Interview: Jessica Ellerby on Sky’s LIVING THE DREAM & Netflix’s LOVESICK

JESSICA ELLERBY took some time to talk with CROOKES Magazine about her upcoming role in Sky’s LIVING THE DREAM and the process of making her short filmThe Hungry Games.

AC: First of all, lets talk about your first short film The Hungry Games. Where did your inspiration for the film come from?

JESSICA ELLERBY: It’s an observational comedy so I was very much inspired by real life experiences and stories (shared or overheard).

What was the festival circuit like?

Daunting, initially! I actually put it off for months after completion because I completely bottled it – this thing that I’d sat alone at home thinking up was going to be seen by people, and that felt completely exposing.
But once I swallowed my pride and put myself out there, I’ve found festivals have been brilliant! It’s been amazing attending screenings and seeing what stories people are telling, and how they’re telling them. I’ve been very lucky actually that the film has been accepted into quite an eclectic cross section of festivals; from comedy to female led content to short film so I have seen a really diverse load of other work because of that.
You’re also often sat in a room with the other film makers, and to be surrounded by a whole host of driven, creative and talented people is extremely inspiring.

How do you think audiences reacted to the short?

I was really warmed by how much it resonated with people actually. And that people laughed! There’s always this moment when you’re sat at the screenings and there’s a punch line and you think “oh god, please think this is funny!”. At the festivals I managed to personally attend, I had loads of people come up to me afterwards to tell me their stories, or their friends stories, or just be like “oh my god, YES! So true!” – and that was lovely, to experience first hand that people had connected to it. 

Is there one thing you’ve learnt from making the short, that you will take into your next project? Do you know what that next project might be?

I mean I learnt so much – every step of the process was a huge learning curve for me! It was a serious case of chucking myself in the deep end!

I think overall though I learnt that you’ve just got to make the stuff that you believe in and in a way that is authentic. You can’t be second guessing whether the end product will be good or not, or what people will think, or what festivals are looking for – that stuff is all out of your control and not the point anyway. And for me, writing and making my own work is very much about flexing my creative muscles (in a way that sometimes I can’t fully just as an actor) so as long as it’s always feeding that then the rest is a bonus. Oh, and having a great team is everything – having supportive, enthusiastic people egging you on is invaluable. It makes the whole process so much easier and enjoyable.

As for what’s next; there’s a horror and a drama that I’ve written that I’d like to make if I can squeeze it in before I start filming again!

Has producing your own short film made you more empathetic to the production crews on television shows and films?

​So much. I’ve always admired and had huge respect for the crew. I think they’re wizards. But yes, not having them certainly magnified that. You realise what a well oiled machine a production crew is; how important every job is, and how bloody hard everyone works. Going back onto set as an actor felt like a breeze – I was like “I just having to do the acting bit?!”. I’m not worrying about continuity or if someones parking is about to run out, and if we’ve got enough props to do that take again – dreamy!

Living The Dream is about to return – what can we expect from the second season?

​I don’t want to give too much away, you’ll have to tune in! But expect more joyful, wholesome family comedy/drama in the Florida sunshine – and a few new faces – obviously! It’s so refreshing actually to have a programme that is full of unashamed sunshine and positivity – obviously with a good dose of British sarcasm for balance!

Can you tell us any funny stories from on-set?

Leslie Jordon. The man is a constant source of comedy; he is anecdote King. And each story comes complete with a photograph. My favourite is his ‘riding Lady Gaga’. Need I say more?

You’re perhaps best known for your role in Lovesick – what do you think it is that makes the show so popular?

I think it’s great writing; it’s funny, it’s hopelessly romantic and has a great gaggle of friends to follow. And I think those things appeal to a wide audience. 

I also think the device of skipping backwards and forwards in time is very clever and allows you to delve deeper into the characters histories and also introduce new faces too, so there’s always something new for the audience.

Also episodes, as you know, are also only thirty minutes long and I think having it available on Netflix [it was originally made for Chanel 4 and later bought by the streaming service] means that people can view as many as they like in one sitting. I’ve had friends message me to say: “I don’t know how I’ve managed to miss this show before now, but I’ve just started watching Lovesick that you’re in and watched all three seasons in a week”. I mean who doesn’t love a good binge?

