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Glue - Yasmin Paige interview (exclusive)

Yasmin Paige in Glue

Interview by Rob Carnevale

YASMIN Paige talks about playing the role of Ruth in Channel 4 drama Glue and why her preparation involved getting to understand Romany culture a lot better and how to behave like a police officer.

She also reflects on her own career to date, including how she is coping with combining studying with acting, how much the film Submarine means to her and why she also enjoys the opportunity to go to university and surround herself with everyday people.

Yasmin Paige: Apologies if I sound nasally. I have a cold. People are dropping like flies at university at the moment…

Q. So, are you currently juggling studying at university with acting or taking a break from acting?
Yasmin Paige: Yeah, I’m going to Queen Mary’s in East London and I am trying to juggle it. Sometimes, it’s really hard. I juggled bits of both with Glue. It was 17 weeks that started towards the end of my last semester, so there was a huge period where I was filming and studying. But then we went into summer and it became easier. I did find combining the two difficult and I haven’t figured out how to do it effortlessly just yet.

Q. So, coming to Glue. What was the biggest challenge of playing Ruth and what kind of research did you do?
Yasmin Paige: Well, when we started the job, all of the Romany characters – myself, Marah, Eli and Joe – were given a lot of help. We had a Romany adviser who taught us all about their culture and we learnt to speak the Romany language. We had help with pronunciation and learnt all about every aspect of Romany culture and life that would influence the decisions our characters made. And for the police side, we had a police officer on set with us. She was a detective from Reading, which was quite near to where we were filming, so she was used to being a police officer in the country. She’s actually in the show as well. She’s so amazing. You can catch her in scenes where Rob is being questioned and Eli is being questioned. But she helped me with knowing how to react in certain situations and procedural things like how I’d arrive at a crime scene and behave when there… and what was what expected of us.

Q. Is that a career you would ever consider?
Yasmin Paige: No, definitely not. I think you have to be extremely strong to be in the police and I couldn’t do that at all. I get nervous when a police car is driving past me when I’m in the car, pondering what they’re doing or going to. I’m too sensitive. I could not show up to a murder scene and do anything like that. It would break me instantly. I really admire police officers, surgeons, or anyone who works in high stressed situations.

Q. I guess you do your bit by providing a window into their world and showing audiences different aspects of life and culture?
Yasmin Paige: I guess so. The thing I like most about acting is that it entertains people. Films and TV can also offer such comfort to people… TV especially, because it’s in people’s homes and they can watch it at home. It offers them insights into different cultures and ideas, which I think is great.

Q. What did you think when you first read Jack Thorne’s script for Glue?
Yasmin Paige: It was great. I wasn’t actually going to do it at first because of university. But after I read it, it was so impressive that I went up for it at Christmas. Jack’s writing is so great. The character of Ruth was so interesting and she was someone so different for me to play. She was my first mature role. I’m 22 but I’ve done a lot of things for a very young audience so far, such as The Sarah Jane Adventures. I’m tiny and petite and I look very young, so I tend to attract those kinds of roles. So, when I saw this script, I knew it would be a new challenge for me and something that would really help to advance my career, especially given the quality of the writing. It’s exposing a culture too. The Romany culture is not really in the media that much and he wanted to portray that. It’s also a murder-mystery. So, I knew it was something I could have a really great time on. And in the end, I was really happy and excited to have done it.

Q. Was there anything about the Romany culture that surprised you that you didn’t already know?
Yasmin Paige: Well, I didn’t really know anything about it going into this. The one thing that I liked the most about it is that it’s so family based. They don’t have mothers and fathers in the same way we do. They’re really in a community, so parenting is shared between the community. One mother can look after three mothers’ children. In the series, you have Joe, who sort of runs the camp and is everyone’s father figure. So, I found that interesting. It’s all about loyalty and sticking together. They love their children and their way of life. It’s all about being free and they genuinely feel like they are in control of their own destiny.

Q. So, reflecting on your acting career to date, when did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
Yasmin Paige: Well, I’ve always done it from when I was young. I did very small things at first, like being an extra or things like that. And when I was 12, I did my first sort of speaking role. But I wouldn’t say I had a passion for it from the start. It developed as I started to become a bit more mature. When I was 12 or 13, I started to watch films and understand more about the craft and that helped me to develop. But it also felt like a game, because it was fun. I mean, all of us do it when we’re kids to a degree – play acting. But then I came to realise that it’s a lovely way to express yourself. So, my passion for it developed as I got older. I didn’t know I wanted to be actor when I was four [laughs]! I did it at the beginning because my brother did it before me and it was a hobby. I didn’t mind doing it. But then it got more serious.

Yasmin Paige

Q. How did Submarine change things for you?
Yasmin Paige: For me, it’s probably one of the most important things I’ve done and it will always remain the closest thing to my heart. It was an amazing experience and it really changed things for me after I’d finished filming it because of the people on it. They were all so wonderful and I learnt so much from them. Richard [Ayoade] gave you so much control. He allowed you to have so much input into your character and that was really the first time I had any experience of being able to do that as an actor. When you do children’s TV or one episode [guest] stuff, you have to listen, which is also a great thing to learn. But you don’t have individual input. It has to be very specific because of the lack of time and money. But with Submarine, Richard gave us a lot of freedom and he really helped us. He’s so amazing. It really changed things for me and brought my love for filming and working with people to a completely different level. It really was a wonderful experience.

