MuggleNet Interview with Jessie Cave: Pride, Hufflepuff, and Dominic West
by Claire Furner · Published · Updated
Jessie Cave, best known for playing Lavender Brown in the Potter series, has since made a name for herself in a range of roles across film and television, as well as performing in her own one-woman shows and online sketches. In her latest role, she stars alongside Potter alumni Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy in the eagerly anticipated film Pride. MuggleNet recently caught up with Jessie to chat shooting the film and much more besides.
Congratulations on Pride. I’ve seen the film twice now and loved it. What was it like to film, being on that set with that cast?
It was so great to film. It was quite a long process. It’s an ensemble cast, so everyone was always there, which is really nice because usually on a film you are in and out and don’t really see everyone. This was a really different kind of experience. We filmed in Wales a lot, which was freezing, and everyone stayed together. It was a very unique filming experience, really, for me.
Easily my favorite moment is Dominic West’s dancing scene.
Oh my God, that was so much fun.
How long did that take to shoot?
I think that was a couple of days. Dominic had to film all his scenes quite quickly because he was going away to the South Pole, so we filmed a lot of his stuff in a chunk. He is a fabulous dancer and such a nice guy. I really got on him with him, which I didn’t expect. On my first day filming, I had to come back to London for an audition, and we ended up getting the train together - four hours - and had a nice chat about star signs and crystals and crap. I just remember thinking, “Oh my God, this is so weird. Dominic West!” He was a bonus to meet and work with.
The whole cast is amazing. Was there someone beforehand that you were particularly keen to work with?
I really got on incredibly well with Bill Nighy. He is incredibly warm and very welcoming. He is so loved and respected, but he is just so funny in real life, really down to earth. We had a really great time together. And there was Joe Gilgun; he is just crazy! He’s fantastic, very watchable just in life. I found him really inspiring to be around. Also, my friend Faye Marsay, who[m] I also worked with on Glue. It was a really nice group.
Your character, Zoe... how much was she based on a real person? Was there much research on her?
She was a real women. She was Stella’s girlfriend. There was a lot less to go on in comparison to the other LGSM, members but everything is real in the film. I’m really Stella’s other half, which is nice. Stella is a really strong character, activist, feminist, vegan! Matthew [Warchus, the director] said to me that this is probably her [Zoe's] first lesbian relationship; she’s probably quite naïve in a lot of ways. It was her first time experiencing what it’s like to be a lesbian in the '80s, and she wanted to be radical, be something important. I didn’t really have much to go on, but what they told me was enough.
In terms of costume, I couldn’t help but notice a slight similarity in her clothing to some of [the] things that you sometimes wear. Did you have much influence on Zoe’s costume?
They’re my glasses! They made me wear my glasses, which was great. Usually on a job I have to wear contacts, and I’m really bad at wearing contacts, so that was really nice. The style is just lucky because I kinda dress like that anyway. I loved all the clothes. They made my hair, like, ridiculous; I spent quite a lot of time in the makeup chair for that.
You mentioned that you recently worked again with Faye on the upcoming E4 show, Glue. How was that? How long were you out there shooting?
April to July, so it was a lovely job. I’ve never done a series before. It was great because it was [a] big cast again, so you’re not in every day. There is a commuting situation where you are traveling in a few days a week. It was very easy, just outside London in Hungerford, but enough outside of it that it's a different world. Half an hour on the train, but it’s enough to be a vast difference in lifestyle.
Some people have been describing it as “Skins meets Broadchurch.”
That's the easiest comparison, but it's really hard to compare a show to anything. You want to compare it to something because you want people to like it, so you compare it to a show they would like. It’s actually incomparable; I really can’t think of a show like it. Some magazines have been calling us a teen group, but we aren’t a teen group at all; we’re young adults. It’s not Skins at all, but I guess a similarity is that we are a group of friends, and we all like to go out!
So what can we expect from the show?
It’s all about a boy [who] dies in Episode 1, and it’s about finding out [about how he died], but there’s more to it than that. There are lots of threads to the story. It’s about how a group of friends deal with one of them dying, but then a massive chunk of it is about horse riding and the horse riding world, jockeys, and betting. Then there is a Romani storyline... the family and history of the Romani. There is so much in it, there isn’t one thing I can say.
Did you have to have a go at the horse riding?
No! My character’s really lucky; I was so lucky with everything. I didn’t have to do anything hard; all I had to do was sometimes eat around the horses! But I didn’t have to ride them, which I was so grateful [for] because I am terrified of horses. But actually, I came to really like them throughout the process. It’s a different world! We were once filming in a stable, and there was a horse kicking off in the background. I was bitching about the horse, asking why the horse was ruining everything, and then his jockey came up to me and made me feel really bad! Apparently, the horse was having a really hard time at the moment; it was training really hard for the Grand National, and they said it was a multi-million-pound horse. The actual horse trainers we had on set... they were incredible characters to see something totally out of my world.
On the topic of sport, apparently, you were a training as a tennis player at one point?
