With a new role on the London stage, 17 year-old Georgia Groome‘s CV continues to go from strength to strength. After varied roles in the likes of London to Brighton and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, RT continues our Fresh Talent series by exploring her ever-evolving career.
She was 13 when she made her big screen debut in Paul Andrew Williams‘ affecting drama London to Brighton, and drew stellar notices from critics as a young victim of child prostitution. A few years later, and with a string of roles under her belt, Georgia Groome, who celebrated her 17th birthday last week, is preparing to take to the London stage and return to the medium that launched her career. “I started out in theatre and there’s no better feeling than the adrenaline of being on stage,” she enthuses to RT, “I start rehearsals in the next 2 weeks.”
The play is Tusk Tusk, from writer Polly Stenham (That Face). “Tusk Tusk is about a family of kids who are alone, the audience don’t know why,” Groome explains. “I play Cassie, the oldest boy’s girlfriend. She comes in and notices things are wrong. She’s a different part, not a street urchin or an eccentric; she’s just a really caring person that finds herself in a situation she can’t ever understand.”
No wonder Groome is earning the right to such well-pedigreed material. Not long after London to Brighton she was cast in Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, the big-screen adaptation of Louise Rennison‘s hugely successful books from Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha. With its bright production design and sweet comedy, it couldn’t be further removed from her debut in tone, and sent a powerful message about her ability to tackle a wide variety of roles.
“Playing Joanne in London to Brighton was my first taste of film and I loved every second of it,” she says. “Angus, Thongs was very, very different! Georgia Nicholson is larger than life and eccentric — the complete opposite of London to Brighton.”
The tonal shift was matched by her mentors on each set, directors Paul Andrew Williams and Gurinder Chadha. “Paul’s main note was to never act, everything was real and raw, he would just make us do it, and if it wasn’t working we would do it again — differently. He also swore a lot and demanded 20p whenever I got something right! Gurinder is the picture of all woman – she’s strong and fun and ruled the whole studio when we were working.”
Both directors have cemented Groome’s passion for acting, and she’s determined to continue to seek contrast in future work. “I want to try everything I can, I want to push my boundaries and experiment with characters and genres that I have yet to try.”
She’ll next be seen on the big screen in The Disappeared, alongside fellow young stars Harry Treadaway and Harry Potter star Tom Felton. “It’s about child abductions,” she explains. “It’s deep and physiologically disturbing.”
For Groome, working with younger casts on the likes of The Disappeared and Angus, Thongs makes the process all the more enjoyable. “I think I’m even luckier that I can call these people my friends,” she tells RT. “We had a wicked time filming Angus Thongs, we all got on and it was like a playground. Aaron Johnson was a lot of fun to be around – I’m lucky to have worked with some of the best young males about, and I think my school friends agree, although I don’t think they are rating the acting skills!”
Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and London to Brighton are on DVD now. The Disappeared is due for release this year. Tusk Tusk opens at the Royal Court in London on 28th March. On the next page you catch our full Q&A with Georgia and don’t forget to check out our previous Fresh Talent feature with Carey Mulligan.
From London to Brighton to Angus, Thongs, you’ve had the opportunity to play a variety of characters and it’s been a busy few years, how does it feel to be playing roles like these?
Georgia Groome: I have honestly had the best few years and I feel so lucky. Playing Joanne in London to Brighton was my first taste of film and I loved every second of it. It was cold and long and hard – being forced herbal cigarettes – what wasn’t to love? It was a great character, and an even better cast, I am so proud to say I am part of that little film that caused a bit of a stir!
Angus Thongs was very, very different! Georgia Nicholson is larger than life and eccentric – the complete opposite of London to Brighton. I thought after London to Brighton that I only wanted to do serious films, and that’s what my next few projects were, and then I met Gurinder and after a bit of persuasion took the part. Again, I had the best time, doing something completely different, I learn so much on each job, that’s my favourite part.
The Disappeared has yet to come out, what can you tell us about that film and who you play?
GG: The Disappeared is about child abductions. Matthew’s (Harry Treadaway) brother has been abducted and he has visions of his brother, then I get abducted and Matthew has to work out who is behind it. It’s deep and physiologically disturbing. I had a great time working with Harry, he is a fantastic actor, and one I would love to work with again. My part was quite small, but we filmed in Chislehurst Caves which was an experience in itself. The director gave us a lot of freedom and let us try new things. I hope it does manage to get somebody behind it because Harry does such a good job; it’s a shame when small budget masterpieces don’t get widely seen!
You work with yet another talented young cast on that film, is it good to be on set with younger actors?
GG: Yes, definitely! I think I’m even luckier that I can call these people my friends, we had a wicked time filming Angus, Thongs, we all got on and it was like a playground. The worst culprit being Gurinder, she liked to spread rumours and have a good time! Aaron Johnson was a lot of fun to be around, I learnt so much from him, and how he handles things and his approach towards a scene! I’m lucky to have worked with some of the best young males about, and I think my school friends agree, although I don’t think they are rating the acting skills!
