News

What to Watch With Vanity Fair Star Olivia Cooke

The star of Amazon's new period drama, based on the British novel, tells Rotten Tomatoes what she's watching right now.

by | December 20, 2018 | Comments

MAMMOTH SCREEN FOR ITV VANITY FAIR EPISODE 1 Pictured: OLIVIA COOKE as Becky Sharp. Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/Amazon

(Photo by Robert Viglasky/Amazon)

Vanity Fair’s Becky Sharp has seen her fair share of film and TV adaptations over the years — Reese Witherspoon in 2004’s film version, Natasha Little in the 1998 BBC version, Eve Matheson in the 1987 BBC version, Susan Hampshire in the 1967 BBC version — but the literary heroine gets her most modern take yet thanks to Olivia Cooke, star of Amazon’s Certified Fresh 2018 miniseries.

The show, which hits Prime Video on Dec. 21, is based on the classic William Makepeace Thackeray novel, and while it’s still set in early-19th century Britain, there are plenty of modern touches that make Becky’s story feel less like a stuffy period drama and more like an evergreen story about a resourceful woman clawing her way out of poverty at any cost is applicable to any era.

Gwyneth Hughes’ adaptation is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, and features the “Villainy, crime, merriment, lovemaking, jilting, laughing, cheating, fighting, and dancing,” as Cooke’s spirited Becky climbs her way up English society all the way to the court of King George IV.

In anticipation of the series’ U.S. release, Rotten Tomatoes spoke with star Cooke about playing a classic literary character, nailing a posh English accent, and what shows she’s been streaming lately.


What’s appointment viewing for you?

Recently, just ’cause it’s off the top of my head, Sally4Ever, the Julia Davis HBO show. It is so outrageous. It is so, so good. I mean, me and my boyfriend are watching it and we have to watch the past episode two or three times during the week just so we can get ready for the next episode that comes out on Sunday. It is so outrageous. It is so, so good. I mean, me and my boyfriend are watching it and we have to watch the past episode two or three times during the week just so we can get ready for the next episode that comes out on Sunday. Her sense of humor is so off color and so dark and so wacky. You can kind of see the improvising, and I actually love that you can see the actors just barely holding it together because of what they’re saying and what’s coming out of the other person’s mouth is so outrageous. It’s delicious. It’s so wonderful to watch.


What’s on your DVR?

I don’t have cable! I have Amazon, I have Hulu, I have Netflix, I have HBO.


What’s on your streaming queue?

I just started watching on Netflix — I know, blasphemy! I’m in an Amazon show — it’s about all these investors trying to work out if they ought to invest in a new restaurant: Million Pound Menu. One the other day was Cuban-inspired street food that we want you to invest like $500,000 in to house six or seven restaurants around the country. I think it’s these usually lovely eccentric people that just want to create a product that serves people and doesn’t harm anyone else. It’s low stakes, and it’s really nice to kind of switch your mind off, too.

The Bisexual on Hulu. I’ve watched that actually in England. That was Channel Four in England, now it’s just come to Hulu. It shows the part of London that I think is quite cool and aspirational but also realistic and the writing’s really good and the acting is wonderful and it’s about the sexual politics around different gendered relationships. It’s really interesting.

Forever on Amazon. I just finished watching. It was great. I mean, Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen I’m always there for.


What’s coming soon that you can’t wait for?

Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag (Amazon Prime Video)

(Photo by Amazon Prime Video)

Fleabag season 2. I’m excited for that. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say what, so I won’t, but I just worked with an actor who just filmed it and I was trying to get him to tell me secrets. I’m excited for that to come out next year.

And Veep! I’ve been going back recently and watching all the Veeps from the beginning to end and I’m excited about that. I’m especially excited to see what they do with their administration in light of everything that’s happening here. It’s so funny watching it a few years ago and being like, “This is crazy. This would never happen,” and then some of the storylines that were filmed before this current administration are now so realistic and so real and you’re just like, “Oh my God, they are Nostradamus.”


Jean Bentley for Rotten Tomatoes: I feel like being in a period historical drama is a right of passage for an English actor. So what was it like doing this, for you?

Cooke: It was great. I’ve done a historical period piece before but that was only two months and it was a film. But doing this for five months and getting dressed in the morning and being put into your corset and then being sewn into your dress. You kind of start the day with this weird meditation/tradition, which helps you get into character and be like, bloody hell, no wonder women wanted to liberated because this is miserable. But yeah, if especially you’re a young actress and they just get you into a corset then automatically you’re like this treasured, virginal, ingenue.

