PUBLISHED: 16:14 14 April 2014 | UPDATED: 16:26 14 April 2014
Set in Renaissance Florence and inspired by the 'untold' story of Leonardo Da Vinci's early years as an artist, the first series of FOX channel's Da Vinci's Demons captured the imagination of viewers when it premiered in the UK last year. The female lead in the series, which returns to our screens this month, is Harpenden's Laura Haddock in the role of the aristocratic Lucrezia Donati.
The critically-acclaimed first series picked up two Emmy Awards last year for outstanding title design and outstanding theme music, and a further nomination for outstanding special visual effects in a supporting role. Award ceremonies are nothing new for Laura who was a nominee for Empire magazine’s 2011 awards for best female newcomer for her starring role as Alison in The Inbetweeners Movie.
‘The whole Inbetweeners experience was incredible,’ says Laura, whose impressive CV also includes TV and film roles in My Family, Plus One, Honest, The Palace, Upstairs Downstairs, The Colour of Magic, Monday Monday, How Not to Live Your Life and Strike Back: Project Dawn. ‘We spent a few months in Crete, where the film was set and I just had so much fun. The whole cast and crew got on really well and we had apartments in the same block. The doors would always be open and we’d be in and out of each other’s places as everyone took it in turns to cook.’
As well as filming overseas, Laura has spent a great deal of time recently on the outskirts of Swansea in Wales on the Da Vinci’s Demons set. She says she has always been prepared to follow her acting dream – from when she moved out of her family’s Harpenden home aged 17 to go to college in London. She still lives in the capital but retains a strong connection with her home county and looks back fondly on her school days here. ‘I went to St George’s School in Harpenden and acting was certainly something I loved to do,’ she smiles. ‘We had an inter-house tournament called the Chapman Cup every year which would include a music and drama competition. I would always take part in that and would take on far too many roles – actress, songwriter, director etc, etc! I wanted to be a part of everything.’
Laura was born in Welwyn Garden City (not Enfield as listed on her Wikipedia entry) and brought up in Harpenden where family life was ‘a joy’. ‘I was very much a family girl, so I’d go wherever my family did really,’ she says. ‘All of my grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins lived locally so much of my childhood was spent visiting them at the weekend. We had a tradition of going for a roast dinner at my nan’s house on a Sunday who lived near the River Gade and alongside the Grand Union Canal in the Kings Langley and Abbots Langley area.
‘As a family, we really used to enjoy walking around Nomansland Common when I was young. I’ve got a brother and sister and we enjoyed a really active childhood, climbing trees, chasing each other around the common and walking our dogs. And, going back to the music and acting competitions at school I mentioned, I also really got into lacrosse and played for both the school and the county.’
Laura moved to Chiswick in London in 2003 to study at the Arts Educational School. A country girl at heart, life in the city initially took some getting used to. ‘Having come from a very green county, when I moved to London it was a bit of a shock, suddenly being in the middle of a big city,’ she admits. Seven years on from graduating, she remains in the same area, though trips back to Hertfordshire are a regular occurrence whenever she has a break in her busy schedule.
‘I love going back to Hertfordshire, mainly to relax and see family,’ she explains. ‘I’ve never been much of a clubber so I prefer chilling out in a nice pub and a catch-up with mates. The county it is still where my parents live.’
With a host of exciting work projects planned this year, we can expect to see plenty more of Laura on both the small and big screen. She will appear, alongside Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Benicio del Toro, as Meredith Quill in the Marvel Comics-inspired film Guardians of the Galaxy, due for release in August. There is also a third series of Da Vinci’s Demons in the planning and ‘a few other things in the pipeline’.
The volume of work is testament to Laura’s commitment and talent, and has overcome doubts she had in the early days of her career.
‘I can remember when I was getting my first acting breaks, coming home from filming and questioning whether I was good enough,’ she says. ‘But that’s all part of the process. You have your doubts and if you push yourself into doing things you don’t necessarily feel comfortable with to begin with, I think it ultimately makes you a better actress.’
On top of her hefty work schedule, Laura also found time to marry Hunger Games actor Sam Claflin (pictured with Laura above) at a small ceremony in July last year. ‘It was when Sam and I were looking back at 2013 around Christmas time we said “how on earth did we fit all that in?” Sam shot four films last year and I was away a lot with Da Vinci’s Demons, so it was hectic. But at the time, we just got on with it. It was a busy time, but such a happy year.’
With many more film and TV projects coming up for Laura, this year is set to continue at pace for one of the county’s brightest acting talents.