Interview: Synnøve Karlsen – Autumn’s Rising Star on ‘CLIQUE’ & ‘MEDICI: THE MAGNIFICENT’

Autumn couldn’t be a more exciting time for SYNNØVE KARLSEN. Having just returned to ‘CLIQUE’ – the hit BBC drama series which put her on the map as a rising star just over a year ago.

Synnøve stars in the central role of Holly McStay – a student who is drawn to a clique of confident but troubled girls – in what has been one of BBC Three’s most-watched programmes in recent times.

Very shortly, Synnøve is set to star opposite Sean Bean and Daniel Sharman in the new Netflix series ‘MEDICI: THE MAGNIFICENT’ – set for a worldwide December release – which follows the Medici family in Florence, during 1470.

AC: ‘Clique’ has just returned for a second series – what do you think fans can expect from the new season?

SYNNØVE: We follow Holly again but this time through her second year at university. Broadly speaking I think this series is exploring identity: idividual and group mentality in our current political climate. I think people will really love the twists within the story and the journey she goes through this series, its very psychological and personal but it is set within this politically charged and exciting, young setting that really draws you in.

Do you think that ‘Clique’ – in many ways – is a cautionary tale?

I’m not sure it’s cautionary so much but more of an exploration of opinions. She finds herself in dark places, she is somewhat unhinged at points but I don’t see that as a part of ‘beware this is what could happen to you..’ but more a reality of what it is to be a young person right now, discovering yourself and negotiating your way through different experiences in the wake of social media and the immense pressure to show yourself in a certain light. Jess puts every political opinion on the table and Holly guides us through these questions that are raised. We see the world through her eyes and in that we see her make mistakes but ultimately its just about a girl’s journey (albeit heightened) through university as all of these questions are posed to her in the wake of traumatic events.

“I think ultimately, [‘Clique’] is about relationships, especially the way in which you relate to yourself.”

Do you feel that you can relate to Holly from your own teenage years?

Absolutely. I remember reading series one and just immediately understanding her. I think there was something especially personal to me in it being set in Scotland as that is where I was born and raised until the age of twelve. There is a lot of reference to her growing up in a small seaside town on the coast but being drawn to something bigger and more exciting, which is incredibly similar to my own experience of childhood. And in terms of its exploration of that time in your late teens I could really relate – maybe less so to the trauma – but I think ultimately this show is about relationships, especially the way in which you relate to yourself. I was very lonely, trying to exist within a specific group but also really trying to get to grips with who I was as an individual. It’s a very specific, solitary point starting university and is one nobody really prepares you for. I think this what is so beautiful about Jess’s writing, very rarely to you see a young woman at that age in such a closely explored way coming to terms with her own identity.

How much can you tell us about ‘Medici: The Magnificent’?

‘The Magnificent’ is coming to Netflix in December, following its release in Italy. It has been such an exciting project and it follows the story of Lorenzo De Medici (Daniel Sharman), the leader of the most powerful family in Italy during the renaissance. I play his wife Clarice, who was very influential in uniting Florence and Rome politically at this time. It was such an interesting part to play, and to explore youth at that time which I don’t think has ever really been explored in this way, I think its very easy for us to forget about young people when we look back historically. Florence was a very trendy, liberal place and Rome, very traditional and Papal, so it was the total opposite and I am playing this very religious woman who is suddenly sent into an arranged marriage with a young man from Florence. Sean Bean plays Jacopo Pazzi, a rival to the family, and the series follows his attempts to destroy the Medici rule. I’m currently filming the next season which follows our marriage and will come out next year.

“I don’t believe in fate but I think it’s important to not doubt in what you are doing”

Comparing both ‘Medici: The Magnificent’ and ‘Clique’ – were the vibes on the sets completely different?

Yes, in a way. ‘Clique’ we filmed mainly on location and is very young and contemporary so there is a freedom there, whereas ‘Medici’ we filmed mostly in a studio and you are in a very alien world with huge dresses and hair pieces so I think that definitely informs the atmosphere on set. But ‘Medici’ was wild, we had a lot of fun shooting that. Living in Rome for four months and all being in this foreign city together makes everyone really become a family, especially after two seasons.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Oh thats a tricky one. I have been given lots of advice, but I guess to trust what is happening, I don’t believe in fate but I think it’s important to not doubt in what you are doing and commit to everything fully. My mum always tells me that all of the right things for me won’t pass me by, so I think I remind myself of that very often.

QUICK QUESTIONS WITH SYNNØVE KARLSEN

Last show you binge-watched?

‘Maniac’ on Netflix.
Oh, and I’m working with Johnny Harris at the moment so I have been freaking him out by finally binge watching all of ‘This Is England’ on Channel Four.

Strangest food combo you’ve ever had?

I like peanut butter and Nutella on toast. I would see that as pretty normal, but I get some strange looks.

What are your five go-to tunes right now?

Lily Allen – ‘Apples’
Amy Winehouse – ‘Take The Box’
Cigarettes After Sex – ‘4’
Amy Winehouse – ‘I Heard Love is Blind’
Leonard Cohen – ‘Chelsea Hotel 2’

Everyone has a cool app idea, what’s yours?

I have zero cool app ideas. I really need to have a big think about why that is…

Would you rather be at a mountain hideaway or a beach house?

Either. But I like the sunshine.

What is the furthest you’ve been from home?

I went to Cambodia with my best friend when I was eighteen and spent a week in hospital after getting Dengue Fever, and I can safely say I have never felt so far from home in my life. But I think yes geographically that is probably the furthest away I have been also.

Last book you read?

‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney.

One thing you’re excited about for the future?

I’m excited for the day when my niece and nephew start talking to each other.

‘Clique’ Series 2 is available on BBC Three via BBC iPlayer now

PHOTOGRAPHY: JOSEPH SINCLAIR

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