RT: It struck me while watching that I’ve actually never seen you in anything where you use your own accent — you’re always playing an American.

Cooke: Yeah I was really worried going in ’cause I’m doing a very posh English accent, and I’m worried that I can’t do this now. I’m worried that I can’t act in something that is close to my own accent!

RT: I think it worked out. How did you feel?

Cooke: I don’t hear American and I don’t hear my own accent, so I think I’m all right.


MAMMOTH SCREEN FOR ITV VANITY FAIR EPISODE 4 Pictured: OLIVIA COOKE as Becky Sharp and MATHEW BAYNTON as Bute Crawley Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/Amazon

(Photo by Robert Viglasky/Amazon)

RT: What did you like about Becky?

Cooke: She’s just so naughty and so mischievous and conniving. She says exactly what she thinks and she’s so unapologetic for her actions. I think playing someone like that is usually only reserved for the men. And I think of a Fleabag or a Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep — these women that I’m so drawn to have these qualities where they’re incredibly flawed people but they kind of know it as well, and they’re using that to their advantage. Especially with Becky, [it was] a time when women didn’t have jobs unless you were a very, very low status. She’s using her wit and her charm and her skills as seductress to get by in life and to rise to the ranks of society. I just think she’s pretty clever and she’s pretty conniving for doing that.

RT: Had you read the novel this series is based on?

Cooke: When I got sent the scripts and they signed off on me, and I signed on, I read the book. It’s a really incredible book. It gives you a visceral sense of the time, but also William Makepeace Thackeray has written these incredibly flawed women, Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp, who are at two opposite ends of the spectrum. Neither one of them is this archetype or vision of what a woman should be in life.


Olivia Cooke in "Vanity Fair" Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/Amazon

(Photo by Robert Viglasky/Amazon)

RT: Reviews of the show have mentioned that it makes the story relatable for a 21st-century audience. Would you agree?

Cooke: I do, and I think all of us made a bit of a conscious effort because we weren’t there at this time in the early 1800s. You don’t really know what people act like. Gwyneth Hughes has done such an amazing job of adapting the book and really making it her own, in a sense, as well. The dialogue is there on the page, but in terms of physicality we don’t have to act with a big rod up our asses. You can be a bit more silly. You can be a bit more frivolous with your performance and more flamboyant. I think it works. Also, we adopted this motif of giving the occasional glances to camera in order to let the audience in and let it be a little more accessible and a bit more conspiratorial. So they’re in on the plotting and the conniving with Becky, and I think other period dramas sometimes hold the audience at arm’s length because it does feel too foreign, the way people live. But with this it’s a bit of a nudge-nudge, wink-wink, you’re on the same level as me.

RT: What’s next for you?

Cooke: I did an episode of the anthology Modern Love for Amazon. So Amazon is keeping me employed, which is nice. And then I did a film in summer with Riz Ahmed called Sound of Metal, directed by Darius Marder.

Vanity Fair is available Friday, Dec. 21 on Amazon Prime.


