Cora Kirk is a rising star on both the screen and stage.
Having appeared in numerous theatre productions, from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and recently Of All the Beautiful Things in the World, she made her debut leading film role in the Prime Video, Your Christmas or Mine alongside Asa Butterfield. Your Christmas or Mine follows James (Butterfield) and Hayley, played by Kirk, as they accidentally end up at one another’s homes at Christmas. The sequel, releasing this month, sees a mix-up on holiday in the Austrian Alps with their entire families involved as they navigate new challenges in their relationships.
Speaking with 1883, Cora Kirk tallks about Your Christmas or Mine 2, working (and falling!) in the snow, the ideal Christmas and what she’d like to do next.
First of all, congratulations on the year you have had! Your Christmas or Mine was your debut film role, from what I understand?
That was an incredible experience! It was my debut lead and to do that on such a respected platform like Prime Video was just an honour, really. It’s such a fun film – the first one has those wonderful, Christmas-y, rom-com vibes that we all love and now we have the sequel with all the families together. Your Christmas or Mine 2 sees James and Hayley together. It’s their second year together, their second Christmas as a couple and, obviously, that only means more mix-ups and now their families are involved! The Hughes and the Taylors have gone away to a luxury ski resort in the Austrian Alps. We are also joined this year by the amazing Jane Krakowski who is introduced as James’ dad’s girlfriend. However, it is my dad, portrayed by Daniel Mays, who says he will organise the whole thing. Then, obviously, so many things get lost in translation.
It’s just so enjoyable to watch – when I was watching, I was just smiling the whole time. What was it like to make and reunite with everybody?
It was so lovely reuniting with everyone and I was so lucky. The first film was me meeting my acting idols. I grew up watching Angela Griffin on Waterloo Road and she was one of the top people I wanted to work with. Then I met Alex Jennings who is amazing – from Lady in the Van and The Crown – and Danny Mays in Line of Duty. I know he was only in one episode but he was iconic. And, of course, Asa. I remember walking into the room for our chemistry read and being told he was playing James. We just had such a natural rapport from the beginning. Everyone is so supportive and so good at keeping me calm and we have such fun as people and I hope it translates on the camera.
Oh, it did! Angela Griffin is an iconic figure in British television and I love your characters’ mother-daughter relationship. How would you describe Hayley and her mum’s relationship because I really love it.
Thanks so much, I love it too! I remember in the first film, when we were doing a reading and Angela walked in the room and said “Cora, if me and Danny had a kid, it would be you! You look like me and Danny put together!” and I was like “Thank you, Angela Griffin, I love you.” From there our friendship started. She is a powerhouse and the way she conducts herself on set and the way we always have fun together is sort of Hayley and her mum. It’s nice to see a relationship that, all in all, isn’t easy.
In the first film, there is that massive theme of expectation and wanting to do what your parents think is right and unsure of how to go about it all – do you keep secrets or do you do what you want and not tell them? In the second one, Kath had settled into the idea of James and Hayley together, so their relationship is easy. But it’s always so easy to work with Ang, and we hang out in real life. The fact that I can say I have been to Angela Griffin’s house is not something I ever thought I would say!
Speaking of Hayley and James, was it easy to build that relationship with Asa?
Yeah, it was easy! I feel so blessed to say that working with everyone was just lovely. With Asa, we discovered the other day that we have known each other for the exact same time that Hayley and James have known each other and the relationship on-screen sort of reflected our friendship off-screen. You know, being new friends, trying to figure things out. This year, we have a year into our friendship and our characters have a year into their relationship and it feels a bit more grounded and more explorative. It’s lovely working with him.
And it really does show! So with this new film, you are in Austria – what was it like filming in the snow? Did you learn how to ski?
I was not allowed! For insurance purposes, we could not allow that to happen [laughs].
They were like, “We cannot afford this, we do not have the NHS here, lads.”
Literally! So, I cannot ski – my incredible stunt double did all of my skiing. Austria was amazing! I’ve never been on a ski holiday or up a mountain and we were staying in the hotel we filmed in and the cast and the crew, we just ended up forming this amazing family dynamic. We were shooting at 12-1pm in the afternoon and then finishing at 1-2 in the morning so we could get the right light for filming. We would all get up, have breakfast together, go to the spa or for a swim, and start filming. We would have lunch and dinner together at two am. We’d drink schnapps and just sit and chat and get to know each other. It really felt like a holiday and then we were filming this nice side project film.
And what are fun memories from that time? Did anyone fall over in the snow?