Q. Were you surprised by the film’s success? I mean, once you see it, it’s obvious. But British films don’t always attract the success they deserve…
Yasmin Paige: When I’m filming something, I quite forget that it’s all still got to come together and be edited. I’m so engrossed in trying to do the best I can on a day to day basis that I forget that people will see it and judge it. So, when I first saw it at Toronto with Craig [Roberts] I was so shocked. I knew how beautiful it looked because I would occasionally look at the monitor. But Erik Wilson, our director of photography, was amazing and I’d never been in anything that had such beautiful cinematography. So, when I saw it for that first time at Toronto I was genuinely shocked because I couldn’t believe I was in something so beautiful and so well put together. But then I knew from then that people would like it. Of course, you’re always going to be biased but Submarine was amazing and I’m not surprised that people liked it. Richard is phenomenal.

Q. So, how gratifying was it to be able to work with him again on The Double?
Yasmin Paige: Oh gosh, that was amazing. It made me so happy. To work with Richard is my favourite thing in the world. He is my favourite person. So, it was great for me to be involved in a project that was, again, so different and with such wonderful actors. Everyone from Submarine is in the film in one way or another, which helps because it really does feel like a family. Richard likes working with people that he knows. So, I already knew all of the crew and practically everyone and we all felt comfortable. It’s nice to be able to go into somewhere where there’s no pressure, and where people are supportive and believe in you. I loved The Double. I thought Richard put so much thought into such a beautifully detailed piece. Jesse [Eisenberg] is amazing in it, as is Mia [Wasikowska]. Going forward, anything that Richard asks me to do, I would be so honoured… even if it’s sweeping the street because he’s such a great person and a great friend.

Q. And how much do you learn from getting to spend time acting with and observing someone like Mia Wasikowska?
Yasmin Paige: Oh my gosh, so much. I think Mia is such a beautiful girl and such a phenomenal actress. With her and Jesse, I’ve seen all of the other films that they’ve done. Mia is very composed and I like that about her. She’s very sweet. But she’s beautiful and so interesting to watch – the way that she takes her roles and makes everything so subtle. The way she works things out is so interesting and unique, so it was really interesting to watch her. And every film you see her in is so different. She has such beautiful, beautiful eyes – it’s all in her eyes.

Q. You’ve also done The Possibilities Are Endless, about Edwyn Collins…
Yasmin Paige: I had a very short time on that film and it was quite strange because the process was kind of like a documentary, which was different for me. The way everything was filmed was very casual. It was kind of hard portraying Edwyn’s love interest and helping to express that story as well as the story within Edwyn’s head [from an internalised point of view]. But of course, it was another amazing thing to be a part of because Edwyn’s story is so phenomenal and so interesting.

Yasmin Paige

Q. I think it was Ashton Kutcher that said he never feels more alive than when doing a role that takes him out of his comfort zone. Is that something you look for?
Yasmin Paige: Yes, definitely. I’m someone who is quite uncomfortable if something is different. I like doing things I’m used to in everyday life. So, I always try to push myself outside of that when looking for roles, otherwise I would never do anything different. I get very nervous in un-trodden territory but it’s important to keep doing it just to prove to myself that I can do it. But that’s part of this industry. It’s hard a lot of the time, especially when you get knocked down a lot. There’s a lot of criticism and it’s always in the back of your mind that you may never work again. So, that’s a real fear. It’s really, really difficult, especially now that I’m becoming more dependent and have started to pay the bills. I mean, there are loads of amazing actors in the UK and only 2% of them are in work, which is crazy. But you have to remain positive and just try your best and part of that is doing things that continually surprise people, including yourself, so that you don’t get pigeon-holed.

Q. Is university part of a back-up plan for you?
Yasmin Paige: Not really. I only did it because I like the idea of going to university and studying. I didn’t do it because it was a back-up plan. In some ways, it kind of goes hand in hand with acting. There’s a lot of analysis and enriching your mind, as well as problem solving. And it can only help being around people as an actor. I had a hard time at school because I worked, so I was quite often out of school, which meant that I didn’t make many friends. It can happen to child actors, because you’re not in the school environment. And I did miss that school environment and being around people. So, I wanted to go to university and experience something that I felt like I’d missed. I wanted to be around bright, intelligent young people who were learning about themselves. I study English literature but my friends are doing psychology and things like that. No one cares about acting there. It’s not competitive and it’s a nice environment for me. I’m actually quite different when I’m there to how I am on a TV or film set. It’s very challenging and I really, really like it. And I enjoy being in that environment. Whatever grade I get, even though I do try my best, I’ll be happy with. I feel so lucky to have done all the jobs I’ve done to this point. So, if I continue to work it will be amazing. But I’m going to see how it goes.

Q. So, what has been your favourite experience to this point and what has informed you most as an actress?
Yasmin Paige: Definitely Submarine. It’s sometimes hard to talk about because it’s so close to my heart. It’s difficult to put into words. But those three months in Wales, in the freezing cold, were a seminal part of my life so far. I was 17 when it was being filmed and so I was at an age where you are learning a lot about yourself. I came out of school to film it, and I hadn’t been having a good time in school before that. I get quite shy around big groups of people. If I meet people, especially my peers and people my own age, I always struggle because I’ve always worked with adults and they have a tendency to molly coddle you a bit when you’re the youngest on-set. But with Submarine, when I came out of school, people were so lovely and supportive. And you don’t get that experience very often. It felt like a family on-set. So Submarine changed so much for me… I haven’t done anything that can match up to what I learnt about myself as an actress and as a person or the friends that I made.

Glue airs on E4 on Monday nights from 10pm.