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'I was shocked to win a Bafta, I didn't write a speech'

Published 27/08/2016

Show time: Georgina Campbell with her Bafta award
Show time: Georgina Campbell with her Bafta award
A scene from the new BBC murder mystery One of Us
A scene from the new BBC murder mystery One of Us starring Georgina Campbell

Actor Georgina Campbell talks to Gerard Gilbert about her role in new BBC1 drama One of Us and her awards success.

Georgina Campbell is, if not exactly on top of the world, then sitting exceedingly pretty, with views of horizons that have become ever broader. Until May of last year, few people will have heard of the 23-year-old actress - many of those having been BBC3 viewers who caught her performance as the victim in Murdered by My Boyfriend.

The drama, originally conceived to warn young people about domestic violence, exceeded its worthy remit and earned Campbell a Bafta nomination, where she found herself up against those formidable queens of popular British TV: Sarah Lancashire, Sheridan Smith and Keeley Hawes. To everyone's surprise - not least her own - it was Campbell's name that slipped out of the envelope.

"It was absolute madness, there are pictures of me looking shocked, but I was not expecting it ... not at all," she says in a voice that is never far from laughter, as if she is still coming to somewhat giddy terms with the "madness". And it goes without saying that her expectations were so low that she hadn't bothered to prepare a speech.

"I was just thinking 'what am I going to say'? When you're an actor, people just take it for granted that you're really confident and can get up in front of people and just speak to them. But there's something so different between performing and actually being yourself, so at the time I was just mortified at the thought of having to get up in front of all these big actors who I thought were amazing and deliver a speech I hadn't even written. But it went all right."

What no one twigged until later - perhaps because she wasn't expected to win - was that Campbell is the first black or mixed-race actress to be awarded a Bafta.

"That was a really odd one that came out of nowhere, because no one had really said anything about it, so I didn't actually know that that was the case," she says. "I just think 'yeah, it's about time'."

Campbell's father is a policeman of West Indian heritage, while her mother, a retired teacher, is white-British. Born in Sheffield but raised in Kent, the 15-year-old Campbell was spotted by a casting director, in the time honoured manner associated with models: walking down the street - in this case London's Tottenham Court Road. However, the attention proved slightly less complimentary than being hand-picked as potential Vogue cover-material.

"It was for the part of a girl who looks like a boy and is really into gaming, so it wasn't the most flattering sort of thing I've ever had," she laughs. "But I'm very happy that I did, and a few years later, here we are."

Here we are indeed, and since her Bafta triumph, Campbell hasn't put a foot wrong. She appeared with Olivia Colman and Julian Barratt in Channel 4's The Flowers, writer Will Sharpe's highly original and darkly funny study of a suicidal children's author (Barratt) and his eccentric children, Donald and Amy, who in turn both lust after Campbell's Abigail.

"I found the script so funny... it was exactly my kind of humour," she says.

"I know when the show came out it wasn't quite some people's bag, but I was very, very happy to be cast in that." The Flowers received a lot of attention, unlike the gentle Sky1 comedy drama After Hours, about a late-night online music radio station broadcast from a canal barge. Produced and directed by The Royle Family's Craig Cash (and featuring the last-ever screen appearance by Caroline Aherne), and co-starring Jaime Winstone, Ardal O'Hanlon and John Thompson, After Hours was one of my personal favourite TV shows of last year. Campbell played another siren role - this time the girlfriend who dumps the show's hero, a sweet-natured, lovelorn DJ played by James Tarpey. The series was laced with a lovingly curated soundtrack, from The Smiths, Tom Waits and The Pixies, to the specially recorded theme song by Babyshambles, a cover of the Velvet Underground's After Hours.

"After Hours is your favourite? Really? People don't generally bring that show up", says Campbell. "I loved the music - my audition was for a girl who loved The Pixies and I love The Pixies, so I went a bit far and kind of went in with a Pixies T-shirt. I remember the director (Cash) when I finally went in after I got the job, said, 'yeah here's the overkill girl who came in wearing a Pixies T-shirt'."

Campbell is currently in the West Country, reunited with Olivia Colman for the new Broadchurch series. I was slightly concerned from reading Campbell's entry on 'Imdb' that she was appearing in only one episode. Does this mean she's the victim? Not so, it seems. "I do have an ongoing role," she re-assures me. "I'm not the murder victim."

In the meantime, and not a million miles from Broadchurch, genre-wise at least, this week saw the start of One of Us, a new BBC1 murder-mystery from writers Harry and Jack Williams, authors of the four-times Bafta-nominated drama The Missing, which starred James Nesbitt as the father of a little boy who vanishes while on holiday in France.

The Williams brothers' plot this time involves the double-murder of a popular young couple and the prime suspect mysteriously fleeing to the remote Scottish village where both the victims' families live. Why would he do that and (in the words of the BBC blurb) "what would you do if the suspected killer of your child/brother/sister turned up on your doorstep?".

"It's not a conventional murder-mystery ... in fact I don't think I'm even supposed to call it a murder-mystery," says Campbell, who plays Anna, the girlfriend of the brother of one of the victims.

The ensemble cast - a mixture of veterans like Juliet Stevenson, Julie Graham, John Lynch and Ade Edmondson and talented younger bloods such as Joanna Vanderham (The Go-Between), Joe Dempsie (This Is England, Game of Thrones) - are secreted in the Scottish countryside, while the fabulous Steve Evets (Rev, Looking for Eric) is the police detective sent to investigate.

"I've always really liked murder mysteries and thrillers, and it's great to be able to be actually part of one," says Campbell. "Obviously you're in it so you know what's going to happen, but to be able to watch it as an audience and get that feeling - 'oh, who did this, who did that'?"

Campbell's star moves ever onwards, and she features in Guy Ritchie's new movie King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, sharing the locations in Wales and Scotland with Charlie Hunnan (who plays King Arthur), Jude Law, Eric Bana and, well, David Beckham.

"It's very funny meeting global superstars like that," she says. "You've already got an idea of who they are and they're never actually like that." Especially when they buy you ice-creams. "Yes, Jude Law gave me a Fab lolly ... but then he gave everyone a Fab lolly."

Campbell has paid her dues, with guest roles on those traditional training grounds of British television thesps - Casualty, Holby and Doctors - and while just three years ago she featured in an ITV drama called The Ice Cream Girls, here she is now sharing Fab lollies with Jude Law. All that and a Bafta on the mantlepiece of her flatshare in south London. If it sounds like a dream, then that's not how Campbell sees it.

"It's a funny one", she says. "I guess because I've been working since I was 16 so, even though it's not always been constant work, I have been working now for eight years, it doesn't actually feel like it's been crazy. So, yeah, I just take it in my stride. Nothing too mad has happened yet."

  • One of Us, Tuesday, BBC1, 9pm

Belfast Telegraph

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