Dive - Aisling Loftus interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
AISLING Loftus talks exclusively to us about new BBC two-part drama Dive, which follows the highs and lows of a young couple finding love for the first time in the UK.
Aisling, who has also appeared in Five Daughters, discusses the themes of the drama, working with director Dominic Savage and co-star Jack O’Connell, playing an Olympic hopeful diver, and her hopes and ambitions for her career.
Q. How did you become involved with Dive?
Aisling Loftus: Well, I didn’t have an agent or anything but the casting director, Shaheen Baig, was aware of the junior television workshop in Nottingham and kind of called me to audition. So, I did and I guess they decided I’d make an alright Lindsey and I got it.
Q. How much do you identify with Lindsey?
Aisling Loftus: I definitely felt like I understood her. But she’s very self-contained and self-possessed. She has this incredible discipline and drive for someone who is just 15 years of age, initially. So, perhaps I was a bit in awe of that because it’s certainly not something that I think I had at 15. But I could really relate to the places that she goes to in the story. I wish I was a bit more Lindsey-like… I’m not [laughs]. I didn’t find that it was a million miles away from where I was at the time.
Q. How was working with your diving double?
Aisling Loftus: It was really cool because… her name’s Jenny Cowan and I’ve got her on Facebook now! It’s such a beautiful thing. There’s an awful lot of strength and control in what she’s doing, but it also looks so beautiful and graceful. It was just amazing because I’d never really seen anything like that up close. It really helped getting into the headspace of Lindsey… this discipline and single-mindedness. So, it was helpful and awe-inspiring.
Q. How long did you have to work with her?
Aisling Loftus: I worked with a guy called Chris Snoad, who is a high up diving coach for the GB team… I think it’s the junior division. I worked with him initially and he ran me through the different positions and everything. I then met a few of the girls who were on his squad. They ran me through a few things. But obviously, I wasn’t actually going to be doing any diving, so I only really saw Jenny when we were filming those scenes. But she’s a proper cool girl, so I guess we just kind of clicked like mates.
Q. How long did you have to spend in the water? Did you get annoyed with being wet?
Aisling Loftus: [Laughs] No, it was alright. I haven’t been swimming in ages and I think we filmed all those bits over four or five days.
Q. Are you a good swimmer?
Aisling Loftus: Not really, no [laughs]. I can only do a doggie paddle really!
Q. Dive offers a refreshingly honest take on youth. Is that another thing that appealed to you about it? It celebrates youth as well as showing it can be tough as well?
Aisling Loftus: I think what I really liked about this script, and I do just think it’s the most beautiful script… it’s so honest. It treats Robert and Lindsey as individuals, as people that can make important decisions. Across the board, all the parents in this drama… a lot of the problems of parenthood, which are depicted in this, are universal. Yes, it’s harder being younger and growing up yourself, but all those anxieties and problems are going to be faced by anyone at any age. I think I found that interesting as well. When people hear about teenage parents and teenage pregnancy, they attribute a lot of personality traits to those individuals, which is just such a bizarre thing when you really think about it. Like, how does age and circumstance equate to some kind of personality trait? So, I think I found it to be a very interesting script in the way that it put things to right a bit by treating them as two people in a situation, rather than an issue.
Q. Do you know any teenage parents? Or try and speak to any teenage parents to get their take on how they approached the kind of decisions that Lindsey and Robert have to make?
Aisling Loftus: I do know people that have got babies but I didn’t talk to them about it. I think I would have if Dive had actually gone onto the actual reality of them having the baby and that part of their lives. But I think it’s a very personal decision for someone that young or with that kind of career in mind as to whether they choose to keep the baby. So, I tried to approach it as I felt Lindsey would approach it, as opposed to how a teenage girl would approach it. So, I didn’t even think about asking how that all happened; I think it was more instinctive. I felt like I knew who Lindsey was and approached it as was natural and honest for the character.
Q. There are also some quite tough scenes, especially during the first episode, concerning sex and sexuality… how do you approach those? Was it nerve-wracking on the day itself?
Aisling Loftus: Well, I totally believed in the script that Dominic had written, which was very much about telling the story as opposed to exploiting anyone, or providing cheap thrills or anything like that. I never felt like I was being put in a position that I didn’t want to be in. Yes, it was an uncomfortable thing, but Jack O’Connell was the ultimate gentleman. He’s Jack the lad but he’s got a real dignity to him and a real respect. Dominic was also very sensitive about how he approached it. So, I think it was the best possible way to do my first scene of that kind.
Q. How much do you get personally out of working with a director as good as Dominic?
Aisling Loftus: I didn’t realise just how good a director Dominic was… this year, I’ve been really lucky to work with great directors. But Dominic is very special… and I didn’t realise that. I thought everyone was a Dominic. It was really invaluable working with him, though, because he just allows you to… I never felt like I had to prove my worth to him. I never felt like I needed to prove to him that I was a good actor, or that I deserved to be there, or that he’d made the right decision. I knew that he trusted that he’d made the right decision and that he trusted me with what I was doing.
