimate and also emotionally gruelling. I’ve never, fortunately, been in an abusive relationship and, at times, I was throwing glasses at his head and going crazy at him, to the point where he was having to hold me down on the sofa and slap me across the face to get me out of that mindset, and then, within seconds, they’re then making love to each other. They work at such kind of extremes. And then they would say ‘cut’ and I, Lara, would want to burst into tears because it was such… it was alien and also the adrenaline. It’s so energy consuming and exhausting to live that type of a life. So, it was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. It’s also a love story what we’ve created over those four parts, which is something that I think has not been portrayed before.
Q. So, how easy is it for you to let go of a character at the end of the day? Do you live with them 24/7 or are you good at flicking that switch?
Lara Pulver: [Laughs] I’m not Daniel Day-Lewis! I think I’m pretty good at taking the costume off and leaving the character at work. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that I don’t come home and feel utterly exhausted or highly emotional some days because I invest a lot in my work. Also, I miss that character. I’ve been off of Fleming now for just under a week and I actually miss Ann Fleming because she’s so much fun. And she gets away with so much. The cast and crew… it’s bizarre, our job. We push pause on our lives, we fly to foreign countries, we invest so much and work so hard and get so intimate with a group of people, and then they say ‘that’s a wrap’ and you push play on your life and there’s a middle part of the sandwich, or a tunnel or bridge that you have to kind of walk back over before you can hit play. And sometimes that entails just literally taking a holiday or just having a day’s breather. I think it’s probably different for everyone. But it is bizarre what we do.
Q. As enjoyable as it is, especially being in-demand, it is more demanding on your personal life than perhaps a lot of people give you credit for? This seems to be your time when you probably don’t dare say ‘no’ to anything. So, personally, do you have to put all other things on hold to be available when that phone rings?
Lara Pulver: I feel really lucky because I’m riding the wave, like you say right now, at a time where I don’t have kids or a family or anything else to juggle. There’s just my partner and I, and he’s also an actor, and we just are hugely supportive of one another and know that a month apart is just part of the gig. I’m lucky that with my partner I’ve never felt so, with someone, connected with them and yet been 5,000 miles away from them. And I think that probably comes with age, experience, wisdom, a whole bunch of things. But then I see someone like my sister who works in a school as a maths teacher, who is having to come home and do coursework and she’s got two children, and some days I think what she’s doing is a damn sight more gruelling [laughs]. But I think we get it in these bursts, like you say, where it’s so intense for, say, six weeks or three or four months and I think it’s navigating and negotiating that so that it doesn’t end up being massive highs and massive lows. I think what I’ve been able to do in the last year or two is kind of level out that adrenaline somewhat, where you can enjoy the highs but you can also enjoy the down-times without them feeling remotely depressing or lonely. But maybe that’s because I’m doing well right now, so it’s hard to be objective I guess in that sense. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Q. What’s the thing that you most love about this profession?
Lara Pulver: You get to meet some of the most interesting, quirky, extraordinary people because one day you’re shaking hands with royalty, who are coming to see an opening night of a stage show you’re involved in, and the next minute you are meeting Ed, the production designer on Da Vinci’s Demons, who comes from Swansea, grew up in Swansea, is on the board of Swansea FC, and has for the first time had to go back to his home town to work and is therefore insistent on employing local craftsmen, local workmen, and integrating our industry into the community of Swansea, which has ploughed money back into a struggling city, which has allowed for work experience and internship placements for people to come and work with the props department for a few weeks or the costume department. It’s so diverse the people that you get to meet and collaborate with in this job, from very eccentric actors to… and I love that because I think I genuinely love people and learn something from people every day.
Q. You started in theatre. Will you keep going back to theatre?
Lara Pulver: Absolutely! I was privileged to be asked to go and do a Chekhov play last year opposite Roger Allam, do go and do Uncle Vanya, and it kind of re-ignited the bug. There’s a possibility hopefully of doing something in the West End next year. But you just never know.
Q. What do you love about theatre as opposed to TV and film work?
Lara Pulver: I love the fact that you get a rehearsal period so you get to come maybe knowing nothing or thinking you know everything. By week three, you think you have it; by week four, you’re failing miserably and blaming everyone but yourself [laughs], by week five you’re in tech, if you’re so lucky to have a five-week period. And somehow it all comes together and it’s what it’s meant to be and that journey is just wonderful. It’s also having that immediate response. It’s wonderful when you have it on a TV set. I remember having the hydraulic bed, actually, in Sherlock and it’s the first time I think I’ve ever been with a camera crew who couldn’t help but give you an immediate response to the wonder that was us doing this scene in the middle of a field in Wales and this hydraulic bed coming up. I think it’s that immediate response that’s kind of thrilling and being able to be completely spontaneous every night. What I find difficult when it comes to theatre is that I would say that I’m much more of day bird than a night owl, so trying to put a lid on my energy and conserve it for 8pm is a skill that I need to learn. I wake up in the morning and I’m one of those people who can jump out of bed and off I go. So, therefore to be ready to go at 7pm/8pm, I’m like: “No, I’m done for the day! I’ve exerted all I have!”
