Interview with Dakota Blue Richards

Released in UK cinemas on 28 March, John Jencks’ The Fold is a moving portrayal of a family attempting to deal with the sudden death of their daughter. In the wake of the tragedy, grieving mother Rebecca (Catherine McCormack) discovers a young Bulgarian girl, Radka (Marina Stoimenova), sleeping rough and is compelled to take her in, for motivations that become increasingly uncertain. Neglecting to tell Radka that she has another daughter, Eloise (Dakota Blue Richards), Rebecca creates a dangerous situation which she is forced to confront. We talk to Richards here about her experience working on the film, the rich characterisations and her plans for future projects.

ASFF: What was it about The Fold that drew you to work on it?
DBR: I think timing had a lot of influence on my interest in this role; having just finished Skins, in which my character went off the rails at any given opportunity, the idea of playing a character like Eloise, who enjoys playing scrabble with her mother, was highly appealing. I like to play characters that are different to anything I’ve done before. There’s something so sweet about Eloise and her, not necessarily effective, efforts to keep her family together following the loss of her sister. I saw her as a beacon of light for her parents, which was sadly ignored by her mother. I also really loved how visual the script was, I felt as though I could see the daffodils and the beautiful Cornish coast as I was reading it. My mother and I spend a lot of time in Cornwall so there was something familiar and homely in the setting of the film that drew me in. I really liked the subtleties of the character development, particularly the relationship between Rebecca and Radka. And I adore anything that can make me cry, which I did a couple of times whilst reading The Fold.

ASFF: The film focuses on three strong women, yourself, Rebecca and Radka – how did the three of you work together?
DBR: It is such a delight to work against – or alongside, since I had very few scenes with Marina – two really strong female actors. It is, sadly, very rare to have three women playing the main characters, as well as so many interesting female characters in the supporting cast, in a film, which is most definitely not a “chick flick”. I loved exploring the mother-daughter relationship, as well as watching the pseudo-mother-daughter relationship between Catherine and Marina. It felt like I learnt a lot from Catherine’s experience, and was refreshed by Marina’s perspective, as somebody who had, though you wouldn’t know it, never acted before. It was great that we all got along and it made filming very fun.

ASFF: Are there any similarities between Eloise and yourself?
DBR: I’d say there are more differences than similarities between myself and Eloise, the biggest being that I have always been very close to my mother. I found it challenging to play that distance between Eloise and Rebecca, because it’s something I have, thankfully, never experienced. Also I had to try to recapture that lovely youthful view of the world that makes Eloise so sweet. The biggest challenge for me to overcome, however, was playing the violin. Although I had played briefly as a child, there was very little time during the relatively short shoot to try and pick it up again. I really wanted to make it at least look convincing, since music plays a big role in Eloise’s life, as well as in the film in general, even if I couldn’t play them for real. For all our differences, I really enjoyed playing Eloise because of her sweet nature and her good intent, there’s something warming about playing somebody that you really quite like.

ASFF: Are there any directors you’d love to work with?
DBR: There are so many directors I would like to work with, simply for having made some of my favourite films. Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, Tim Burton, Joe Wright, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson and Terry Gilliam, to name but a few of the obvious choices. That being said, I love working with new directors. People who are up and coming. Partly because if you stumble upon a particularly talented one, and manage to build a good relationship together, it can be a great investment for the future; but also because people who are starting out in the industry have a real passion and enthusiasm for the work that they are doing, which is invaluable for the cast and crew. I really enjoyed working with John Jencks, director of The Fold, for exactly that reason; it was obvious he really cared about the film and making the creative process enjoyable for everyone involved. I would also love to work with some more female directors, as I have only worked with three, and have found the experience quite different to that of working with male directors. I am a fan of Catherine Hardwicke, Sofia Coppola, Susanne Bier, and Sally Potter.

ASFF: What do you have planned next?
DBR: Given the nature of the industry, the “what do you have planned next?” question is always a tricky one to answer. I am keeping myself busy, meeting lots of new people all the time, and working hard. I have three films, including The Fold, due for release this year; a science fiction thriller about a brother and sister trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world called The Quiet Hour, and a short film called Girl Power that comments on glass ceilings and cocaine habits in the 1990s. Both of these were great fun to work on, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them when post-production is finished. I feel like I’ve reached an age now where my taste is maturing and I’m really taking the time to think about which direction I want to take my career and what I want to do with my life. I am working with some friends of mine on a couple of collaborative projects and looking forward to getting properly stuck in on those, as well as trying to develop some of my own ideas.

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1. Image courtesy of The Fold John Jencks (Electric Shadow) UK, 2014