Speaking of Netflix, are you binge-watching anything right now? Any recommendations?

Oh yeah! I’ve always got something on the go. I naturally gravitate towards quite dark, moody dramas, and I’ve just finished Ozark season three and Unforgotten. For something lighter though, I’m also really enjoying The Good Place.  I’m usually a bit of a tough crowd when it comes to comedy, but this made me laugh out loud. I think the writing is very clever and the performances are flawless across the board.

Alongside your upcoming projects, is there one thing you’re particularly excited about for the future?

Well, work wise, I’m shooting a really cool new show that I think is going to be brilliant. I get to play an extremely iconic character which is quite special. And life wise, I’ve always had the travel bug hard so there’s a few places I’m looking forward to ticking off my bucket list.

Living The Dream continues on Sky One, Tuesdays at 9pm

PHOTOGRAPHER – JOSEPH SINCLAIR

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

STYLING – HOLLY OUNSTEAD

HMU – SAMANTHA COOPER

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Everything you can expect from the Doctor Who New Year’s Day Special

Doctor Who is returning for a festive special on New Year’s Day

Intense speculation has been mounting around the upcoming installment of Doctor Who, as show bosses remain tight-lipped on what might be in store. This festive special comes after an action-packed ten-episode run, with Jodie Whittaker at the helm as the iconic time traveler.

Whittaker’s debut series was considered a wild ratings success, with viewing figures higher than those of the last two series when Peter Capaldi starred in the title role.

This year, the show is breaking a tradition it has held for more than a decade, through the absence of a Christmas special. Instead, a festive episode will air on New Year’s Day.

The festive special has been named Resolution and will see the return of the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh), Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) and Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan). The core ensemble cast had an unwavering presence in the most recent series and it seems as though this will continue in the upcoming special, with Indian Summer’s Nikesh Patel and Call the Midwife’s Charlotte Richie guest starring alongside them.

Resolution will see the Doctor and her companions investigate a terrifying evil which is stirring from across the centuries of Earth’s history.

There is much speculation from Whovians that the Daleks may be making an appearance in the festive special. The Doctor’s arch enemies have been a no-show in the Jodie Whittaker era so far, with showrunner Chris Chibnall opting to feature new antagonists in the recent series, rather than revisit classic ones. Some even believe that the real title will be Resolution Of The Daleks.

To much surprise from fans, it was recently revealed that after Resolution, the show will not return again for a second season with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor until 2020. It remains to be seen whether there will be another standalone installment to fill the lengthy gap.

The Doctor Who New Year’s special airs January 1 at 7pm on BBC One.

Interview: Neil Jackson on Welcome To Marwen & Absentia

NEIL JACKSON has been starring in television shows and films for almost two decades. The British actor can currently be seen on the big screen alongside Steve Carrell in ‘Welcome To Marwen’. The film follows the true story of Mark Hogancamp (portrayed by Carrell), a man struggling with PTSD who, after having his memory erased from being physically assaulted, creates a fictional village to ease his trauma.

Alongside this film, Neil Jackson has also been seen this year in the acclaimed sci-fi western drama ‘Westworld’. We spoke to Neil as he reflects on his career so far, whilst talking about his new roles.

AC: What do you look for in a role?

NEIL JACKSON: I look for a character that I connect to, that I can understand and empathize with. It doesn’t matter to me if that are a protagonist or antagonist, good guy or bad; I need to find something that allows me to understand them and empathize with them so that I can portray them with compassion and honesty, and that always starts with the writing. If that character is clearly defined on the page by a good writer then it’s easier for me to see that character in my mind as I read them, and easier for me to connect emotionally with who they are and the journey we are about to take together.

Many of the projects that you’ve worked on could be considered as quite dark in their subject matter, does it affect you?

Darker roles are just more interesting to me. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good rom-com or Christmas movie, but human complexity is something that has always fascinated me. Happiness is great, but happiness is often tinged with sadness and pain and loneliness and so many other emotions all mixed up together in one messy wonderful ball. That’s what I enjoy exploring in characters I get to play. I have known great loneliness and sadness and frustration and rejection and it’s those qualities in characters that I feel able to connect to. It just so happens that they tend to be more on display in darker roles.

