Best known for her award-winning turns in mostly period films, the British actor and director is intent on mixing it up – starting with her new role in the second series of BBC One’s hugely popular Vigil. She talks to AMAZING about drone warfare, sticking to her feminist guns, making her name as a director and why she refuses to work in Hollywood.
When Romola Garai casually mentions during our chat for AMAZING that she’s been acting for more than half her life, we almost don’t believe her. It has, in fact, been 23 years since this BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominated British actor started working professionally aged 18, when she was cast in the TV film The Last of the Blonde Bombshells, playing Dame Judi Dench’s younger incarnation. She was still at school when she secured the part and has worked almost continuously ever since, captivating audiences in a succession of largely period dramas, ranging from I Capture the Castle and Nicholas Nickelby to Atonement and The Hour and, more recently, The Miniaturist and The Windermere Children.
Although this roll-call of historical dramas is by no means exhaustive and Garai, now 41, has proved her versatility in different genres, including sci-fi, she is the first to admit that she’s somewhat cornered the market in British war or post-war films. Her casting in the upcoming feature One Life, based on the humanitarian Nicholas Winton who saved hundreds of children from the Nazis on the eve of WWII, being a case in point.
Today, however, she tells me she’s ready to change things up – her latest role proving the perfect vehicle for the actor to show us just how thoroughly 21st century she can be. Garai stars in series two of Vigil, the first series of which was the most-watched new drama on UK television when it aired on BBC One in 2021. Suranne Jones returns as DCI Amy Silva, along with Rose Leslie’s DS Kirsten Longacre, but instead of conducting their investigation in the claustrophobic corridors of a Trident nuclear submarine, the pair look to the skies this time as they set out to catch a killer at a Scottish air base and become enmeshed in the secret world of drone warfare.
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