About to wow audiences as a Glaswegian country singer in Wild Rose, the Killarney-born actor talks about hating convent school, her inner wolf and getting her break on a BBC talent show
When I meet Jessie Buckley to talk about her new film, Wild Rose, she spends most of the interview excitedly leaning forward, right on the end of the sofa, almost as though she’s about to take off. Which, considering her career, seems appropriate. Directed by Tom Harper, with a script by Nicole Taylor (who wrote the BBC series Three Girls), the film wowed audiences at the Toronto international film festival. Variety called it: “A happy-sad drama of star-struck fever that lifts you up and sweeps you along”; the British Film Institute said: “Jessie Buckley was born to be a star.”
Fresh from her success as the troubled Moll in Michael Pearce’s psychological thriller Beast, which garnered Buckley, 29, a British independent film award for best newcomer and a Bafta rising star nomination, she plays Rose-Lynn Harlan, a brash young Glaswegian in white Stetson boots, whose dreams of becoming a Nashville country singer keep clashing with her real-life responsibilities as a single mother. Wild Rose has a recurring country music theme of “three chords and the truth”, and Buckley spends every onscreen moment acting and singing her guts out. Whether exploding into song while vacuuming in her job as a cleaner, clashing with her disapproving mother (Julie Walters), or tentatively (yearningly) stealing on to a soundstage at Nashville, she has you rooting for her in every frame. The result is a raw, Brit-country version of A Star Is Born, shot through with Full Monty-style underdog pathos, with a kickass performance at the centre. Rose-Lynn emerges so real, so alive, you not only sense her beating heart, you can almost smell her deodorant.
Today, sitting in a London hotel, Buckley is friendly and sparky from the off. Porcelain-pale, in modish dark denim, her red hair cropped into a bob, she chats away in her Irish accent, naturally articulate, her face animated as she speaks. Her career right now (awards, lead roles, transatlantic plaudits) seems a world away from her start as the nervous but game 18-year-old who came runner-up to Jodie Prenger in I’d Do Anything, the 2008 television search to find Nancy for the stage revival of Oliver!