Charlotte Riley on why her children will always come before her career
Charlotte Riley seems to embody the spirit of post-war London. Stephen Poliakoff saw it when he cast her in his latest TV drama, BBC2’s Close to the Enemy, which starts next week.
She co-stars alongside Jim Sturgess, Angela Bassett and Alfred Molina as American divorcee Rachel Lombard. When intelligence officer Callum Ferguson (Jim Sturgess) is holed up in a bomb-damaged hotel, tasked with persuading a German scientist to defect, it’s Rachel who injects colour, vitality and mystery.
“It’s such an interesting period, 1946,” says Riley. “There was an insane amount of creativity around.
The pivotal roles in Riley’s career have been period dramas. For instance, she played Catherine Earnshaw in ITV’s Wuthering Heights, meeting her actor husband Tom Hardy on the set. “I believe everybody has an era in them that’s unexplored,” she says. “Maybe it’s something to do with past lives.”
The energy of post-war London comes naturally to Riley but, she says, not the glamour. But if you’ve seen pictures of her in a black lace gown on this year’s Oscars red carpet, this sounds like false modesty.
As Rachel, Riley is measured, calm and elegant. In person, she’s more rambunctious, more sweary, and funnier than you’d imagine. Riley asks lots of questions and can be charmingly loquacious when the conversation moves to a topic she’s passionate about (“Some people put the milk in first? What the?”).
Husband and wife have appeared in the same series three times. Do they deliberately look out for projects to collaborate on? “Erm… no,” she says decisively, before letting out a burst of laughter “It was just coincidence that we worked together. We bounce ideas off each other, because that’s what you do.”
The couple married in 2014 and, according to reports, had their first child together last October. More than a year later, there’s no mention to be found online of this child’s gender or name. “Privacy is important,” says Riley. Our kids aren’t part of the industry. Why should they have their lives impeded?
With marketing in mind, Hollywood studios have taken to casting films based on the size of an actor’s Instagram following. Is she worried that prioritising privacy may impact negatively on her career? That’s another firm no: “I couldn’t give less of a f***. My privacy is more important to me.”
Close to the Enemy starts on November 10, BBC2, 9pm