As her latest film hits the cinemas, Charlotte Vega tells Hilary A White how her mother inspired her to fight for her beliefs
By her own admission, Charlotte Vega usually has no idea where she is. Thursday comes just three days after our interview and she confesses that by then she will either be in Barcelona, near where she lives, or in London for work. She is awaiting confirmation, the kind of last-minute green light that can come with a screen-acting career.
A star on the Spanish small-screen, the Madrid-born 24-year-old is now breaking into markets beyond the Iberian Peninsula. When work slowed down following Spain’s economic crash, she decided to get a UK agent. It seems to be working (her latest excursion is a starring role in the Irish-produced Gothic chiller The Lodgers, more of which later).
What she can confirm for me is that she is a strong supporter of International Women’s Day. What you quickly learn is that within the chest of this slight half-British, half-Spanish model-turned-actress beats a heart full of conviction for what she believes in.
“It’s lovely to be surrounded by lots of other women and all supporting each other,” Vega says. “It’s been very difficult in Spain with women asking for the day off to demonstrate and big companies being very difficult about it. It’s such an important movement, especially now, so I really hope that women were all able to come if they wanted to. It’s just a peaceful march where we take to the streets and protest everything that’s wrong with society at the moment for women.”
While Vega missed the televised Oscar ceremony prior to our chat, she did catch up on the goings on. Not surprisingly, as a young woman who has traversed both the modelling and acting industries, she finds great encouragement and excitement in the seismic ripples to come from the Time’s Up movement and Jennifer Lawrence’s rumoured documentary series about it.
“It’s about time, to be honest, no pun intended,” she says. “I guess you kind of worry about these things — will it just be a phase and blow over or is it really time’s up? If we keep at it and keep fighting, then we can’t let it blow over. I don’t know as much about the modelling industry but I can imagine it’s just as bad, if not worse. I admire models, and a lot of people might think it’s just getting pictures taken of you and that’s it, but they have no idea. They work such long hours, travel all the time, meet horrible people that they have to stand there naked with. I really do admire them.”
Vega is full of admiration for people much closer to home, and cites her grandmothers and great-grandmother as being an “incredible” lineage of resilience that she draws from. It is her mum, however, who has been the biggest influence.
“I’m quite like her,” Vega laughs. “She’s very determined. When she gets something in her mind, that’s it, nobody can get in the way, and I can be a bit like that sometimes. A bit impulsive as well. When I’m travelling, I can just, like, buy a flight a few days before and just decide to go around the world, and that’s what I love. I’ll also fight for what I believe in and I definitely see that in my mum.”
Vega’s mother also passed on her interest in acting, which didn’t blossom in her horse-mad daughter until she was 14. She had been riding since the age of four and competed in show-jumping right through her teenage years. Her mother had studied drama and literature in England and was heavily involved as a theatre director on the am-dram scene. When her daughter began expressing an interest in performance, she had a ready-equipped mentor standing before her.
“I mentioned that I’d like to try out one of those improv courses, and she was shocked because I was actually really shy!
“All I loved then was horse riding — and it’s not even a team sport, you spend a lot of time on your own, you don’t even have to talk to many people.”
Vega enrolled in a summer course in Barcelona and got bitten by the bug, relishing the feeling of being outside her comfort zone while also meeting other young people who shared the passion and taught her to open herself to being expressive and unafraid to make a fool of herself. A feeling of great liberation came with it and Vega’s horizon expanded.
All this is not entirely dissimilar to her role in The Lodgers, she ponders. Produced by Tailored Films and co-starring Bill Milner, Deirdre O’Kane and Moe Dunford, it tells of twins Rachel and Edward in 1920s Ireland who are shackled to their crumbling family pile by a dark supernatural force. The bond between the pair is tested when Rachel falls for a local soldier and dares to dream of a life beyond the ghostly mansion.
The ghostly mansion in question where filming took place is Loftus Hall on Waterford’s Hook Head, a big pin on Ireland’s haunted-locations map and “the middle of nowhere” to a sunny girl from sunnier Spain. She adored the experience, she says, not least for David Turpin’s script.
“He’s just a genius, really. I love reading scripts but when I first got this, I read it straight away, and what stood out for me was that it was like a novel, so elegantly written. Rachel was such a well-rounded character for me, so complex, so powerful and strong. You don’t really get that so often — strong female leads. That’s what I love about the horror genre — it supports women in big roles.”
Vega is in the fortunate professional position of not only being bilingual but speaking English without an accent. While both her parents are British-born, her father’s parentage is Andalusian. As children, he would speak Spanish to Vega and her brother, while her mum would communicate in English.
While it has expanded her work catchment area, the mixed cultural background means that — once again, like her character in The Lodgers — Vega has always felt slightly neither one thing nor the other.
“I find that I never feel quite at home in either,” she says. “I feel very Spanish at times and then other times I’ll feel very British. Sometimes Spanish people can be very touchy and overly friendly and I can feel a bit more distant. Other times, I’ll be with British people and think, oh they’re very cold and distant and need some more Spanish in them!”
Vega may appear stuck between cultures, languages and places to march, but you can be sure it won’t stop her moving forwards.