28 September 2012
Parade’s End, the lavish BBC adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s modernist novel, was supposed to be Benedict Cumberbatch’s show, all duty and headaches as the noble hero, Christopher Tietjens. Then there was the all-star supporting cast: Rebecca Hall as his impossible wife; Rupert Everett as the self-important brother; Rufus Sewell as a vicar with Edwardian Tourette’s.
But it was the bright-eyed newcomer, Adelaide Clemens, 22, who stole the series. As the spirited young Suffragette, Valentine Wannop, she brought to the story a force of youth and hope that shone through the screen. She also had a delightful streak of mischief and the most fetching bob this side of the Great War.
‘I feel like she’s a beacon of energy,’ says Clemens, who speaks in a surprisingly strong Australian accent. ‘She’s beautiful, she’s an eternal optimist who only sees the good in people. I really related to Valentine. She’s not afraid to speak, even if what she has to say might be wrong, which I think is another lovely quality.’
Clearly, before we all fell for Adelaide, Adelaide had to fall for Valentine. In fact, as an Australian actress with only a few horror film roles to put her on the radar in the northern hemisphere, she had to display a Valentine-like spirit to win the part.
Clemens was born in Brisbane, but lived in Japan until she was two. Her British father, who worked in the alcohol industry, later relocated his family to Cognac (so that French was Clemens’ first langauge) and Hong Kong, where she attended the International School. By the time she returned to Australia at the age of 12, she already had a French outlook, an English accent (from her schooling) and an omnivorous appetite for books and theatre. She describes herself as ‘this crazy English chick waltzing around’, making home videos. ‘I never really attach myself to Australia because I’ve moved around so much,’ she says.
After earning her stripes on Australian TV and in mostly low-level Hollywood productions, she was in New Orleans when the Parade’s End audition came up, filming a slasher called No One Lives (‘The title tells you everything you need to know,’ she cringes). She became obsessed with Ford’s dense and difficult novel — ‘I spent every spare moment reading it’ — and determined that Valentine would be her part.
She sent a tape of her work to the director, Susanna White, and the casting director, Karen Lindsay-Stewart, but was told that they were looking for a British actress for the part. ‘I thought it was something to do with the BBC and maybe my accent wasn’t right, so I kept sending off fresh tapes, and kept getting the same response.’ Eventually, she managed to wangle a Skype conversation with White, and, despite the 15-second time lag, managed to infect the director with her enthusiasm — only to be told in the end that, sorry, it simply wasn’t going to work out.
She was undeterred. ‘The night I wrapped up No One Lives, my wonderful agent booked me a ticket to London. I kept reading all this history, playing with British accents and costumes, and on the day of the audition I walked from Euston station to Soho in this period outfit: a long grey skirt, a white silk shirt, very like Valentine, and a black tie.’ She was astonished to find Tom Stoppard, who had adapted the novel, in the audition room. ‘It ended up lasting three hours, but at the end of it, he said, “Well, you have wasted far too much of my time,” and walked out. I didn’t get his sense of humour and went back to the hotel and cried.’
In time, of course, she figured out that three hours of Stoppard’s time is quite a compliment, however eccentrically he takes his leave; nevertheless, the BBC was only able to cast her once it was discovered that, thanks to her British father, she had a British passport.
After all that, filming was a breeze. ‘Ben [Cumberbatch] and I had so much fun, we were just diving in every day. I couldn’t wait to get to bed because I knew I would be performing again the next day,’ she says.
However, she says her research on the Suffragette movement did not make her a feminist. ‘I am for equal rights and I think women are just as capable as men, but I hesitate to call myself a feminist because the definition has been blurred over the past few decades. I think I just need to educate myself more about what a feminist is before I call myself one.’
She says she would never again go to quite the same lengths to win a part as she did with Valentine — though with that triumph in the bag she shouldn’t need to. AfterParade’s End, she headed for the far side of World War One, playing the worldly Catherine Wilson in Baz Luhrmann’s new film of Jazz Age classic The Great Gatsby. ‘From playing a suffragette around 1910 in corsets and not being able to show my ankles, I went to guzzling bottles of champagne and dancing on tables in a flapper outfit. It was just completely outrageous. I felt like I was being stretched out in a completely different way. Baz fills an entire studio lot with his enthusiasm.’
Also soon to be aired are Ray McKinnon’s series Rectify, one of the first productions for the new Sundance TV channel, plus another slasher, Silent Hill 3. But her romance with London is far from over. She loved her time here, channelling Virginia Woolf on walks in Hyde Park, hanging out in Dalston, savouring the romance of the Premier Inn near Euston station. ‘In London, as an actor, it’s amazing that you can spread yourself across four media: radio, TV, film and theatre.’
She hopes to concentrate on the latter: she cut her teeth on Shakespeare and raves about the London theatre scene (she saw Jerusalem three times). One only hopes that our casting directors won’t make her work quite so hard this time.
Adelaide Clemens was born on November 30th, 1989 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adelaide_Clemens
November 30th, 1989
11 + 30 +1+9+8+9 = 68 = her life lesson = Student. Pupil. Classmates. Always learning.
November 30th, 1989
11 + 30 = 41 = her core number = Intimate. Melting your heart.
November 30th, 1989
30 +1+9+8+9 = 57 = her “secret” number = Heartthrob. A real heartbreaker.
November 30th, 1989
11 + 30 +2+0+1+1 = 45 = her personal year (from November 30th, 2011 to November 29th, 2012) = Intense. Hardcore. Magnetic. Psychosexual. Scary movies.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
14531945 3354551 58
her path of destiny = 58 = Relax, I got this. Be well. Try to get a good night’s sleep.
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