Being Nurse Kathy in London Town: A Conversation with BAFTA Nominee Kierston Wareing
BAFTA nominated actress Kierston Wareing goes back to her roots in the gritty feature 100 Streets alongside Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Charlie Creed-Miles, Franz Drameh, Tom Cullen and Ken Stott. Jim O’Hanlon directs the multi-stranded drama, which tells 4 stories of a group of people who live within one square mile of each other in London.
A layered and gripping drama, it takes a fresh look at the vibrant and compelling life of a group of individuals in contemporary London – destination capital of the world. 100 Streets intersect the film’s setting. Chelsea is just down the road from high-rise estates, riverside opulence contrasts with the day-to-day grind. It’s in these streets that the characters face defining moments, major choices and fundamental change in their separate lives, as they negotiate their paths through life, paths that often interweave through our hundred streets.
Wareing known for her work in Top Boy, Luther and Fish Tank, previously worked with Idris in season two of Luther and was named one of the Stars of Tomorrow by Screen International, alongside Gemma Arterton. In 2007 this talented actress was nominated for a BAFTA alongside Dame Judi Dench and Dame Eileen Atkins for her work in Ken Loach’s It’s a Free World. In Fish Tank, directed by Oscar nominated director Andrea Arnold, Kierston starred alongside Michael Fassbender and in other productions with the award winning actors Tom Hardy and Chiwetel Ejiofor. In 100 Streets, Wareing plays Kathy, in a never seen before role, as an East London nurse.
The filmmakers describe the project as a gritty, contemporary and poignant multi-layered drama, with the underlying message being one of hope, and that by working as a community, things can only get better. 100 Streets is written by Leon F. Butler and produced by Idris Elba.
The Fan Carpet’s Camila Sayers had the honour of speaking to BAFTA nominated actress Kierston Wareing ahead of the release of 100 Streets which arrives on DVD on Monday January 23, she talks about working with Charlie Creed-Miles, filming on location in London and the atmosphere when on the set…
Fantastic new project you’re involved with; 100 Streets, could you tell us a bit about this film and why it was important for you to be involved in this project?
Mainly it was because everyone that was involved, you know the cast was fantastic and the script was there, the director was there, the cast was fantastic, so that’s always the first thing that I look at, and this character was, and then the character, I looked at the character. Sometimes I look at the character first, depending on the cast, but when the cast is so good and the script is so good and then I look at the character second, you know what I mean, in this case I looked at it secondary.
And then Kathy is somebody who’s normal, so it’s me playing normality, you know somebody that’s a normal character as opposed to somebody who has a lot of issues, you know, they all have their problems, but then doesn’t everyone have problems in life at some point or another, but my other characters that I’ve played have real serious issues going on and walking away from their issues and not doing anything about it that sort of thing.
So it’s nice to play somebody quite normal as well, it’s quite nice for the audience to see all sides of London and different communities, you know different to the ghetto side and just to see that we all do have problems and you can just, we do cross paths and you can see that, we’re aware of it all, well we’re not aware of it, but it’s really in your face when you see it, when watching the film.
Going on from what you said, your role as Nurse Kathy and what she goes through and everything like that, obviously not giving any spoilers away, but I feel like it will hit home to a lot of the audience. Did you feel a bit of responsibility playing her, and obviously in this climate that there is at the moment, you know playing a nurse in a loving and very patient wife, did you feel a responsibly playing that role?
I’ve never actually felt responsibility yet as an actress playing roles, I know people say that you should, but to me you know you could play somebody, you know a killer or somebody like that, and I know you’ve got to be sensitive to victims and stuff like that, I do get things like that. Like when I did Five Daughters that was the only time that a question like that crossed my mind, when I did Five Daughters obviously everyone was aware that we had to be, that was about the Ipswich murders, that was a TV drama, and then everyone was all “you have to sensitive”. But on the other hand, this is something that’s got to be done and no I didn’t think like that with Kathy, you know I didn’t like that with Kathy, the only thing I literally took on board was to, you know, to support this man, my husband, Charlie Creed-Miles, and to, I do love this man and I do love Charlie, not calling him Charlie but you know (laughs).
To support him, so that’s the only thing I took on board really before every scene, the director wanted that to come across that it was a proper marriage, but mainly that you know there was support there and that’s what the director wanted to come across.
So literally, I didn’t do any research in nursing stuff or any of that, I didn’t need to, I’m just showing it, wearing the nurses outfit, I’m not speaking in medical terms, so I didn’t feel there was any need for that, but literally in the back of my mind every single scene, didn’t matter if it wasn’t a lovey scene or a supportive scene, we could be just walking along the road, down the road whatever, it doesn’t matter, in every scene I had that in the back of my mind, support this man you know, I love this man, he’s my husband, I support this man and I’ll go through whatever we’ll go through, we’ll go through it together.
