Spend a little time in Claire Foy’s company and you get the sense that, while she might be a bit stunned at how rapidly her acting career has progressed, she’s certainly going to seize her moment. Irrepressibly cheerful, fast-talking and candid, the 27-year-old has barely rested in the four years since she left the Oxford School of Drama. It was only a matter of months before she starred in the pilot episode of Being Human (she always knew it could be huge, she says); she went on to take the leading roles in the BBC’s 14-part adaptation of Little Dorrit and in Peter Kosminsky’s acclaimed Israel-Palestine drama The Promise, which she describes as “a real love project for everyone who did it”. Oh, and she’s also squeezed in Upstairs Downstairs and a Hollywood fantasy thriller, Season of the Witch, with Nicolas Cage.
Now we’re about to see her playing the romantically tortured Helen in Paula Milne’s adaptation of the Sarah Waters novel The Night Watch. She says that when she first read the script she thought “Oh God… On the outside you see her as what she is, which is doing lots of things wrong, like when you look into someone’s relationship and think, ‘Don’t do that, Don’t do that, Don’t do that’ – and then they keep doing it. It’s painful to watch, in a way.”
Set in the 1940s, The Night Watch goes back in time to trace the effects of the war on a group of characters including the heroic Kay, played by Anna Maxwell Martin, who rescues Helen from a bombed-out building and becomes her lover, only to find Helen becoming drawn to the far more worldly and capricious Julia (Anna Wilson-Jones). Immensely complex and beautifully realised, the 90-minute film was shot in just a month – “we did the read-through and we were shooting next day” – to a tight budget and in the freezing cold.
Foy’s next major undertaking is another Paula Milne project, a six-part drama called White Heat which follows a group of Tufnell Park flatmates from 1965 to the present day. “I have to get aged up, which is quite a scary thing,” laughs Foy, but she’s delighted with the deep, red hair the part has brought her (she also confesses she’d love gold nails, a la Katy Perry).That aside, she’s keen to do some theatre, and “something with singing and dancing in it. I don’t think anyone else would want me to, but I would.” And, finally, what does she do when she’s not working?
“Not a lot!” she giggles. “If I was working nine to five, acting would be my hobby… I always feel like maybe I should do an Open University degree. But I’m never going to.”
Alex Clark — The Observer, Sunday 10 July 2011