Across your career, is there a role that has challenged you the most so far?

Jack Byrne in Absentia has been a really interesting puzzle for me to solve. I often play louder, more brash characters, but Jack is quieter and more reserved. When we first meet him in season one he is a disgraced surgeon who has lost his medical license due to his alcoholism and is struggling with his sobriety. Jack has a lot of identity and self-worth issues. He feels unloved by his father, having played second fiddle to his adopted daughter who stole all of the attention. This lead him to work harder and achieve more in his career, but no matter how much he achieved it never was enough to earn his father’s love and praise. As a result, Jack’s insecurities started to cannibalize him, which lead to his addictions. None of this is expressed in the script, but it was essential for me to understand if I was to relate to Jack and be able to play him authentically. I loved the challenge of that.

Is there anything that you can tease about the second season of ‘Absentia’?

This season explores each of the characters in a far deeper way. After the chaos of season one, everyone is trying to return to a sense of normalcy, but, for Jack, his demons continue to resurface and threaten to disrupt his world once again.

In ‘Welcome to Marwen’, you have the opportunity to work alongside some formidable talent – Robert Zemeckis, Steve Carrell – tell us a little about that experience…

When I first met Bob I totally geeked out. I remember being eleven-years-old and walking out of the cinema having just seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit and my mind was blown. I couldn’t quite comprehend what I had just watched and I became obsessed with the film. I bought the soundtrack and T-shirts and even had a Roger Rabbit cuddly toy. That film sparked something in my young brain that made me want to tell stories, so to finally meet the man behind the film and have him actually direct me in a film was a dream come true. I have so many amazing memories of being on that set, but one story stands out…I was shooting a pivotal scene with Steve at the end of the movie and, as we performed it, I suddenly had this idea to repeat a threatening line my character had said earlier in the movie, only this time it would be comedic. As the moment happened, I said the line in a funny voice and we heard “Cut!” echo across the sound stage. I was worried I had messed up. Then I saw Bob pacing towards me with a big grin on his face. He loved the addition so much that he said he wanted to give it its own moment and he constructed a special shot just for that, giving it an even bigger comedic impact. My eleven-year-old self was doing cartwheels!

As Brit in Los Angeles, how would you describe the city?

I love LA. There’s an energy to it that I find infectious. It lifts me. As a boy from Luton, England, I have to pinch myself sometimes to think that I am living in a place that as I child I had only seen in movies and on postcards. The first day I arrived, several years ago, I sat in a diner and saw four cops enter and eat a huge stack of pancakes each whilst, in the booth behind me, was a script meeting for Everybody Loves Raymond. What’s not to love about that!

Tell us about your new music. What are some of the themes in the songwriting on your debut album?

Music is such an emotional things for me and my guitar is something I always travel with. If I want to switch off from the world or relax or feel inspired I will pick up my guitar and just play. It always takes me to some other place. My debut album, The Little Things, is a celebration of those wonderful, scary, sad, beautiful moments that make up life. It came at a time when I had been beaten up a little by the film industry and I needed to step back and remind myself what I loved about being creative. Every song on that album is very personal to me, each in different ways, and when I hear from people how my music has moved or help them, it makes my heart sing.

Between your acting roles – have you had any time to write new material? When can fans expect new music?

Recently I have been spending more time writing my scripts. I have two short films that I have now directed, which have been hugely fulfilling, and I have a feature film script that is in development that I hope to direct in the coming year. Music will always be a part of me though, and I continue to write songs. I look forward to getting back in the studio and recording them when I have the time.

QUICK QUESTIONS WITH NEIL JACKSON

If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation. I seem to live on planes and would love to just zip somewhere whenever I want…even though I’d lose my air miles.

Scary film or a happy ending?

Happy ending.

One movie that made you cry?

Most movies make me cry, but ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’ made me cry with hope and love and ‘A Star Is Born’ broke my heart into a million pieces.

Three people dead or alive that you’d have dinner with?

Walt Disney, Mr. Rogers and Frank Sinatra.

Last photo you took?

Of the snow falling outside my apartment in Bulgaria where I’m finishing shooting Absentia season two.

Best thing that has happened to you today?

Seeing my God-daughters on FaceTime.

Best way to decompress?

