Romola Garai Covers AMAZING Magazine | Issue 4

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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. 

Garai plays acting commanding officer Eliza Russell, who we first see struggling to come to grips with her new post in the wake of multiple deaths and to assert her authority over some jumpy junior officers. It’s a role she clearly relished. “I’m definitely at a stage now where I’m actively looking to do things that are different and it was a really fantastic experience,” says this eminently likeable, unstarry thespian over a flat white at London’s Soho Theatre. “The first season was so incredibly successful and I felt very lucky that they had me on board. I’ve never been in anything that you could call ‘procedural’ before, so it was very different when I got all the briefing notes and they’re like, ‘This is what you can say or can’t reveal,’ because so many of the projects I’ve done have been historical and everybody knows what happens at the end. There are no surprises.” She laughs heartily, aware that the joke is slightly on her. 

For Romola's full interview and shoot, pre-order your copy of AMAZING issue 4 now. The new six-part series of Vigil will premiere on BBC One on 10 December. Nachtland is at the Young Vic Theatre from 20 February to 20 April 2024. Go to for tickets.
Photography by Simon Emmett
Fashion by Lyla Cheng
Hair by Paul Jones at Caren Agency using Oribe
Make-up by Talia Sparrow at A-Frame Agency
Words by Juliet Herd
Editorial Director Charlotte Morton
Editor-in-Chief Juliet Herd
Editor Jennifer Lynn
Creative Director Jeffrey Thomson
Art Director Livia Vourlakidou
Production Director Ben Crank
Stylist's Assistant Marilena Gelides
Special thanks to Shangri-La The Shard and Tapestry London
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