So, consequently there wasn’t this other layer to my performance, which I feel like I’ve sometimes when watching myself. Sometimes I’ve been in character but then tried to show that I’m worthy of being the character, if you know what I mean. Dominic completely removed that, so that it became about the honesty and the truth of the situation and of the [people and the dynamics between them. I think anyone that’s aware of Dominic is also aware of that… he has a very special quality in bringing out that natural, honest performance.
Q. Screen International recently picked you out as one of the faces of tomorrow, so how does that make you feel? Does it add any pressure?
Aisling Loftus: I think it’s really lovely. It’s a real honour but, with respect, they could have got it wrong. I really hope that I can be as good as some people think I can be. But I may never work again… and that’s the reality of this industry. So, it’s nice but I wouldn’t want to go into something feeing like I needed to prove that I was good enough to be there. Maybe in some ways, it makes me think: “Do you know what? Some people think I’m alright, so maybe I should go into a job thinking I’m not rubbish.” But I don’t really think about it.
Q. So, is film something you’d like to get into as well? You’ve already done This Is England….
Aisling Loftus: Well, I did a part and it was only a little part and then it got cut! So, it’s on my CV but I’m not even in it [laughs]. I feel awkward about that. It’s not that I feel the next step is films. I don’t think that at all. I want to be involved in things I can be really proud of. There’s a lot of bad films being made and I don’t understand how they got the money for it. That said, there’s a lot of bad telly, but there’s also a lot of very high quality that is something I’d be much more proud of than a mediocre film.
Dive, for instance… I’d much rather do something as special as Dive than Transformers 3. It just doesn’t do anything for me. I would like, in my life, to always be doing things I’m proud of. I know that probably won’t happen all the time. But I’d prefer to be telling stories I can be proud of and understand why they’re being told. I do watch a lot of films and TV, but sometimes I think: “Why the hell did you make that then?” I won’t say what they are though [laughs]…
Q. So, which films and TV programmes inspire you? Which are the ones that made you think you wanted to pursue acting as a profession?
Aisling Loftus: I think particular performances inspired me to want to be an actor, and to try to be as good as them – Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose, for instance. A film called Rosetta, by the Dardenne brothers [Jean-Pierre and Luc]… or Maxine Peake in Criminal Justice; Sophie Okonedo in Skin, or in anything to be honest. And Samantha Morton on Morvern Callar. I think the performances that really communicate with me are the ones where I don’t feel like I’m watching someone and thinking: “They’re doing some really good acting.”
It’s when I’m literally completely consumed by the story-telling and the actor or actress is evoking something in me. I think that’s so powerful and cinema and TV has so much power. Five Daughters was a good example of the power of television to communicate and make people think.
Q. You mentioned earlier that you don’t find yourself having as much focus as your diving double, and yet you seem quite focused in terms of what you want from your career and the type of roles you’ll be going after. How has that come together for you? Do you feel like you’re still in control and are ready for the challenges that might possibly lie ahead?
Aisling Loftus: It’s a really difficult one because regardless of the very nice things that people have said, I’m not owed anything from any meeting that I go into. I don’t go into every meeting thinking I’ve got to get it. I want to do justice to myself, of course, but I feel like I’ve got to give it a go. I feel like I’ve had a really good year, and what’s to say I’m not going to have another good year? But likewise, what’s to say I won’t ever work again? So, I just have to try my best. It’s a really difficult question because you can’t really have long-term plans unless you’re going to write direct and produce something that you star in. There’s a few things that maybe I’ll end up being in but I don’t want to jinx anything.
Q. How much did you enjoy working with Ewan Bremner?
Aisling Loftus: I just love him. He’s got a really gentle quality to him. He’s phenomenally talented but I never felt like I was meeting an actor. I just felt like I was meeting a really cool person. I saw him afterwards in Julien Donkey-Boy and was just blown away. I thought that’s exactly what I wanted to be able to do. So, it was amazing to be able to work with him, and I never felt intimidated. We just clicked and the fact that he’s so talented made it even better.
But I’ve been very lucky with the people that I’ve worked with – like, as you say, Dominic attracts top class people to work with him. So, it was really amazing to just be able to witness Eddie Marsan. He has this conviction and he nailed the scene. I only have one scene with him and initially I knew that I wasn’t being Lindsey; I was being me bearing witness to this proper actor! So, I’ve been very lucky and I feel it’s put me in a good place.
Q. Do you get nervous or intimidated before appearing in scenes with your idols? Or do you soon feel like an equal when you’re in their company?
Aisling Loftus: No, I wouldn’t ever put myself as an equally to someone like him. Maybe one day… but maybe not. I think if I was to go into something feeling like I needed to prove my worth that would be a really bad thing for what I was actually hoping to do with the character. It would be adding another layer to what I was doing. So, that doesn’t work because it’s unhelpful and a thing of demonstrating acting, rather than really believing in what you’re doing and therefore having people believe in you. So, I never felt like that with Dive, apart from when I first saw Eddie and thought he was really good.
Dominic Savage’s Dive airs over two consecutive nights on BBC2 on Thursday and Friday (July 8 and 9, 2010), at 9pm.