Everybody! So many people fell over in the snow. I had a wonderful dresser, Yolanda, and she was a trooper. Not only was I in the snow being cold, but she was there with me being cold. There was one day when neither of us could stand up. We were shooting on this massive slope and I had skis on and the ground was rock hard because it was near the end of the ski season there was none of that lovely snow, it’s really icy and was melting. There were a good couple of hours where one of us would be on the floor and it was stressful but really funny.
It was beautiful having Jane as an addition to the cast and every morning, we would all be in the make-up room and her assistant would get her two boiled eggs for breakfast. After a while, I was like ‘can I get two boiled eggs?’ because if Jane Krakowski is having two boiled eggs, maybe it’ll help me be as great as she is. I don’t think she ever noticed I copied her breakfast order.
I love that the secret to great acting might be two boiled eggs. You may have just hacked it for us all.
Yes! Two boiled eggs baby!
So what is your favourite Christmas film?
It’s between two – The Grinch with Jim Carey, which I watch closer to Christmas. I love watching it now and thinking about how when I was kid. I never got the adult and hilarious jokes and watching it now, I’m like wow, this is an adult film! [laughs] The second contender is The Snowman.
And what is an ideal Christmas day for you? Like in the season – I treat Christmas as a whole season.
Every day is Christmas?
Every day is Christmas.
Oh, well, a perfect day for me would be that crisp cold weather, with that nice blue sky but I’m wrapped up. Probably then a walk round where I live in East London where we have a lot of cool parks. Then going for a roast with some more mulled wine. I’m vegetarian, so I’m always interested to see how people are doing roasts. They usually do a nut roast but I have an allergy to nuts! I’d put the tree up, hot chocolate with Baileys, Christmas films, nice pyjamas and then my heated blanket.
Listen, you and I are doing Christmas together because that’s literally my routine! I love that. You’ve had such a great breakout start. What else are we going to see from you?
I have a few things in the pipeline for next year that I’m not allowed to talk about yet. I would really like to expand into the more gritty, drama side of my acting toolbox. Not someone who is a direct contrast to Hayley because she is such a great character and very much inspired by me when I was 21. I’d love to do White Lotus – I’m obsessed. I loved Line of Duty, I love the work that Stephen Graham is doing at the moment. I am lucky to have started my career in comedy because I was told at drama school that I was not funny. So, it’s lovely to do something where I have surprised myself, leading in a comedic role. I really like to stretch out those muscles and do something dark and gritty. It would be a real challenge and privilege.
Also, I know you have done a lot of theatre work and I will ask you the question of: do you prefer theatre or screen?
Girl, how dare you ask me that – that’s like picking a favourite child! I love TV and film because it has allowed me to find my own style of acting and concentrate on the minute details. Theatre is my first love. I would love to do more theatre next year. I did Of All the Beautiful Things in the World over in Manchester and there is hopefully talk of us moving the production to London. I would love to perform in the Almeida, the Donmar, and the Royal Court. I know now that if you dream big enough, it can happen – I never thought I would get a lead role in a film on Prime.
You should! You are doing brilliantly and I can’t wait to see what you do next. Also, we love to see more actresses of colour taking up space.
Early on, it was interesting. When I was acting in Oldham, I never realised that people would limit me because my skin tells a story. I didn’t think my skin colour told a story because I, as an actor tell that story and I never knew the sort of impact that would have. Sometimes you are limited by what others think you can do. The joy of it is that I can tell stories with how I look. I started in theatre and I was playing children a lot – I played Lucy in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I played Wendy in Peter Pan, so already I was being fulled to believe that people can suspend their belief. So surely, people can see past my skin colour. It’s been great to be brown because I get to be surrounded by other Black and brown people who are cast to be my family and also other northern people of colour.
That is amazing because your family in Your Christmas or Mine were so relatable and, we cannot forget having Angela Griffen as your mum!
I want to see more people like me, to represent the Britain we all live in, the Britain and families I grew up in. I want to see darker people, I want to see lighter people. Angela being on screen for me growing up, with her curly hair was just inspiring to me, and I hope I can do that with my career – young girls can see me and know they can do what they want. I want to show how diverse I am because of my diversity.
I adore that. It is so important and I cannot wait to see more of that. And finally, I need to know – which Love Actually character do you think Hayley is like?
She thinks she’s Emma Thompson but really she is Rowan Atkinson!
Your Christmas or Mine 2 is available exclusively on Prime Video.
Interview Michaela Makusha
Photography Olivia Spencer