Being on a young set means that I don’t miss home, I have friends and we can have a laugh, but at the same time, I loved being the only child. Paul Andrew Williams treated me as an adult, he let me make important decisions and listened to what I thought, sharing at least 2 of the scenes, not many directors would listen to a 13 year old inexperienced child but he did and it was a huge lesson for me.
Their films are vastly different, but can you share some memories of working with Paul Andrew Williams and Gurinder Chadha? How do they compare/differ in their approaches?
GG: They are completely different! Paul’s main note was to never act – everything was real and raw, he would just make us do it, and if it wasn’t working we would do it again differently. He also swears a lot and demanded 20p whenever I got something right! Paul is so supportive of me, he told me the other day on the phone that I’m not getting any younger and to try everything I can before it’s too late. He’s a great man, a best friend. To be honest I owe most of what has happened to him – he gave me my first chance. London to Brighton was a great project to be part of it; we are all so proud so what we achieved on so little time and money. Paul let me more than once decide how I would do it, he let me do it my way, how I thought it would work and in 2 cases this is how it is in the film. Paul is so cool, I can’t think of another word to describe him really!
Gurinder works a very organised, happy set, and I’ve generally found a happy set is good set! Everybody loves Gurinder, she radiates warmth, she’s open to talking things through and she would be very clear about how a scene would run and where the beats were meant to be. I learnt a lot working on a big budget film, money is time and we got to try lots of different things and cover lots of different areas. Gurinder is the picture of all woman! She’s strong and fun and ruled the whole studio when we were working. She kept herself on our level. Once, we were struggling to get a scene due to weather and Dick Pope — who’s an absolutely legend by the way – was getting agitated by the light as all DoPs do, and everyone started to get a bit stressed, as did me and Aaron who began to feel the pressure. So we went for another take, and all I heard was Gurinder, sat in a fluro-orange coat laughing so hard, because Aaron couldn’t get the fake hair out of my head (It really wasn’t budging!) Gurinder later told us she wet herself!
Do you have anything new on the horizon?
GG: Next for me is Polly Stenham’s [writer of That Face] new play. It’s called Tusk Tusk and we are putting it on Upstairs at the Royal Court. I’m very excited! I started out in theatre – unwillingly at first – but it’s when I started to get into performing. I’m scared to go back into it, but I know there’s no better feeling than the adrenaline of being on stage. I’m even more excited to be at the Royal Court – my drama teacher told me to look up the Court and see the list of people who have come through it, and wow! Also, Polly is such a talented writer, Tusk Tusk is about a family of kids who are alone, the audience don’t know why. I play Cassie, the oldest boy’s girlfriend. She comes in and notices things are wrong. She’s a different part, not a street urchin or an eccentric; she’s just a really caring person that finds herself in a situation she can’t ever understand. I start rehearsals in the next 2 weeks and the play starts on the 28th March.
Is there anything you haven’t done that you’d really love to do? Perhaps a genre of film or a type of character you’ve yet to experience?
GG: I want to try everything I can, I want to push my boundaries and experiment with characters and genres that I have yet to try. I would quite like to try a period drama, I like the idea of corsets and dresses and the period look of the films. I would love to do an action film and learnt to do combat and fighting, I’ve never worked with a green screen so that would be a good experience too.
What do you love most about acting?
GG: What I love about acting is being able to be different people and to live and experience things through someone else. It’s a great feeling and I learn so much. For me that’s important, to learn whilst I’m doing it. I’m like a sponge – On Angus, Thongs, I would spend long periods of time studying how Eillen (Kastner Delago) would do my makeup and even longer watching Dick Pope set up the cameras and work his magic. It’s nice that these people are willing to share with me what they know.
Dick Pope is so amazing, he is Mike Leigh’s DoP and I know I am so lucky to have worked and to have a relationship with him. I think that learning more about the art makes me a better actress, because I have an understanding of what’s going on around me. You appreciate what everyone else does and understand what is needed from you as an actress to make the scene work. Now I watch films and notice angles and lighting and special effects. I absorb the film rather than watch it. I love that I can do that.
Who would you most like to work with in the future?
GG: I would chop off both my arms to work with Mike Leigh – I love his films and the process of making and rehearsing his films. I’m a big fan of his usual actors, too. Vera Drake and Happy-Go-Lucky are two of my favourite films. I’ve met him on a few occasions – once after a screening of Happy-Go-Lucky – a meeting set up by about eight different people including Dick Pope – and again at an awards ceremony. I would love to make a film with him; his films are true and interesting and look amazing. I would also like to work with James McAvoy and Jodie Foster. I guess that’s only part of my wish list too… I could go on forever!