Self-assured, well-spoken and almost distressingly attractive, Sophie Cookson is the perfect thespian package. If you haven’t seen her grace the silver screen or tread the boards, we’d hazard a firm guess, it won’t be long before you will.
Film buffs amongst you will recognise the 28-year-old as the espionage goddess Roxy Morton in Kingsman: The Secret Service, where she starred alongside Taron Egerton, Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson. Not a bad start for an English actress straight out of drama school.
Since then the parts have rolled in, notably The Huntsman: Winter’s War, The Crucifixion, Gypsy (with a scene to rival Black Swan in terms of steaminess) and soon, alongside Dame Judi Dench, in Red Joan.
For the present though, Sophie’s attention is focused on the London stage, staring opposite Orlando Bloom, in Killer Joe at the Trafalgar Studios. A revival of Tracy Letts’ award-winning blackly-comic play about a cop who moonlights as a killer-for-hire.
Early reviews from hard-nosed theatre critics have been hugely positive. “Extremely well acted” said The Guardian, giving the production a healthy four-out-of-five stars.
We spoke to Sophie, ahead of the three month’s run, on self-analysing, getting a little too close to your character and London in the summer.
GJ: Hi Sophie, how has life been preparing and rehearsing for Killer Joe?
S: It’s been amazing. It’s such a technical show, with so much resting on the atmosphere and being able to transport the audience into that Dallas world of the 1990s. There’s a lot that we’re still tinkering with, but it’s such an exciting show. I’m knackered but good!
GJ: …and your character, what’s she like?
S: She lives in a trailer park with her brother, father, step-brother – a simple day-to-day existence with very little money. Her brother sells drugs on the side and finds himself in debt with a fellow dealer. In order to pay his debt he decides to hire Joe Killer, a cop-cum-killer, played by Orlando Bloom, in order to bunk his mother off, so they can all get her life insurance money.
GJ: [laughs] That sounds potentially pretty dark.
S: All the characters can have the loosest of morals and are willing to do incredibly awful things to each other to get this money. However, Dotty is the real light and innocence of the play and she kind of kept very childish.
GJ: Is that at the risk of making her quite two-dimensional?
S: No not at all, because that purity and that innocence, is mistaken for something else. People put her in a box, because of it. She’s by far the most intelligent person in that family. As the play twists and takes various turns, you see that she’s actually the one that’s got her stuff together more than anyone else, seeing everything.
GJ: Do you ever channel any of the people you know into your characters?
S: I guess I have been watching a lot of videos of my friends’ children and picking up on stuff like that, because she has this amazing curiosity to her. Children just notice everything which is so much fun to play, because as adults we lose all that. It’s very easy to kind of get wrapped up in ourselves, rather than be entirely focussed on someone or something else.
GJ: Do you feel like Dotty merges into you sometimes when you’re out and about?
S: Whatever character you’re playing it’s impossible to not let a tiny little bit in. But I’m really happy about that because Dotty is so much fun. It’s a really good excuse to jump around on the furniture!
GJ: You’ve done more on-screen stuff and to now go to the theatre, how does the experience differ?
S: Doing a film, can be an isolating experience, you do your stuff at home, you do all of your prep alone and so it’s rare that you’re discussing on set with other actors. So having four weeks [to prepare] is just fantastic, we discover so much every night.
GJ: Do you ever watch back your on-screen roles?
S: I think it takes a long time to be objective about it. I look at it very coldly and say, that’s a bit wrong. It’s putting yourself out there, even though equally it’s your job — it can be very vulnerable at times. So yeah, I should get better at it!
GJ: What’s the role of social media for an actor?
S: Social media is a very interesting tool and I think it’s very much down to the individual how you use it. It’s a really interesting way to connect with fans but mystery around people is also good, you don’t need to know what someone has for breakfast. As soon as you know too much about someone it’s very hard to believe that they’re someone else. It’s a very fine line between sharing and keeping private what’s private.
GJ: What are you excited about this summer?
S: I’m really excited to be in London, it’s my favourite place to be in summer. I get to walk to work every evening to an amazing location and do something I love. I’m looking forward to a reasonably simple existence for a few months and then hopefully the weather be nice too!
Killer Joe in on at Trafalgar Studios, London, until 18 August. Box office: 0844-871 7632.