I have been a big fan of Jessie Buckley since I saw her last year in a tour de force performance in the dreamy thriller, Beast. I hoped that she would continue from there to do more great work and thankfully she has. Her latest brilliant performance is in Tom Harper’s Wild Rose. I got to talk to her for a few minutes about the film and her own personal history with music. Read on for more!
There’s something interesting about Wild Rose that kind of relates to me personally in that I have to work a bunch of jobs myself and that it related to the working class struggle aspect. Do you have that sort of working-class background yourself?
Buckley: I do. Well, I mean my parents have always worked, and I’m the oldest of five, so they had no option but to different things as they could. And my mom’s a musician and a harpist, and my dad is a bar manager and yeah, from when we could work, we were working. My mom, she made sacrifices along the way. It’s hard. I think everybody faces that question, of how you balance yourself. It’s like being in love with two things and trying to grow as yourself so that you can inspire your children, but also being there to help your children grow. And yeah, I’m still trying to figure it out
“It’s like being in love with two things and trying to grow as yourself so that you can inspire your children…”
You came in second place on the show called “I’d Do Anything.” Is that sort of like American Idol or what’s the, what was the premise of that show? Because I feel like it relates to the scene in the movie where Susannah says Rose-Lynn should be on X-Factor or some such show and I forgot exactly what you said in response.
“That it was for lay people who stay in and eat curry on a Saturday night.” Thought it was kind of watched irony with the curry on a Saturday night, but I think Nicole wrote back before I came on board. But yeah. It was a show with Andrew Lloyd Webber, who was looking for somebody to play Nancy in Oliver Twist in the West End. It happened kind of by accident because I was applying for drama school to study musical theater and didn’t get in and there was an open audition. I was like, “Oh, I’ll just go and practice for my next audition.” and one thing led to the next.
That’s great. I mean that’s amazing. So you, have you been singing your whole life cause you said your mother’s a musician?
Yeah, I mean music, and I suppose any kind of experience like that was a big part of growing up for me and my parents, you know, they worked their asses off to ensure that we could experience life like that and never really put too much value on materialism. All of my siblings, we all do completely different things. One’s an engineer, one’s a mountaineer, one’s a nurse, but they always said, if you are passionate about something, then you know, go for it and don’t be afraid to fall off the edge of the cliff. Also growing up in an Irish household, whether you have a note in your head or not, everybody, if there’s a family party, gets around the table and sings a song. So I don’t know if I had much said in it and it’s kind of within our culture be like that.
Would you say that when you signed up for drama school, did you want to work exclusively in musical theater or were you more interested in just the dramatic aspect?
Well, initially, that’s all I thought I could do because in my hometown, you know, no one makes a movie like that belongs to Hollywood. That’s just ridiculous. So we had musical societies growing up. So I thought, oh well, that might be something that I could do. But then when I moved to London when I was 17, I ended up doing a four week Shakespeare course, and I completely fell in love with Shakespeare, and I worked in and around the West End for a few years. But then I decided that I wanted to go back and train as an actress. So I went back to Rye and did three years there just doing acting and I kind of lost my nerve with singing, and I didn’t really know what music was to me at that point in my life, and really until the film came about, I hadn’t really sung in a very long time. Um, so yeah, I don’t know. I’ve done lots of different roles since then.
“…they worked their asses off to ensure that we could experience life like that and never really put too much value on materialism.”
So Wild Rose is set in Scotland, and there’s the Scotland Opryland…and I’m wondering if American country music really popular in general in the UK or is it just sort of like a novelty thing?
No. Oh, No. Glasgow’s got hardcore American country fans, and the Grand Ole Opry Classic is the church of credit of American country or you know, music and anything American. Every Friday night they take out the American flag at 12 o’clock. It’s the most amazing place because on the outside it just looks like a derelict building. And you walk through the doors of this place, which used to be a morgue was turned into this church for country music and it’s set in the Docklands in Glasgow. And so the people who’ve just basically come off the docks or from the bakery, are all in The Grand Ole Opry, in Glasgow, in full steps, in kind of spangles…you know…sparkly suits and they have line dancing every night and there are like big murals on the wall of the American wild, kind of desert landscapes and they’ve got live shows. They have live blank shoot-outs on Friday night. It’s an underground kind of movement, but it’s genuine. And you do not disrespect this. Like when the American flag is taken out, the room is silent. There is no laughter or anything. It’s real honest respect and respect for the music as well and what it is kind of little hidden pockets that you wouldn’t know unless you were invited, like a secret society.
Did you have any interest then country music before working on the movie?
No, I had no kind of relationship to it at all. Nicole Taylor, the writer, is such an avid country music fan and she just gave me a treasure chest of all the best country music: John Prine and Townes Van Zandt and then Emmylou Harris and Reba Mcintyre. I just drenched my years in as much of the stuff as I could, and now I can’t get it off my Spotify discover weekly.
“…they have line dancing every night and there are like big murals on the wall of the American wild…”
Because you grew up in a big family, what did you do to prepare yourself to play a single mother? Like how did you put yourself into that space?
Oh…I don’t know…I think it was all there in the script really. Tom Harper just got the most brilliant children to play my kids. And I suppose the more I got my head into the headspace of Rose-Lynn and you know, what she was running away from and the points where she runs towards again, and I just let it happen.
So how was Nashville to you? Had you ever been there before?
Uh, no, I hadn’t. It was amazing. Well, we actually didn’t make it over because our reasons got lost on the weeds that we are meant to go over. So it kind of married the film in a fashion where she doesn’t make it over initially until when we finally got there where it felt like a pilgrim, you know, we finally made it to the promised land. Just being getting a chance to sing in the Ryman where all these ghosts and legends stood. It was magic, and the energy of the place is incredible. Like, there’s nowhere I’ve ever been in the world where you walk down the high street and like window after window is just exploding with music and it’s so, you know, I definitely, I just went back last week and I felt like complete black sheep because it’s just so hardcore country.
At this point, our time was up, but talking to Jessie Buckley was just such a delight. I really do wish her the best in her career, which is having such an awesome trajectory at the moment. Check her out in Wild Rose and also in HBO’s smash hit Chernobyl.