Q. When did you first get the acting bug? You studied it at school…
Lara Pulver: I was always kind of creative. I was always play acting. I grew up watching Let’s Pretend as a kid. My niece does the same. She wants to be Snow White and Rapunzel one second and then she wants to be sister with a dolly. My parents were sadly splitting up when I was probably about 10 or 11 and so my mum was kind of enrolling me in tennis club over the summer holidays, and netball club, and any kind of club that would keep my morale up when we were going through a tough time as a family. And one of the things that she saw was this amateur production of Annie at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford. We grew up in Kent. She said I’d be great at something like that. And I wasn’t interested because actually I felt like I didn’t really have the skills. I’m not one of those kids who had done ballet since the age of three. And I went along to this audition, kind of reluctantly, and there were all these girls dressed in matching unitards and their mums had done their hair pristinely, and I literally was the token orphan Annie! My hair was scruffy, I had the black plimsoles with the elastic on that I had worn at PE at school, the kind of knee-length socks on with shorts and a T-shirt, and rocked up and sang like Ethel Mergood and got the title role.
So, off the back of that I went to do National Youth Musical Theatre with the likes of Eddie Redmayne and Sheridan Smith and Tom Chambers. We were all in kind of the same… with people like Jude Law years ahead of us. I did it for about three or four years and got the best training experience ever. It was at a time where Andrew Lloyd Weber was the sponsor and we did the show at the end of the festival. I did a show called Pendragon based on the life of King Arthur. And we ended up going to Broadway, Taiwan, Tai Pei, Hong Kong. It was an extraordinary experience that I had with this youth theatre group and off the back of that I went to drama school. It’s weird, I never really chose to be an actress and yet I’ve never pursued anything else.
Q. You sing as well…
Lara Pulver: Yes, yes.
Q. Any plans for more albums? You’ve been on one already?
Lara Pulver: We did the Parade cast album and I also did a song for a musical theatre composer. But I’m not really a vocalist. I’d say I’m an actress who can sing. So, I can’t imagine me doing a Ronnie Scott’s night or anything like that. For me, I can sing through character but I’m not like a ‘singer’ singer. So, to get back and do a musical or a film adaptation of a musical… something like an Edith Piaf-style biopic might be really interesting, where I’m kind of using my skill but it’s very much character-led.
Q. What do you specifically look for in roles? Is it purely script or is sometimes the opportunity to work with a great cast or director?
Lara Pulver: I think it has to come down to script because if you take a job based on a director, when it comes to theatre they leave. You’re the one doing it eight shows a week and they bugger off after rehearsals, and so it’s got to be something that you’re passionate about doing, either eight shows a week, or passionate about a character that you’re going to shoot for five or six months. So, I think at the end of the day, as much as you might say ‘oh Trevor Nunn’s doing that project’ or someone, it’s got to come down to what’s on the page.
Q. You mentioned dabbling in films. One of those was The Special Relationship. How great an experience was that?
Lara Pulver: It was interesting. It was maybe my first or second film and it went from being kind of like a 10-line character to a three-line part. It was a scene with Michael Sheen. But just to be on a set like that and to learn how everything worked was super interesting. Michael Sheen is definitely someone I’d like to work with again on camera or on stage.
Q. So, finally, what would you say is your favourite memory of being on a film set or on-stage so far?
Lara Pulver: I’ll never forget the opening night of Parade at the Donmar. It was our first preview and we had staged it so that it didn’t allow for any applause. It just ran continuously to the end of the interval. So, you could never really gauge whether the audience were with you and yet you could hear a pin drop, so you knew they were listening. And I’ll never forget coming out for the curtain call on the Donmar stage, where it’s so intimate and you can see into everyone’s eyes, and we came out apprehensive and literally everyone on their feet… Helen Mirren in the third row. All of a sudden you could see Stephen Sondheim and all these people and you could just breathe. The response was deafening. It was extraordinary because it felt like you’d almost been on a TV set because it was so intimate and the response was overwhelming.
Q. How gratifying is it to look out and see someone like Helen Mirren sat in the third row watching you?
Lara Pulver: I remember when her and Taylor, her husband, came back-stage and I was just honoured that they had taken the time out to come back-stage… And Ian McKellen… he’d go ‘oh you’re sitting in my place… that’s where I sat’. And I’d go: “Oh my God!” [Laughs] It’s extraordinary when you go into the theatres in London in that sense, or you speak to someone like David Goyer abut working with Christopher Nolan. He’d say: “Oh, this is how Chris would shoot this…” And you’d be like: “Chris who? Christopher Nolan, oh right!” It’s extraordinary and yet only the other day at the BAFTA tea party I was there with Benedict, who is the hottest ticket, talking to Ben Affleck. And you’re talking to Ben Affleck! It’s surreal and yet, of course you’re talking to Ben Affleck. I was like: “Well, of course I am! He’s just an actor who is doing really bloody well – and great on him!” But it’s funny, isn’t it… when you’re amongst people doing well it’s so gratifying and spurs you to just keep investing in this job.
Da Vinci’s Demons airs on Friday nights on Fox from Friday, April 19, 2013 at 10pm.