And that’s all I had really, because in each scene that’s what the director wanted to come across, even though he didn’t keep reminding me every scene, he said it a good few times so it embedded in my brain really and that’s it you know, because the other characters I’ve played where all sort of love/hate relationships you know, I love this man but I’m going to kill him quite literally, in some of my things I actually do (laughs) start planning things out so yeah that’s really all I did for her, I wanted it to come across that she supports the man you know, because that’s what I was kind of told to do, that’s how the director wanted it and that’s how it was going to turn out.
Yeah that really comes through; she is, like you said, just a normal working woman but at the same time, a loving, patient wife and that really comes through the chemistry, I can see that in your choice definitely.
Thanks, it was a nice change for me.
I think there’s this message, or undertone in the film that here in London we do live so close to each other, and there’s sort of all these communities clashing and yeah we do all have the same problems really. Why do you think it’s so important for filmmakers to tell stories from this perspective of communities and everyday hardships?
Oh gosh that’s difficult, well you can see it can’t you visually, it’s there in your face, the story is told in your face. So whilst people are sitting down as an audience focused on watching something you know unfold, and sometimes people are aware of it, a lot of people are not aware of it, but then they dismiss it or they don’t think about it, it goes over their head you know, getting on with their own lives. So I suppose it is, any film that tells a story or…,will bring awareness you know to people’s…..even though it could be in the back of their minds or they subconsciously know it, that’s probably more the word, you know it brings it to the forefront and you’re actually unwinding, focusing on the movie. I don’t really know, that’s a difficult one to answer.
No, no I think you’re absolutely right, what you said really makes sense, and you’re right it all comes out when you’re visually there watching a film…
When you’re focused on something
Probably subconsciously sometimes you know, you don’t think of it do you? You know what I mean?
That’s why it’s important for things like films to bring it out.
To bring that that out and make you think. And I was wondering, obviously this film is set in London and I imagine it was filmed mostly in London. So what was the atmosphere on set, obviously showcasing this amazing city?
It was great, because we were filming in Battersea, that’s right by Chelsea isn’t it? I’m not so familiar with that end; you know I’ve been to Chelsea but only a few times and I was astonished really, you look at the apartments, like “oh my god look at these apartments” oh wow, and the park, the park was spectacular, it wasn’t? just an average normal park, you know, the waterfall and I was like “wow”, so my eyes where opened to the area really, whereas before I just kind of passed through it, or passed by or been through in the evening or something and hadn’t properly seen it. But yeah the atmosphere was great, you know everyone was great, the atmosphere was absolutely wonderful.
The director was calm and collected and cool (laughs), we just all had a laugh really, just getting on with it and enjoying it and I think everyone was just enjoying being part of such a good film, again knowing that you know it’s a great cast, great script, a lovely bunch of people, a really nice bunch of people all the way through. So I think it was just enjoyable and I think everyone was just happy to be part of it, on the other hand just getting on with the work, you know, doing what we’re doing and in the meantime just having fun, having a laugh and a giggle here and there in breaks, just enjoying ourselves and putting our heads down when we had to work obviously, not mucking about (laughs).
Lovely that’s really nice to hear. Obviously the cast in this film is fantastic, like you said before the list is endless, I think throughout your career as well, you’ve had the chance to work with really stellar actors. What do you think that, as an actor, when you go from project to project, working with absolutely amazing actors, and you yourself an accomplished actress, what does it add to each other as a skill set as an actor, to have these experiences with other actors?
Well, I’ve always said that acting is like a game of tennis to me, you bounce off each other and if someone’s good and you’re good and they’re something great you’re going to bounce off even harder. I don’t know it’s just like, say for argument’s sake all that’s come to mind then, in The Take with Tom Hardy, you know we’re having an argument, he’s getting so angry, so I’m bounce off him because I’m getting even angrier with what he’s saying even though the words are right there in the script, do you know what I mean?
And then, or vice versa, or he’s getting more angry with me because of my attitude, so I’m winding him up, do you know what I mean. So to me, and that’s not just in argument situation, it’s all different situations, bounce off of each other, and I don’t mean it, far from it, just like real life, you know if someone’s really winding you up, you’ll go back for them even more won’t you? If you feel that someone is giving you a lot of love, that’s the scenario you’re in, then you give a lot of love back.
So yeah I just think it’s like a game of tennis, if you both good players, it will keep going back and forth.
Is there a moment on set, with this project, that you felt, obviously you’ve had some quite intense scenes with yourself and your husband the cab driver. Was there any moment in the film where you can compare with that and it was like that game of tennis?
Yeah it was great working with Charlie; yeah I would like to work with Charlie again he’s a great actor, a fantastic actor. One thing I always do purposely, is I never look any of these actors up before, unless obviously I know them, obviously I knew Idris, I didn’t work with Idris, I worked with Idris before on Luther, I knew Gemma, I met Gemma before, so you know, I knew how great they where, and what they’ve achieved.