Laughing.

Last country you visited?

I’m in Bulgaria right now, but I just visited England.

Can you play any musical instruments?

In addition to guitar I can play Billy Joel’s Piano Man on the harmonica.

If your life was a song, what would the title be?

Who Keeps Moving The Goal Posts?

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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MORE INTERVIEWS:

Interview: Tyler Alvarez on ‘American Vandal’ & ‘Orange Is The New Black’

Interview: Anjli Mohindra on ‘Dark Heart’ & ‘Bodyguard’

Interview: Mark Gatiss – The Prolific Character Reinventor

Interview: Chosen Jacobs – The Actor Turning Heads in ‘IT’ & ‘Castle Rock’

Interview: Alex Lawther & Jessica Barden are teen-misfits in ‘The End Of The F***ing World’ on Netflix

Interview: Wallis Day has landed on ‘Krypton’

Interview: The Magnetism of Billy Magnussen – ‘Black Mirror’ & ‘Game Night’

Interview: Emmett Scanlan on Netflix’s ‘Safe’, Auditioning & Powerful Women

Interview: The Festival Circuit with Thomasin McKenzie

Interview: Jodi Balfour talks ‘Rellik’, Auditioning & Filming Nerves

Fashion Editorial: Darya by Martin Edwards

Dress – Josephine Bloom Undershirt – Stradivarius Jewellery - Accessorize

Darya is both a fashion model and a highly-skilled computer programmer at one of the world’s largest social media companies. I wanted to show her versatility at its best by working on a theme of Red and seeing what our team could accomplish together.

Undershirt – Stradivarius Top – Josephine Bloom Jewellery – Accessorize
Trousers – ASOS Undershirt – Stradivarius Top – Josephine Bloom Jewellery – Accessorize
Skirt – Boohoo Jumper – Lazy Oaf Tights – Accessorize Boots – New Look Jewellery – Accessorize
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Jumpsuit – Lili Eva Bartha Boots – New Look Jewellery – Accessorize
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PHOTOGRAPHY: MARTIN EDWARDS

FASHION DESIGNER: LEISEL VELLA

MODEL: DARYA ARBUZOVA

MAKEUP ARTIST: KATIE NARRAMORE

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Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA to be released theatrically in over 600 theaters worldwide

Netflix confirmed today that Academy Award® winning director and writer Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA, produced by Esperanto Filmoj and Participant Media, will be released in over 100 theaters in the United States and more than 500 theaters internationally in over 40 countries, curated by Netflix by territory around the release of the film on the service on December 14th.

The theatrical presentation of the film began in the United States and Mexico on November 21, already selling out theatres in New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, London and Toronto, among others.

The passion and pride from viewers in Mexico created a reported “ROMA fever”, leading to an increasing number of theaters reaching out to exhibit the film. ROMA will be in nearly 100 theaters throughout the country this weekend.

This weekend the film will continue its expansion, hitting nearly 50 theaters in the US and over 200 theaters internationally. The innovative roll-out allows consumers worldwide the opportunity to experience the film theatrically, both before and during the film’s global streaming release, where it will be available to over 130M people.

Photo by Carlos Somonte

The film premiered earlier this year at the Venice Film Festival where it took home the Golden Lion for best film and has played in nearly 70 film festivals to great acclaim worldwide. The film has received numerous accolades, including recently being named Best Picture of the year by the New York Film Critics Circle, a prestigious award from the American Film Institute and 3 Golden Globe Award nominations. All of this further affirming that this timely story about human condition demands to be seen.

“We love this film and our goal is to bring this cinematic experience to audiences everywhere, and our theatrical plan, combined with the reach of our service, has made ROMA an event film and cultural moment,” said Scott Stuber, head of Netflix’s film group. “ROMA has played in festivals all over the world and we’re expanding our theatrical engagements, not only in major markets, but also in places like Honduras, South Africa, and Iceland. When the film premieres on December 14, we will be in 600 theaters worldwide.”

“Alfonso and everyone at Participant believe strongly in the theatrical experience,” said David Linde, CEO of Participant Media. “Choice and increased audience diversity around the world are also very important, and this incredible combination of the two worlds is something very exciting.”

For theaters and showtimes in the U.S. and Canada please click here