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10 minutes, 10 questions with actor Ellie Kendrick

We spoke to the actor and writer about being a mentor, getting her start and what she'd take to a desert island!
A still from a film in which a young woman wearing fur and carrying a bow and arrow is looking into the distance
Ellie Kendrick in Game of Thrones. Courtesy Curtis Brown.
  1. What did you want to be when you were 16?
    I was totally obsessed with the idea of being an actor from when I was 11 years old. I got cast as the Artful Dodger in a school play of Oliver! (an all girls’ school necessity rather than forward-thinking gender blind casting there) and I fell in love. I was always writing too, but it wasn’t until recently that I realised that I could make a job out of that. When I was 16 I actually had a weird swerve and decided I wanted to be a music journalist—mainly because it would mean I could get into gigs whilst still being underage— but that was short-lived.

  2. How would you describe yourself in a few words?
    Absolutely classic Gemini.

  3. What do you like most about mentoring?
    Getting to celebrate with your mentee when they’ve achieved something they’re really proud of and have worked hard for is the best. More generally it is a total antidote to the sometimes crushing nature of the industry and its closed doors. Working as a mentor also means I get to think optimistically about the (currently very flawed) industry I’m in. I get to see the goodness in all the people who want to give up their time for free because they believe in making the industry a better place for everyone. It’s also made me obsessed with goal-setting in my own professional life. To an almost pathological degree.
  4. What are you most proud of?
    Getting a play on at the Royal Court Theatre after training there as a writer for a decade. Getting back on the horse again and again and writing several awful plays that will never see the light of day.
  5. Why do you think the arts and humanities are important?
    I’m going to defer to Audre Lorde here because she said it better than me a long time ago (I use Lorde’s definition of poetry to denote art in a broader sense):
    “each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling.
    Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.
    Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives."
    A section of Poetry is Not a Luxury by Audre Lorde

  6. What advice would you give to young people unsure about university or a career path?
    It’s not forever. You’re probably going to change your mind quite a few times and that’s OK. People are always changing. You’re going to get some surprises along the way. But it’s worth remembering that almost everyone is bullsh******g almost all the time so you’ve got as good a chance as anyone. And as much right to be there as anyone else. Be courageous and idealistic and dare to dream. But if all else fails and you still can’t figure it out, look to people you trust and admire and ask for their advice. Remember that you normally only get to see other people’s successes and not the huge list of failures that happened along the way there. The first step is vocalising the ambition. After that you can find people to help you get there. I realise this all sounds obvious but that’s kind of cos it is.

  7. What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you?
    No way would I tell you that. I’m keeping it for my next script.

  8. What do you know now that you’d tell your younger self?You can stop worrying about what your peers think about you, you’ll get to choose better ones later. Read some Audre Lorde. Oh and PS you’re 100% gay (and it’s great).

  9. What’s the biggest career challenge you’ve experienced?It’s a tie between these two: 1) Learning to be grateful, then learning I don’t always have to be grateful. 2) Celebrating the work/achievement for what it is rather than comparing it to what I feel it should/could/might be.

  10. What one thing would you take with you to a desert island?An axe because then I could chop down trees to make fires and I’m a compulsive pyromaniac. Plus if all else fails I could fight any potential enemies to the death with it because I got taught how to wield one by a stuntman on Game of Thrones.

Original interview: October 2018.