Rosie Day interview - 'It's time to change and put women at the forefront'
Stephanie Jacob’s year is going to be a busy one. Last month it was announced that she’ll appear in Absolute Hell at the National Theatre (alongside Kate Fleetwood and Jonathan Slinger), and this week, her play Again opens in smaller space at Trafalgar Studios.
Again is about an estranged family of four who meet up for a lunch and attempt to settle their differences. Rosie Day plays Izzy, the family’s unruly daughter. The actress, who starred in the series Outlander and the film All Roads Lead to Rome, spoke to us about the play, being a young actor, and writing good female characters for stage and screen.
You started out in acting when you were quite young didn’t you?
I started when I was about six or seven. My sister acted and she got a job in a BBC series. They were looking for a sister for her character, and they asked me to do it. I can’t even remember it, but I got to miss school so that was really fun.
I did a play at the National Theatre called Summerfolk with Simon Russell Beale, which Trevor Nunn directed. I can remember Trevor Nunn carrying me around the theatre on his hip, and things like being in the dressing room and waiting for the green light to go on stage.
And you played Young Cossette, too?
I think every young girl that can sing was in Les Mis! I’m mostly a screen actor, so theatre is something I find very exciting and new. I love it.
Why do you think you ended up veering towards screen work?
I don’t think anybody really gets to pick, I think it’s just what work comes to you and what’s available. I’ve spent a lot of time playing teenage girls and growing up as a child actor there were very few parts like that in theatre. When I was 16 I as very lucky to do Anya Reiss’ Spur of the Moment at the Royal Court, and she wrote some amazing parts for teenage girls. That was when I thought: “oh, there are teenage roles so I can do theatre”.
What's Again about?
It’s about a small family who haven’t seen each other for a year and they get together for a lunch. Each character knows how they want this lunch to go, and they could each get their own way. They have the ability to stop the clock, go backwards, and play the same scene again. Everyone who comes to see it will be able to see parts of their family.
You play Izzy, what’s she like?
She’s a wild child who’s on a permanent gap year. Bit of an alcoholic, bit of a maniac. A bit mucked up, really. She has a big brother who’s very straight-laced and smart, and she’s the black sheep of the family. It’s incredibly fun to play, it feels liberating and freeing to do.
Steph’s written such amazing parts for all of us. It’s the first time I’ve been in a rehearsal room where women have outnumbered men, too. We’re in an industry where it’s time to change, and women need to be more at the forefront. This play is a huge asset to that.
Which writers do you think are writing good roles for women at the moment?
I’ve always been a massive fan of Lucy Prebble, she writes brilliantly for women. Sharon Horgan and Abi Morgan, too. I think there are a lot, and it’s about getting that work commissioned and letting women have their say. I think lots of companies are waking up to now, which is great.
Where are some writers going wrong when it comes to writing female characters?
It’s just writing completely non-realistic women who come on and are meant to be beautiful, say two lines and leave again. It’s being the side-kick, the sister, the girlfriend. I play teenage girls and the amount of character descriptions that say “sexy schoolgirl”, or “not that intelligent, but beautiful” makes you want to pull your hair out.
Stephanie is known as an actor as well as a writer - she’s just been cast in the National’s production of Absolute Hell. You also have an interest in production, you direct, too?
I do, I’ve just set up a film company for female-driven content. I’m definitely interested in the production side of things. I’m a massive fan of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and what she’s done, that’s definitely something I’d love to emulate.