Tag Cloud

Comic-Con@Home 2021 Legendary comedies 007 anthology book adaptation jamie lee curtis composers Marvel Television Emmy Nominations Red Carpet suspense Sci-Fi vampires Disney discovery DC streaming service New York Comic Con true crime child's play black Lionsgate Mary Poppins Returns Reality Competition Rock The Walking Dead GIFs politics FX elevated horror international cartoon CNN australia video Avengers Quiz cults batman Election harry potter satire Tumblr Logo Spike dark romantic comedy Reality zombies Television Critics Association Columbia Pictures Creative Arts Emmys Pixar BET Awards marvel cinematic universe binge stoner Showtime TV renewals saw mission: impossible Exclusive Video crossover screen actors guild Spectrum Originals olympics what to watch comic TV movies Music Sundance singing competition PaleyFest prank El Rey Black History Month 93rd Oscars Crackle revenge fresh RT21 christmas movies Fantasy jurassic park Cannes Freeform new york political drama X-Men Tarantino 2015 Film Festival documentary travel SXSW TCM superman VH1 Writers Guild of America Western Syfy quibi Fall TV sports Paramount Plus The CW teaser facebook Sneak Peek DirecTV french Hallmark Christmas movies king kong video on demand animated CBS The Arrangement Shondaland book Comedy Central BAFTA FOX TCA Awards game of thrones cinemax rotten renewed TV shows OWN E! ID Trivia Universal Box Office The Witch Paramount Network YouTube Pirates cancelled television First Reviews Action Watching Series ViacomCBS halloween spy thriller A24 The Purge cancelled Calendar cars HBO ghosts Photos Brie Larson ABC Signature screenings kong boxoffice Marvel Broadway Year in Review Ellie Kemper PBS kids diversity spider-man aapi TIFF cats Mudbound 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards LGBT Best and Worst Certified Fresh spinoff space Epix PlayStation Fox Searchlight nature Academy Awards 4/20 Pet Sematary sitcom Cartoon Network crime thriller latino Spring TV hidden camera sequels SundanceTV Endgame Discovery Channel Walt Disney Pictures Masterpiece Image Comics football new zealand toronto Summer razzies social media lord of the rings Anna Paquin Countdown rotten movies we love Peacock Awards Awards Tour 2016 films Christmas Tokyo Olympics Apple Martial Arts blockbusters series movie spain YouTube Premium TV One period drama boxing Comic Book police drama telelvision casting monster movies FX on Hulu richard e. Grant emmy awards doctor who Podcast Marvel Studios 2018 pirates of the caribbean MTV Amazon Prime Video Britbox TCA 2017 Alien Pride Month nbcuniversal TNT Television Academy TruTV robots all-time Toys comics Apple TV+ Adult Swim Winners Country WGN ESPN 2017 hollywood reviews AMC Premiere Dates natural history TCA Amazon Studios wonder woman south america crime foreign BET transformers Disney Channel APB spanish language game show streaming movies reboot Women's History Month Lifetime Christmas movies IFC Films WarnerMedia parents supernatural golden globe awards scorecard green book women ABC Family History dragons sag awards 45 Superheroe Musicals USA legend Comedy Amazon Prime Sundance Now Film Marathons 2021 90s name the review spanish Opinion know your critic San Diego Comic-Con Captain marvel rt archives Holidays Rom-Com BBC America Disney Plus DC Universe 24 frames Comics on TV Biopics rom-coms OneApp Emmys Crunchyroll SDCC Ovation Sony Pictures cops Nominations james bond Apple TV Plus indie worst unscripted stand-up comedy Nickelodeon Schedule fast and furious breaking bad canceled Winter TV venice king arthur superhero witnail Thanksgiving RT History blaxploitation werewolf 20th Century Fox TCA Winter 2020 adaptation high school news Pop TV Turner Classic Movies psychological thriller Musical Bravo HBO Go HBO Max Superheroes Lifetime golden globes TV Ghostbusters streaming nfl sequel Super Bowl Shudder NBC Warner Bros. asian-american YA MSNBC Vudu Funimation Rocky die hard hist Food Network Nat Geo Esquire Star Trek Pacific Islander basketball zombie Mary poppins CW Seed Stephen King free movies Song of Ice and Fire godzilla Disney streaming service science fiction Heroines adventure Video Games comiccon docudrama Travel Channel NBA award winner President 99% worst movies See It Skip It dramedy joker scary movies movies BBC One biography American Society of Cinematographers halloween tv festival Turner Acorn TV chucky documentaries serial killer a nightmare on elm street theme song mockumentary Horror Dark Horse Comics Mary Tyler Moore Tomatazos TLC Netflix Christmas movies Infographic TBS GoT medical drama Mindy Kaling based on movie crime drama thriller DGA mutant strong female leads canceled TV shows CMT television VOD National Geographic blockbuster Character Guide Trophy Talk franchise trailers Teen classics remakes First Look CBS All Access Hallmark A&E tv talk Drama USA Network Star Wars Family ratings Cosplay kaiju best versus IFC Starz Animation finale Chernobyl Valentine's Day Baby Yoda Set visit war Grammys VICE TV Land japan talk show heist movie Kids & Family 72 Emmy Awards romance Wes Anderson 21st Century Fox toy story dogs deadpool docuseries 71st Emmy Awards scene in color Rocketman Disney+ Disney Plus Holiday slashers historical drama popular Oscars indiana jones LGBTQ E3 justice league Black Mirror cooking 1990s directors Binge Guide twilight Sundance TV FXX universal monsters Arrowverse disaster comic books stop motion Elton John cancelled TV shows hispanic independent 2019 target Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt live action Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Extras Mystery The Academy Netflix Classic Film concert Pop miniseries DC Comics aliens Amazon dceu japanese dc Hulu Polls and Games festivals critics NYCC MCU psycho Paramount criterion zero dark thirty Trailer Lucasfilm laika archives YouTube Red 2020 The Walt Disney Company BBC ABC obituary new star wars movies technology Tubi cancelled TV series anime GLAAD adenture italian Interview Fox News Hear Us Out ITV children's TV