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Rosie Day: Rising star

The actor talks Trevor Nunn, Suranne Jones and her hopes for the future

Rosie Day
© Stewart Bywater

In 2017, 23 year-old Rosie Day was listed as one of InStyle's BAFTA rising stars. Though Day starred as young Cosette in the West End and appeared at the National Theatre three times before the age of 10, it is her TV roles that have marked her out in recent years. She has starred in Outlander, Living the Dream and Grantchester, with a number of big-budget projects on the horizon.

As she returns to the stage in Stephanie Jacobs' Again at Trafalgar Studios, we chat to her about her career so far and ambitions for the future.

What made you start acting?
My sister, because she was the one who started acting first, and without her, I would be a shy little girl and not be interested in acting at all. My mum was always driving me to endless auditions and taking me on set, while also working full time. She's a bit of a wonder woman.

Was there ever a point when you wanted to stop?
I really have to thank Suranne Jones for making sure I'm still a performer. I worked with her on Harley Street when I was 13 and was having a hard time at school. I just wanted to quit acting, but she was the one who said 'no', and told me to keep going. She was so wonderful to me for those four months, and I'm still friends with her ten years later. She probably didn't realise at the time but she was one of the reasons I kept going.

What is your first memory of performing?
It's very theatrical and ridiculous but my first memory of acting was when I was five and being carried around the National by Trevor Nunn, on his hip. That was one of my first memories. And then waiting backstage at the National while playing in Maxim Gorky's Summerfolk and talking to Patricia Hodge, who used to do amazing Donald Duck impressions. She used to be so entertaining. That's probably my earliest memory.

Did you go to drama school?
I didn't, so I had and still have to learn from the people around me. It's the same in this play, I'm the youngest in the cast and haven't done a huge amount of theatre recently. Since I didn't go down the traditional drama school route, there's a lot of things I still feel like I need to learn.

What have been your career highlights so far?
I think the things I cherish most are being able to work with some amazing people – shooting a movie with Sarah Jessica Parker and running around Rome for three months and living with her was pretty special. I also made a new teen movie film with Twilight author Stephanie Meyer, alongside all of these brilliant American girls, and it was all a lot of fun.

Does an intimate space like Trafalgar Studios scare you?
It is a bit scary, as sometimes you feel like you're sitting on their laps, so that's daunting. But it's good to feel like you don't have to reach the heights of the Olivier with your performance, so I guess it's nearer to screen acting in that way.

What has the rehearsal process been like for the show?
It's really great to have a female-presence in this rehearsal room – this is the first time I've worked on a project where the women outnumber the men. Stephanie Jacob's characters are so tangible and 3D and when people watch it I think that they'll be like 'I know these people'. Izzy's 23 and she's just so 23, and everything that all young people go through Izzy's going through. She's also kick-ass, she's a nymphomaniac and a bit of an alcoholic. Which is so much fun to play.

Who are your idols?
I have so many idols. I love Andrea Riseborough, I think she's incredible, she can take on any role and I think that's my kind of thing. Claire Foy, Julie Walters, they're the kind of people I'd love to emulate (one day!). I'm impressed by actors who can transform into anything.

Rosie Day and Natasha Little rehearsing Again
© Zute Lightfoot

What would your dream roles be?
It's all about playing brilliant women. I set up a film company to make my own screen work and to provide parts for women on screen as I think there's a long way before women are properly represented in the film world. On stage, Blackbird by David Hare is my favourite play, Nina in The Seagull would be amazing (though I think everybody wants to do that). I went to the Edinburgh Fringe and saw a brilliant play called Dust by Milly Thomas (it's also going to the Soho Theatre in February) so I'd love to do a one-woman show.

What would you do if you weren't acting?
When I was younger I really wanted to be a gymnast, and then when I became a teenager I actually wanted to be a child psychologist. And that's something that I still dabble in and I still find very interesting.

What's next?
So I've got the Stephanie Meyer film soon, and then I've got the second season of Living the Dream on Sky coming too. That's shot in Madrid, which is very nice! The travelling can definitely feel like the best part, as I don't really feel like I even need to go on holiday anymore! That's a definite perk.

Again runs at Trafalgar Studios from 9 February to 3 March, with previews from 6 February.