Though the housemaid she played in Downton Abbey left to become a secretary during the first series, Rose Leslie remains a Downton addict and cried her eyes out at the demise of Matthew Crawley. ‘I had no idea that it was coming and I was screaming at the TV,’ she says.
Now best known as Ygritte in HBO’s Game of Thrones, Rose trained at Lamda and has already won a Scottish Bafta for her part in the TV film New Town. She grew up in remote Aberdeenshire, loves her lace trousers by Alice + Olivia and says her guilty pleasure is slapstick. In Game of Thrones she plays a Wildling, one of the ‘free folk’. In real life she’s a Scot through and through: ‘First and foremost, Scotland is my home and I do consider myself Scottish but I also feel very British and I hope that Scotland stays within the Union. I have a real concern about independence and actually, frankly, if we are going to be dictated to by anyone, I would prefer it to be Westminster rather than Brussels.’
One day Rose would love to work with her favourite playwright, Martin McDonagh. ‘I love reading his plays, I love watching his films,’ she says. ‘I think he has a very cruel, dark, harsh sense of humour but it is a sense of humour nonetheless.’
As a Glaswegian in London, Richard Madden still misses the city where he grew up; ‘Being able to go out to the supermarket and see the hills… there is something deeply uplifting when you can see the horizon rather than buildings in front of you all the time.’ The 27-year-old was another of the Scottish contingent from Game of Thrones: he played Robb Stark, who was brutally slayed in series three, traumatising his fans. ‘It crushed me as well!’ he jokes. ‘It was five years of my life that I was part of that show.’ On a day off you’ll find him either with his nose in his book or tearing around on a motorbike. A graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he made a name for himself playing Romeo at the Globe and will soon be taking on another of the world’s most famous pin-ups, Prince Charming in Disney’s popcorn fairytale Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh alongside a cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Stellan Skarsgård and Helena Bonham Carter. Cinderella will be out next year. Before that, you can catch him in Ridley Scott’s gold rush series Klondike.
It looks as if Hollywood will continue to demand his services. At least there are plenty of hills there…
She played a key role in the final season of Breaking Bad as the drug-dealing, neo-Nazi-befriending lunatic Lydia Rodarte-Quayle. This was, Laura says, the best character she has ever played. ‘She was stressful to portray because she was so tightly wound and corrupt, but she was also so much fun, an absolute hoot.’
Laura is currently filming a new US TV series, The Black Box. ‘Doing huge-budget American shows is overwhelming, strange and quite surreal,’ she says. ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever feel entirely comfortable doing them. I’m more used to no-money BBC productions with everyone sharing a crappy room at the back of a pub for the dressing room.’ Fraser lives a few hours outside New York with her husband and daughter. It’s hard to find ‘crap Scottish food’ there, she reports — no ‘things from the chip shop and Cadbury’s chocolate’.
Edinburgh’s Emun Elliott is best known for his stint starring in the Sunday night BBC series The Paradise. You’ll also know his face from Games of Thrones and last year’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth, a job that brought him very close to one of his teenage heroes. ‘When I was 14, I remember my parents seeing Trainspotting at the cinema and my mum having the novel. I snuck into her bedroom and borrowed it. I read specific chapters under my duvet with a little torch and was filled with this morbid fascination, thinking, is this what’s going on around me in Edinburgh?’
Next up, he’ll be on stage at the Young Vic in April appearing in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge and on screen in Ridley Scott’s biblical epic Exodus alongside Christian Bale and Sir Ben Kingsley. He also appeared in Scott’s Prometheus, but is far from blasé. ‘I remember going in on the first day of Exodus and being sat in the make-up chair next to Batman and Gandhi,’ he says. ‘It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.’
The 24-year-old Glaswegian actor has more reason than most to be mulling over questions of identity. As well as a great run of TV roles out this year, including 37 Days, the first world war BBC drama, and David Hare’s Worricker trilogy (see Bill Nighy interview, p. 28) he has been cast as James I in the first of three history plays jointly commissioned by the National Theatre and National Theatre of Scotland. These have plenty to say about his homeland: ‘The plays are holding a mirror up to Scotland and its identity,’ he explains. ‘They give a full representation of what it would be like for Scottish people to run Scotland.’ That said, thanks to Rada, he can play a convincing Englishman too. He recalls that after a screening of the 2013 sitcom Love and Marriage, someone in the audience came up to him and proclaimed: ‘I think it’s so brave of you to do a Glaswegian accent.’ ‘I thought it was the funniest thing I’ve ever heard,’ he recalls. ‘My speech teacher at Rada said, “James, must you go home for Christmas?” When I said yes she said, “Then do listen to Radio 4.”’ What would Alex Salmond say about that?
Last December, Chloe Pirrie won the British Independent Film Awards’ most promising newcomer prize for her haunting performance in the Highland indie drama Shell. She can next be seen alongside the Scottish acting legend Brian Cox in the BBC’s new 1970s spy drama The Game. To celebrate all this, the 26-year-old Guildhall graduate recently marked Burns Night by cracking open the magnum of Moët that came with the Bifa gong. ‘I got my friends round to my house for haggis and champagne. A lot of people were having haggis for the first time, but everyone cleaned their plates, so I was thrilled.’ The champagne bottle had her name spelled out on it in diamante — we say she’s going to get plenty of opportunity to sparkle in future.
Last year the Glaswegian Kevin Guthrie, 25, starred in the Scottish film Sunshine on Leith, a big-screen musical based on the songs of The Proclaimers. His next movie is another high-profile Scottish production, Terence Davies’s adaptation of Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Now a London resident, Guthrie regularly teams up with his fellow Scot James McAvoy — with whom he appeared in Macbeth in the West End — in a five-a-side football team. Who is the better player? ‘James is good, but I’d say we’re about level. If you come from the area of Glasgow that we do, you have to know what you’re doing on the pitch.’
Joanna Vanderham, 21, made her film debut in What Maisie Knew alongside Steve Coogan and Julianne Moore. ‘I think I was thrown in at the deep end in terms of trying not to be starstruck,’ she says. ‘I turned up on set and we had been filming for a couple of weeks before Julianne was scheduled, and I wasn’t expecting her to be there. The director said, “Oh have you not met Julie yet?” She treated me as if I was just as entitled to be there as she was, which was just incredible. I was like a little sponge around her.’ Vanderham, who grew up in Scone, Perth, says she will definitely be going home to cast her vote against independence: ‘I think it would be a big mistake if Scotland left the United Kingdom.’
Acting in BBC1’s period drama The Paradise allowed her to wear some fabulous costumes. Off camera, she loves layers — ‘If I’m ever on the red carpet I just have to pray that the adrenaline keeps me warm because my stylist will never give me a coat. By the end of the night, when you’ve been standing on your Louboutins for hours and you don’t have a jacket and you just want a cab home, it’s slightly less glamorous. You all forget that we have to leave at the end of the night as well as arrive!’ To judge by her work to date, she’s going to have to get used to the experience…