‘I really know how to use the music now,’ says Gabriella Wilde, from behind black eyeshadow and a mess of tousled hair. Looking every inch the rock chick, she adds: ‘It’s become a huge part of my life.
And that’s no understatement. Wilde, a model-turned-actress, married musician Alan Pownall – of electronic outfit Pale – in 2014, and has since been using selected songs and playlists in her day job, listening to music to get into character, or prepare for scenes.
Today, under the speakers of an East-London studio, Wilde is singing the praises of musicians.
‘I’m totally in awe of them,’ smiles the 27-year-old. ‘In another life, I’d have loved to be musical – if only I had the talent!’
But, despite her enthusiasm – and eagerness to cue up songs ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Frank Ocean – Gabriella isn’t the wild child she appears. The tearaway look may be hers today, but the actress has two young children at home – and has never been interested in pursuing a socialite lifestyle.
‘I’ve just never felt comfortable in those circles,’ says Wilde candidly. ‘I was never pulled to it, and always found myself uncomfortable in those situations. When I was younger, I really tried to go in an opposite direction.
‘But I guess that’s the thing about being a teenager,’ she continues. ‘You don’t want to be put in a box. I’ve never really liked people who make assumptions about who I am and, whilst I obviously realise there’s nothing wrong with partying, it’s just never been something I enjoy. Instead, I broke out of that box – but by not doing rather than doing. I simply didn’t turn up in that world. I didn’t exist there.’
Instead, Wilde – who began modelling at 14 – spent her younger years balancing school with work and regarded herself as ‘quite a serious child’.
‘I was also extremely shy,’ reveals the actress. ‘I never spoke when I was modelling, because I was terrified the entire time. I still can feel uncomfortable as an actress now. In fact, some people wonder how I even can act, but you feel safer in character. You can disconnect yourself.’
Wilde’s reserve extends beyond her work. Even social media, where many modern celebrities and personalities are comfortable posting their every waking minute, is used only sparingly by the actress.
‘For a long time, I didn’t know how I felt about social media,’ Wilde admits. ‘I felt as though it didn’t come naturally to me. But, very recently, I have decided to engage with it, and I use my Instagram account fairly frequently now.
‘I must admit, though,’ she laughs, ‘I still don’t really even know how to work Twitter…’
But these decisions set Wilde apart from her peers. Far from conventional, her move from modelling to acting saw Wilde complete a degree in fine art – ‘I always wanted to be a painter’ – before being cast in a small film role.
‘I never went to drama school, actually,’ she tells me. ‘I wanted to, but I got lucky and landed my first job whilst I was still auditioning. It was a real surprise, even to myself – because I had never even been in a play at school. But it was a good thing, because I’d realised I could never be a painter as a profession. I still find the idea of having to solely produce something for another person to judge crippling.’
So, with her sights set firmly on acting, Gabriella went wild – literally. To reinvent herself, the actress’ agent had decided she needed a new last name.
‘I wanted a fresh start,’ says the actress. ‘My last name was Calthorpe, and I’d done all my modelling under that name. So I wanted to be a little more anonymous coming into the room. I wanted to be able to walk into a casting director’s office without them having a preconceived idea about me.
‘I was being so incredibly indecisive, however’ Wilde laughs, ‘so my agent just turned to her bookcase for inspiration, and chose Wilde – as in Oscar. She wanted something short, something snappy, something the Americans could pronounce.’
The name has, so far, served Wilde well. After a cinematic breakout in 2011’s The Three Musketeers alongside Luke Evans and Orlando Bloom, Wilde went on to act in the remake of horror classic Carrie, and star opposite Alex Pettyfer in romantic drama Endless Love. But, even now, the Hampshire-born actress doesn’t command a set as you may expect.
‘Every role is out of my comfort zone in a way, but for different reasons. I’m doing Poldark at the moment, which is in England and in my own accent – but, at the same time, it’s hugely challenging because it’s a period drama, a seven-month shoot, and staying a long time with one character.’
The character in question, heiress Caroline Penvenen, is described as a ‘complete minx’ – worlds away from the damsels in distress, schoolgirls and even vampires Wilde has played in the past. So, is diversity important to the actress?
‘I used to just say that all I wanted was diversity in my career,’ considers Wilde. ‘But, as I get older, I think that I just want to do work that is both interesting and has a point.
‘There’s some brilliant original content out there and, above all, that’s what I’d love to do. I’d love to make something original, because my career up to now has literally only been remakes.’
This last observation comes off as a complaint, but you wouldn’t think Wilde would be so against revamps and reinventions. For, with her move from model to actress, not to mention Calthorpe to Wilde, Gabriella herself is a girl remade.
Gabriella Wilde is featured in the May/June issue of Gentleman’s Journal, on newsstands now. Subscribe here.