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Andrea Riseborough’s New Role

The Shadow Dancer actress explains why actions speak louder than words

It’s been a busy past few years for British actress Andrea Riseborough. While she first came to our attention for her captivating portrayal of Wallis Simpson in Madonna’s second feature W.E., she has since starred in a slew of films including Welcome to the Punch, Disconnect and the sci-fi thriller Oblivion, opposite Tom Cruise. Now she’s starring alongside fellow Brit, Clive Owen, in the drama Shadow Dancer. Based on Tom Bradby’s novel of the same name, Riseborough plays Collette McVeigh, a Republican living in Belfast, who is recruited by Owen’s MI5 agent, Mac, to spy on her hardliner IRA brothers.

We chatted with Risenborough about the film, why it’s hard letting go of a character and pulling a Dakota (Fanning, that is).

Colette is often silent in the film, even during moments where she is grappling with serious moral dilemmas. Was that a conscious choice?

James [Marsh, the director] and I talked a lot about my character before the film, and although I didn’t say this to him at the time—I have said it to him after the fact—I felt she wasn’t fully formed, that she was more of a situation and not a character. [In] my research I went to Belfast, and it was there that I realized her strength was her silence. People don’t talk a lot there—it’s a very silent place in many ways but full of soul and music. They have a rhythm in them, but there are still deep scars. Once I told James and Tom, the scriptwriter, they were both very enthusiastic so it was a happy collaboration. Her silence was valuable because it gave an authenticity to the time that we were trying to reflect. And for the audience it’s also a tantalizing experience of only having Colette’s eyes as portals into her truth.

You seem to morph into every character that you play. Is it hard to let go once filming ends?

Every character and every accent always carries on living in there somewhere, God knows where. I’m sure I’m going to run out of pockets soon because I’ve never done any film with my own accent.

You do a great job of it!

It’s a lovely compliment, but that’s my job and I really enjoy it. I try not to get too caught up in the compliment of it all and just to carry on doing what I like to do, because why not? I have the opportunity to do it and the ability to do it—it’s just such a fascinating thing to experience another person’s rhythm.

What’s a character that stuck with you?

The character that I just played in Birdman was actually really hard to let go of because the experience was such a joyful one. We were such an odd little family on set and were so umbilical about the whole thing finishing. My character is a TV actress from L.A. who is highly sexed and has no filter, and she’s found herself on Broadway doing a Carver adaption—just a dynamite terrible combination of things! She was so much fun to play.

What’s next for you?

I just wrapped Birdman a couple of days ago—I’m sure Michael Keaton will be found running around the streets of New York City with Alejandro [González Iñárritu, the director] close behind with a camera. After that, there’s a film called Hidden that I did with my friend Alexander Skarsgård and an amazingly talented young girl named Emily Alyn Lind, whose like ten going on three hundred! Poor thing, she cries the whole way through the film—she does what in the business we call a Dakota [laughs], but she’s brilliant.