Charlie Creed-Miles I knew a few things, but I know loads of actors that have worked with Tom, I don’t look them up because I look them up when everything’s been done, because I don’t want to be intimidated I just want to be in the moment with that person, not think “oh they’ve just done this in Hollywood etc” and I remember like afterwards I was watching the TV and Charlie Creed-Miles came up with Bruce Willis or one of those American stars or something, and I was like “oh my god” I was so pleased to see him. But I’m glad I didn’t know all that before, I just want to be in the moment and that’s it and Charlie was, yeah I could definitely get loads of moments, you know bouncing, game of tennis , you know, and I’m sure that if we went the other way, if we played something else completely different together, you know a sort of totally different relationship I’m sure we would bounce off each other you know, yeah he’s a great actor without a doubt. When I mean that, when we’re in a game of tennis way? (can’t make out) in a really good way, I’m not saying “oh you’ve done that, I’ve got to…” because some acting is also about still moments, you know, and sometimes you don’t need to do or shout or do anything and it’s just about listening to the other person. You know what I’m saying? All these completely still moments or just literally listening. So when I mean “bounce off each other” obviously I’m talking about, in the situation, of within that situation.
Don’t want to bounce off each other and jump in. Do you know what I mean?
Absolutely, it’s like transferring energy to each other and it can be the energy of any type of scene, yeah absolutely. So obviously you are a very accomplished actress yourself, having been nominated for a BAFTA. What lesson would you say you have learned throughout your whole career that most helps in this line of work for you?
Well you get to work in completely different ways, obviously some things are so structured, other things are really improvised, like the Ken Loach thing, we didn’t know what the script was till the day before. What have I learnt?
Well it’s all about trying to be as natural as possible isn’t it? And for me to be…. well that’s what I believe, a good actor is someone who’s very natural, whatever the situation they’re put in, and to be natural…. I’m quite a spontaneous actress I would say, I don’t sit and….. I’m not saying it’s wrong, because everyone has their way and everyone has their method of learning the script, everyone has their method of bringing the character to life, however you do it there’s no wrong or right way.
But for me I’m very spontaneous, I don’t do loads of right here I’m going to turn left there and I’m going to do this. As long as what comes to me there and then during a take, then I do it (laughs) so I’m good with surprises (laughs).
No I’m quite spontaneous, and basically what have I learned? I’ve learned to, well just to be as natural as possible and by doing that is by believing and kind of convincing yourself in a way, half convincing yourself, not completely, that this person is real and this is a real situation.
Yeah great to hear. And in turn from that, that’s obviously what you’ve learnt, what lessons or what advice would you give to aspiring actors or actresses wanting to break into the industry, something that you’ve done so successfully.
I would say believe in yourself, stay focused, believe in yourself and you know, don’t give up, just keep going, just keep going. I mean it took me ten years, you know what I mean? When you say successfully in the end, but I know sometimes there’s a cut off point that everyone’s got, but don’t just quit after a year or two if it’s not happening. I’m not saying go on for like 70 years (laughs) or anything you know, but within reason, just believe in yourself, stay focused and don’t give up, because anything can happen in acting, anything can be around the corner, like there could be a job waiting for you around the corner you think you’re down to your last penny, and your life changes, it can go the other way around, that’s acting for you, but it can change very quick, very very quick, you know.
Great. Finally, aside from this great project, what projects can we look forward to seeing you in, in the near future?
Well, I’ve got two films now, one’s Cardboard Gangsters that’s in Ireland, the other one’s an Italian film calledThe Habit of Beauty and that’s up for best feature at Raindance that’s Italian. But other than that, I’m actually in talks at the moment, I’m hoping to know tonight actually whether I’m doing something or no, so we’re embroiled in that. So I can’t really say, I’m just kind of discussing things at the moment hoping, because we’ve not really signed and sealed yet, I’m hoping I’ll definitely know today, or by Monday hopefully.
And for people trying to find you, trying to keep up with you, where can they find you on social media and everything like that?
You know what I’ve got so much time for anyone who supports me fans and anyone, you know you want to call them, so much time for them, and I will always take the time out to say thank you, what time does that take, no time at all, you know what I mean?
It’s a second of your time, and I will write back to them as, you know I get fan letters they send them to my agent, even if it takes me a couple of weeks, they will always get a letter back. I’ve got so much time to talk to fans and you know, maybe I do talk to my supporters a bit more than the average person does, but you know what, everyone starts somewhere and you never know who anyone’s going to be in life, you know what I mean?
And even if they’re not going anywhere, they’re happy being what they are, I’ve got time for those people that support me you know for them to make the effort and put the time aside to write a letter to me, then I just think “god they’ve taken that time out to write a letter, then I can write back”. Obviously you’re going to get the odd strange one, of course you are, but then you’ll know that you don’t reply because once you encourage people like that then… (laughs)
100 STREETS IS AVAILABLE NOW ON DVD