Thursday, 2 March 2017

2016 - Stephanie Martini from RADA to the Emerald City - 1883 magazine interview


As soon as I meet Stefanie Martini, I can’t help but notice her incredible energy – enthusiastic, open and incredibly sincere. I can only imagine what the young actress is like to watch on screen, which this year we will be seeing a lot of.
This weekend, ITV will premiere Doctor Thorne, an adaptation of the novel of the same title.
Martini stars in it as Mary Thorne - a girl blessed with every gift - apart from money. When I ask Martini what it was like to play Mary, she tells me that she was a fantastic woman to play because she is so strong even with the restrictions placed on her as an eighteen century woman.
By the end of our conversation, I am well aware of the characters Martini wants to play and take on – the one’s that will challenge her. In the later part of 2016, she will star in Emerald City, a modern re-imagination of the Wizard of Oz, directed by Tarsem Singh.  
The first question I want to ask you about is your time at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, how was that?
First of all, I had the best time, I thought it was incredible and I couldn’t fault it. It was perfect for me, it kind of pushed me and I had so much help, the tutors were wonderful and they pay a lot of attention to you as a person - so that you push and grow and they know where you need to develop and where you are playing it safe and how to get you out of that.
Did you always want to be an actress, I know you said about illustration…
No, I didn’t…. Well I am rusty at illustration now, secretly I always wanted to be an actress.
Did you have to find the confidence to say, I want to be an actress?
Yes! I am from the middle of nowhere in Somerset and because you don’t see anyone and there are no plays it seemed difficult. There was the Bristol Vic, but you don’t have the same kind of culture around you, as you would have if you grew up in London or Manchester. Acting seemed like a far away and unattainable goal.
You were in Endeavour? Tell me about that and your character?
I was still in my third year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and it was my first show - it was lovely, the cast were really supportive. It was an Inspector Morse style show – set in the 60s, kind of a ‘who dunnit.’ My character was quite weird. Georgina May was very wealthy and she and her family lived in a big house in the country – they were very privileged. They were like wild animals. A rich family, the children didn’t do anything and mummy and daddy left them to their own devices - for me personally I would have been so bored.
Have you had any favourite actors that you’ve worked with?
Sean Evans who was in Endeavour. I can’t speak highly enough of him, he is so hard working and was so nice to me because I had a lot of crying scenes. That was hard and I had to let all my tears go in one rehearsal, and I had to cry in the middle of a scene so it is not like I could have faked it.
How did the role come around for Doctor Thorne?
I had two auditions and I didn’t expect to get much of a role. I was so broke at the time, my card was declined when buying coffee and I had to pay my rent in a week and I was in tears. And then, I got a call, saying they wanted me for Doctor Thorne. It is such a beautiful story, the director was great. I was so happy.
Can you talk to me about the character you play - Mary Thorne? She sounds like the opposite to your endeavour character - Georgina Mortmaigne.
She is poor compared to her extended family, which was a big deal when there was so much importance on your social status. That would be the main difference. Her uncle was a doctor, and they had enough to live on but they certainly weren’t rich. She couldn’t afford the dresses to go to all the wealthy parties. She was practical, sensible and economic – due to having no mother figure. She is very down to earth and naturally a humble person.
Are you like Mary as a person?
She is much nicer than I am, she is much more down the centre than me, we have strength in common, I care about people in my life and she is the same. And she sees the good in people, which I do but she is also more practical and sensible than I am. I mean, I could be her, if I was born then. She was nice to play. She has got restraints in her life due to the time and her thoughts are always on other people.
We ask everyone we feature to do to a quick sketch, can you give us a drawing of you in character in Doctor Thorne?
Are there any characters you’re drawn to play? 
I want to play real parts, I hate the girlfriend parts in films, I am bored by them. Mary is not a girlfriend part, she is her own entity. I love that, I want to be challenged, I want to do all the accents, wear loads of wigs and everything. I want to do as much as possible.
Is it Harvey Weinstein who produced it?
Yes, he is amazing! I didn’t meet him but I know he had a big part in casting me.
Which is an incredible honour and it is so amazing that I know it is going to be on in America.
They love sort of period drama things too don’t they?
It airs in March?
On Mother’s Day, I will watch it with my mum I think, my family watched Endeavour before me, so they will watch this together. It would be nice to watch Dr Thorne with my mum. It spans for three episodes, one a week on a Sunday.
You’ve done quite a lot of TV series, is that a strength? Is theatre something you want to do?
I love theatre. I had a lot of training in it and if you talk to any actor about the theatre, it is as though you go on a journey with the audience. What is phenomenal to actors is the nerves of opening night - they measured the adrenaline levels of one of the actors on opening night and it is the same adrenaline as when someone walks in front of a car. I love theatre, you have rehearsals, and try things out and make mistakes and organically the character progresses.
This leads me on to you next project for later this year, the TV series Emerald City, billed as a dark and sexy Wizard of Oz. I know you are still filming and plot is being kept under wraps for now but what can you reveal about the show?
Yes it’s all very secret but I can reveal that Mirror Mirror director Tarsem Singh is directing it. He is incredible. The sets for this series are visually stunning, so striking. What I love about this production is that there are different types of worlds within the worlds. You really feel like you are in a real environment. The costumes, hair and makeup are all beautiful.
Have you received any advice on the set of Emerald City? Is it intimidating being around such experienced actors?
I really admire Sean Evans from Endeavour and Vincent D’Onofrio who plays The Wizard in Emerald City. They have both been so incredible and supportive, they know that I am young and this is all new to me, they’ve given me many tips. For example, I was filming this tough scene with Vincent for Emerald City where I was rushing my lines, he told me just to slow things down and take time to breathe – it really helped. No doubt though it can be intimidating watching the more experienced actors, they are so precise.
What TV series are you watching at the moment?
Breaking Bad, How To Get Away With Murder, The Affair and Friends, obviously.
Emma Watson makes the point there aren’t enough empowered female characters to play such as her role as Hermione in Harry Potter, what’s your take on this?
I feel lucky because the roles I have played, the women have all been strong but I would have to agree with Emma. Female roles shouldn’t just be strong though, it’s about increasing the number of different types of characters women can play. Women don’t centre their lives around men, yet, there are so many films like that, where you see an amazing actress looking incredible who just say a few lines. But I do believe you can make a part your own, it’s getting better, slowly but surely.
I am a massive Harry Potter fan and what was great about Hermione is that love didn’t come into it until the end, she was there being badass and the cleverest of the trio. I love the TV show Girls too and the female comedy element to it. I watched Sisters with Tina Fey and Amy Poeler and there was no mention at all about a husband or a boyfriend, it didn’t matter to the story or the characters identity. There still needs to be more variety in roles for women, films generally are still white men focused.
Very true, the Oscars race debate highlights that once again…
I think that is a huge subject but I do believe it lies in the work being offered. I believe there will be changes though. It is such a complex argument.
So what to do you have planned next?
To sleep, to chill out before work starts again this April. It was good to have time off in middle of Emerald City, but it still drove me crazy.

Catch Stefanie in Doctor Thorne on ITV at 9pm on 6th March.
Interview by Laurie Truman
Photography Joupin Ghamsari
MUA Jason Crozier @ Soho Management
Shot at Lights of Soho