Rose Leslie Discusses Her First Lead Film Role in ‘Honeymoon’

The Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey Actress On Her Creepy Indie Horror Flick

Sep 12, 2014 Web Exclusive
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In her bold first leading film role, Rose Leslie plays a young newlywed who is (quite literally) losing her mind.

Leslie stars opposite Harry Treadaway in Leigh Janiak’s utterly creepy Honeymoon, about a young couple who head into the Canadian wilderness to spend their honeymoon at a family cottage. One night, she wanders off into the woods and returns slightly changed. Her behavior is off; she has a hard time remembering words and names; something has gotten inside her head. As her condition continues to deteriorate, even her new husband has a hard time recognizing the woman he’s married.

Portraying a character undergoing such a dramatic transformation would be a challenge for any actor, let alone one taking on a lead role for the first time. But Rose Leslie is up to the task, and Honeymoon should rightfully be her breakout role. She’s best known to this point for her television roles as a housemaid on Downton Abbey and the wildling warrior Ygritte on Game of Thrones.

We spoke to the actress about Honeymoon, her career, and of course, Game of Thrones. [Warning: GoT season 4 spoilers ahead.]

Austin Trunick [Under the Radar]: This is some very, very heavy material. Do you remember your first reactions to the script as you read it?

Rose Leslie: Do you know what? My immediate reaction was that I had never come across a script before whereby there was such a fascination with just one character. I felt that it was absolutely interesting as an actor to—within one role—be able to show a shift in who you fundamentally are, as a character. So that was fascinating to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

This is your first leading film role. How intimidating was it to debut with such an unusual and demanding part?

It was absolutely brilliant. I feel that it was a huge accolade … Harry Treadaway made the experience so enjoyable, not only because he is a wonderful man, but he’s also a brilliant actor. The pressure was completely taken off both of us. Because it was a two-hander, we only really had each other. Once we understood the way one another worked, and once we’d collaborated on every single scene and accepted the script and that we had the same ideas, we realized that — despite the content — this was going to be an utter joy, because it was such a teamwork effort going on behind the scenes.

We were in it together, trying to make this little indie as good as possible.

How much time did you spend together with Leigh and Harry before shooting, and what sort of conversations did the three of you have about your part?

The conversations all obviously stemmed from the script, and most certainly it was directed at the background that these two characters have had, in the sense of their relationship.

Three years they were together [before] their marriage, so they’re already incredibly comfortable with one another. They already know each other’s body language, and are utter ease. So a lot of the collaboration and rehearsal chats went back to the history of these two, together, in New York, and really trying to get a good vibe of how they interacted with each other. And, what they found irritating; all of their little tics. To me, that certainly gave me a boost of confidence by knowing these characters so well before we started shooting.

This is on a hugely different scale from Game of Thrones or Downton, where you regularly shared the screen with dozens of other actors and extras. Here, it’s almost entirely just you and Harry. As an actor, was it comforting to work on such a small scale, with such a small cast? Or is there extra pressure, because the cameras were almost always on you?

That was one of the most appealing aspects of a project such as Honeymoon, to me. I thought — and it certainly turned out in the same way — that it would be a very intimate, small crew. It felt — for the first time ever, really, in film or television — like a play. The conditions we were working in, we really rarely left. It very much became our home, like our bubble. We’d rehearse, do several takes, then rehearse again. It was very much an intimate setup.

But you’re right—with the pressure being on both of us to kind of carry the movie, it was great that we could lean on one another. But also, it absolutely helped that we had such good dialogue off-screen as well as on, because we could really speak through any qualms we had. Leigh was absolutely phenomenal in communicating with us, and letting us know her thoughts. Really going over and over the themes, so that we would know them so well. It was a real blessing, actually.

Sadly, your schedule has probably freed up a good deal after wrapping your Game of Thrones role, but that probably means this movie’s coming out at a perfect time for you.

[Laughs] Yes.

How big a challenge do you foresee it being to shed the Ygritte character?

You know what? I don’t necessarily want to shed my Ygritte character. I absolutely love her; I really, really, really did love her. She holds a special place in my heart. I think that’s an obstacle that any actor who’s fortunate enough to work comes across; it’s really making sure that you play characters that vary, and that you’re able to show your range, and do something that’s not predictable. 

I’m curious, is anything special done for an actor on that show when they’re killed off? Or does it just happen way too often?

Yes, yes! I had a wonderful send-off. I really did. Production was incredibly considerate in making sure that my final day was the scene that I died in Jon Snow’s arms. So after we cut on that scene, I was finally wrapped for good. The crew is phenomenal—they’re nothing short of the best crew I’ve ever, ever worked with. They presented me with Ygritte’s bow and arrow, but they had personalized it. I was truly touched, that was a very special moment. And very emotional, as well—it was very emotional to say goodbye.

Jumping back to Honeymoon: this was Leigh’s first film. How would you describe her talents to another actor, working on her next project?

Oh, I wouldn’t be able to praise her highly enough. An absolutely wonderful thing is the dialogue between the actor and the director, and knowing that you’re on the same page. Being the highly intelligent woman that Leigh is, she was absolutely locked into that. She listens to every word that you say, every worry, every qualm. She’s very brilliant, and a wonderful listener. Truly, Harry and I couldn’t have asked for a better director to work with. She really did bring out the best in both of us.

Obviously, this is a genre film. What are some of your other favorite horror and sci-fi movies?

I would say that I’m a wimp when it comes to horror! An absolute wimp. I tend to respond better to the psychological thriller. Those sort of films are what I love. The classic is The Shining. That’s something that freaks me out more so than gore, or blood.

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Honeymoon opens in theaters today, and is available on VOD. For more information about the movie, check out its website. To read our review, click here



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