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Interview: Broadchurch actress Charlotte Beaumont

PUBLISHED: 12:11 12 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:33 13 March 2018

Charlotte as Kenzie Calhoun in Waterloo Road

Charlotte as Kenzie Calhoun in Waterloo Road

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Herts’ Charlotte Beaumont talks about the female writers, actors, agents, dramatists, and her mum, who have helped propel her to Broadchurch and beyond

When Charlotte Beaumont describes her mum as the most influential person in her life, I can’t help recalling Reese Witherspoon’s 2015 Women of the Year speech about raising the benchmark on female ambition. She particularly spoke about women empowering other women and the importance of the mother-daughter relationship.

As well as appearing in all three series of the BAFTA award-winning Broadchurch, the actresses’ TV work includes EastEnders, Holby City, Waterloo Road, Doctors and Skins. She made her film debut in 2010 as the daughter of The Blockheads singer Ian Dury in Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll. Other film roles include biopic Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This (2014), sci-fi blockbuster Jupiter Ascending (2015), and the lead in horror The Windmill (2016). And she’s still only 22.

Her mum Lynn, a musical theatre performer, was reluctant to steer her daughter towards an industry that is notoriously hard to crack. But once she knew Charlotte was serious, she backed her all the way.

‘It sounds very clichéd but I would have to say the most influential woman in my life has always been my mum,’ says Charlotte when we meet up close to her Farringdon home after she’d finished two back-to-back theatre projects.

She says that growing up in Herts her mum did ‘absolutely everything she could’ to support her ambition. ‘She brought me up so that I knew that anything was possible.’

She adds that her mum was reticent to drive her too hard. ‘Mum was so wary of being like Bette Midler in Gypsy where she’s so, so pushy, but growing up around theatre you immediately absorb it.’

At 10 Charlotte wanted an agent. Lynn made her wait until she was 12, then contacted several child acting agencies. Barnet’s Susi Earnshaw Theatre School took her on and Charlotte made her debut at London’s old Bush Theatre.

The cast of Broadchurch (Charlotte is far left) - the series gripped the nationThe cast of Broadchurch (Charlotte is far left) - the series gripped the nation

‘I did the scene and they gave me directions – do this and this. And I went ‘ah-ha’ and then did the scene exactly the same. Mum said, “Charlotte you need to listen!” Luckily I got the recall and mum worked with me, so it was really her that got me the job.’

Charlotte spent her early years in Croxley Green before the family moved to Rickmansworth when she was seven, where she attended the independent Royal Masonic School for Girls. Her earliest memories are of her parents’ shows at Rickmansworth’s Watersmeet Theatre with their theatre company Blag.

‘Mum was a dancer and when she was 17 she moved to Spain and then did loads of shows in the West End and on tour.’ Charlotte says. ‘Mum and dad met on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

‘I don’t remember this, but mum used to take me in my car seat and put me in the lighting box while they would do their shows. I think the first one was Charlie Brown and Snoopy with dad playing Linus with his blanket and mum directing.’

Charlotte joined Blag aged five and did her first summer project with her brother Bobby.

‘We did Oliver with a Twist together. I played Annie. The joke was I’d been sent to the wrong orphanage and it was a battle of the orphanages. I opened the show in a red dress with a real dog and sang The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow, just the first couple of lines, and then a woman came out and said, “Wrong orphanage!” I pulled a face and walked off. I also almost fell into the orchestra pit because I was fighting centre stage with someone else.’

Charlotte’s first professional roles were with Josie Rourke, artistic director at Donmar Warehouse since 2012.

Charlotte's latest film role as a hunted girl in The WindmillCharlotte's latest film role as a hunted girl in The Windmill

‘It was very dark. I was playing a 12-year-old who lived in Iowa and down the road was a prison for paedophiles and this girl had all these mugshots of paedophiles on her wall. It was really very bizarre and quite heavy. I remember doing all these exercises with Josie and she managed to get exactly what she wanted without me really realising. Now I wish I’d been in that rehearsal taking notes on how to build a character.’

Charlotte also worked with Josie on The Flooded Grave at the Bush Theatre.

‘That was another dark play. I really landed on my feet there. It was such a big part. I read the content of it now and it’s about a 13-year-old prostitute.’

The exacting nature of these roles helped prepare Charlotte for another tale of darkness – ITV’s hugely successful murder mystery, Broadchurch. Beginning in 2013, Charlotte had a five-year stint as Chloe, the teenage sister of murdered schoolboy Danny Latimer.

‘It was heavy going, remembers Charlotte. ‘The most difficult scenes to film emotionally were at the beginning when we find out about Danny’s death. I learnt a huge amount, but acting alongside an incredible cast was very nerve-wracking!

‘My character has to grow up extremely fast and be there for her parents in a way she’s never had to before. By the third series, she finds herself having to be the middle man between her two parents. Trying to be there for both of them and bring them together as a family.’

The show attracted critical acclaim, with Olivia Coleman winning the 2014 BAFTA for best actress while Kudos Film and Television won Best Drama Series. For the actors, it was the sixth episode when they knew they were on to something.

Charlotte Beaumont (photo: Faye Thomas)Charlotte Beaumont (photo: Faye Thomas)

‘They showed us the footage and we were like, “Oh wow this is really beautiful and exciting!” All of us were in shock. It was incredible, insane. I had no idea how big it was going to be and that there would be a second series, let alone a third.’

Charlotte’s first experience of a film set was aged 14 in Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll with Andy Serkis and Olivia Williams.

‘It was the best first filming experience ever, so laid back and low budget. Dad came with me and I learned so much. Olivia gave me this tip: “When they call action just exhale and relax.” I was absolutely terrified but it was awesome because I had so many shooting days. The last bit of filming we did for the music gigs was on the Watford Palace stage.’

After this role she appeared in soaps in quick succession.

EastEnders was invaluable because with a soap you just have to bash it out in like half an hour. It’s a lot of pressure because you’ve got to learn your lines and deliver because you’re working with these actors that have been doing this for years. Phil Mitchell was in one of my scenes and I thought wow, this is ridiculous.

‘In Holby I played someone with leukaemia with this red wig and false eyelashes like Danny La Rue and I wore heels and leggings and the most loud costume. In Doctors I played someone who’d lost her dad – all very light, cheerful things.’

She returned to the stage with two plays last October – Luke Barnes’ No One Will Tell Me How to Start a Revolution directed by Anna Ledwich at Hampstead Downstairs, and Pebbles – a two-hander with writer/actress Bebe Sanders at Katzspace, which they are hoping to take to Edinburgh later this year.

Pebbles is our little passion project. I’ve known Bebe for three years. We worked together at National Theatre on Three Winters and became really good friends, we moved in together. She started writing in February and turned it around in three weeks. My character Bryon is basically me with a hangover. You know that thing when you wake up and you’re still feeling a bit giddy and you’ve got no filter, that’s kind of Bryon. So Bebe wrote the character for me as a heightened version of our friendship.’

She adds that Revolution was hugely refreshing: ‘Anna Ledwich is one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with. She had already seen me in a play when I was 16 at Chichester so I was on her radar a little bit. It was about three sisters who were trying to fit into an area that was a class above their own. I think it was powerful because of the subject matter being something people are typically reluctant to talk about or acknowledge. The writing was brilliant and what was really special was that the cast were three women. So to tackle a really important social issue and to tell the story through the eyes of three young woman was a fantastic experience.’

Engaging, passionate and already hugely experienced in her craft at such a young age, Charlotte Beaumont will be one to watch for many years to come.

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