1883 were lucky enough to sit down with rising star Nell Hudson, best known for her role as Laoghaire MacKenzie in Outlander and ITV’s Victoria. Humble, down to earth and open, we chat drama school, laugh over production stories and her plans for the future.
You went to Oxford School of Drama [OSD] – how important is training?
I think it depends on your level of experience and level of ego. Drama school gives you three years of invaluable training and has provided me with a safety net of tools to call on. It also provides a huge exercise in humility. At OSD, the year group acted as an ensemble and were taught to think as a team instead of an individual ‘star’.
Why were you attracted to that particular course?
I applied when I was 18 straight out of school because I just wanted to get on with it. For me Oxford was quite appealing in its classical, method-style approach. It is a relatively new school, only 25 years old, and as such allows the actor to develop in their own unique way.
The process of finding an agent is a hard one. Any advice?
I signed with my first agent because she offered, and only 4-5 actors were offered representation from my graduating class. If you have an offer I would say don’t be snobby, but take it. That could lead to a job that could lead to a more profile agent. It’s important to take what you can.
What was your first job?
I did a little short film before I graduated and then Holby [City] came a month after with a few weeks of filming for the Christmas special. It was really cringe, my whole family sat around to watch it. At first I was just focused on how many chins I had but then I was able to let go of vanity and instead pick up on things that I wanted to improve.
How do schedules on period dramas differ from more modern shows such as Holby City?
The call times are really different. On OutlanderI had 4.30am starts. I think my hair took an hour and a half and costume was around 45 minutes. With Holby City there is less pre-filming practicalities to do.
How do you maintain a work-life balance?
You know those people who you haven’t seen for 4 months but when you do it feels like it’s been 5 minutes? Those are my closest friends. A lot of them are actors and I guess we have a mutual understanding of the nature of beast.
Without being at risk of sounding pretentious, when I am playing a character I need to stay in that world as much as possible. I wouldn’t describe myself as a method actor, but it can be quite un-grounding to jump around. There is only so much space in my head!
Do you prefer theatre work or film?
I love them both but tend to work for camera, as it is so subtle. Acting on stage is definitely more addictive. That explosive adrenaline feeling is so intense. I had never acted in front of a camera before OSD but the first time I did I remember that electricity.
What was the audition process like for Outlander?
Outlanderwas actually a self-tape. They are a bit of a double-edged sword. You have the luxury of doing as many takes as you like, but you do tend to over think it. For this one I used photo booth on my laptop and read with my mum! Then the second round was with everyone in the room: three producers, the director, John Dahl and Sam Heughan, the leading man. So that was a bit daunting!
How has your character changed over the seasons?
When we first meet her she is 16 and naïve and has a lot to learn. Then the series progresses and we see her at 36 having had a very rough time in the interim. I had to be aged up quite a lot for it- she was not a hot 36! But it was really liberating being able to explore a character over so many years and dig in deep.
I heard you’re interested in writing too. Are you working on any scripts?
I am actually working on a script at the moment with Tilly Seale, who is an assistant dresser on Victoria. She is a brilliant writer and we are collaborating on an indie-comedy-horror, which is an absolute labour of love. I never wrote with myself in mind; it was simply easier for me to cast others and look at it objectively like that.
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman produce a lot of the work they act within, such as Big Little Lies. Is this something you see yourself doing further into your career?
Yah absolutely. I think it’s a really smart move. It is always good to have lots of strings to your bow. As we all unfortunately know, this industry only gets harder for women as they get older. I know a lot of female actors who are getting into it. But writing more than producing is a more natural thing for me to do at the moment.
Are you interested in breaking into the US at this point in your career or planning on focusing on UK for the time being?
I have a manager in the states who’s brilliant. If the right role came across then I would absolutely go. I love to travel and that is a part of the joy of being an actress. New York as well is one of my favourite cities. It would be awesome to work there.
Interview by Katie Rice
Photography Joseph Sinclair
Hair and make up Chantelle Phillips