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

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