Yeah! I was a tennis player till I was fifteen; it was kinda what I wanted to do. Well, I didn’t really want to do it; that was just the way it was going. I ended up being physically unlucky because I haven’t grown since I was eleven. I was quite big at eleven and quite strong as a player and quite powerful. But then suddenly I stopped growing, and nowadays tennis players are massive; I would never really have been able to be a contender. I ended up focusing on school, but it was my childhood. And I was a swimmer; I was a county swimmer up until I was 12. I was doing both. So my whole childhood was sport, really, so that’s what I enjoy writing about; I like using it sometimes for other things. I didn’t do any form of acting or anything till really late on. I feel quite akin to things about young athletes; I enjoy sport a lot, and I still train in lots of ways.
So how did you transition into acting?[I joined up with an agency and got a few jobs.] Harry Potter was my fourth audition, and by that time I decided that I actually quite liked this. I would never have been confident enough by that point to say I wanted to be an actress. I still don’t claim I’m an actor; I feel like a fraud in lots of ways, but apparently, everyone feels like that. I’ve just been very lucky. I feel like it's the right path for me; all the jobs I’ve got have been right. I think with acting you just to have accept that whichever job you get, you were meant to get it because that's the only way you can find reason in this weird auditioning world.
How many auditions did you have for Potter?
Not too many. I had an initial audition, then a recall and a couple more. It spanned a few months, and by that point I’d got another job, Summerhill. By that point, I I felt I wanted to do this, so getting Harry Potter... it was like winning the lottery. It was such a great part to get so early on.
I guess many of the Potter actors feel like that, apart from one or two who were child actors.
Yeah, exactly. I wasn’t a child actor at all. I was an adult when I did it, although it's quite interesting playing a child as an adult. I end up playing a lot of roles that are younger than me!
Are you still touch with much of the cast from Potter?
I love Evanna! She’s one of my really good friends, and I’m in touch with a lot of them. It was a really nice group. I have such respect for all of them: Tom Felton, Rupert. They want to be actors; they just want to work. It’s amazing; they were in the biggest films ever, but they are happy to just still be in the industry. That’s what’s great about Daniel Radcliffe. He would be doing this anyway. The fact that he was Harry Potter... he has any option available to him, but he would have done this anyway. He would have been one of these struggling actors, wanting to audition. He would have been wanting to act; that's what’s nice about it.
Which Hogwarts house do you consider yourself to be in?
I think, even though Lavender was a Gryffindor, I kinda associate a lot more with Hufflepuff. I don’t know why, but I just feel more Hufflepuff.
So you’ve just come back from Edinburgh, right?
I was doing my work-in-progress show [Grawlix]. It was really good. I’m trying to go up next year with a bigger show, so this was my first outing with this work. It was a really early version of it, but I’m really excited about it.
What is the Free Fringe like? What are the audiences like?
They’re much more brutal but also welcoming! They’re accepting. The protocol of the Free Fringe at Edinbugh is to ask for money at the end, which I didn’t really do very well... made people very awkward! But for me it was a different approach because I was saying to people blatantly, “look, this is a work-in-progress show; it might be awful” kind of thing! It was a big year this year. I think more people went to the Free Fringe than the paid shows, so it will be interesting to see if that continues. I don't know which I'll do next year, yet. I think I might try [to] do a big venue, but there are pros and cons to each of them.
Did you manage to catch any other shows? Any favorites?
I loved a show called Awkward Conversations with Animals I've F*cked (at the Underbelly), very bizarre! It was written by a guy called Rob Hayes who is fantastic writer. It was great, really unique show.
How was it developing your own show? On the one hand, you are working on other people's film and TV projects and on the other, creating your own work. How do they compare?
I’m in a great position. I’m really lucky that I get nice [acting] jobs every so often, but my day job is writing. I’m in development with a couple of production companies, and I’m creating a book on my illustrations. My job is not really a full time actor; it's an amalgamation of lots of separate things that might involve acting. I think I would have ended up in comedy and one-woman-type shows anyway. I just went about it a weird way. My job is creating my own work: writing, illustrating, standup. I kinda just do whatever I feel like I need to do, and writing is the main thing. It's about what I have to say. At the moment, I’m pregnant, and the show was heavily about being scared of becoming a mother and that kind of thing. My style, everything I do, is incredibly confessional and honest. I like people who are like that, so I want to be as honest as possible about those things: good things and bad things. Whatever I write next year will be very current and present. That's my way of surviving; I need to do that - make stuff and do stuff. Whatever jobs happen to come alongside, that is just a bonus. I’m so lucky with some of the stuff I've got because... I’ve been allowed to be a bit of myself in them, which is such a bonus.
You mentioned working on some illustrations. Will this include the images from Twitter?
No, they are just things I do each day. I’ve written a graphic novel, and I’m looking to get that published. I’m also doing a collection book, some of which would have been on Twitter, kind of like a best of them, as I’ve been doing them for years. It’s kind of like a doodle-a-day book.
And finally, what would you say has been the proudest moment of your career to date?
Definitely, definitely doing Bookworm at the Soho theatre with my little sister. Such a highlight.
Pride will be released in UK theaters on September 12. Read MuggleNet’s review of the film here.