Aisling Franciosi attended Trinity College in Dublin where she studied French and Spanish. She most recently appeared in the leading role of Clare in ”The Nightingale,” directed by Jennifer Kent. The film had its European premiere at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, where it was awarded a Special Jury Prize, and has screened at Sundance in January 2019 prior to its general release. Franciosi, who has been cast in main roles in a number of acclaimed British TV series, first appeared as Katie in the thriller, ”The Fall,” for BBC in 2013 and then as Phoebe Griffin, the young female lead and daughter to Gabriel Byrne, in BBC’s ”Quirke” in 2014. She was awarded the Irish Film and Television Award in 2015 for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Drama for her appearance as Katie in Season Two of ”The Fall.” She next was cast in the recurring role of Kate in Season Two of ”Legends” starring Sean Bean and most recently as the co-lead, Georgia, in ”Clique” on BBC Three in 2017. She has also appeared in two episodes of HBO’s ”Game of Thrones” as young Lyanna Stark in 2016/17. On the big screen, Franciosi was cast as Marie in Ken Loach’s award-winning ”Jimmy’s Hall,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, prior to its release. In 2014, Franciosi was chosen as one of Screen Daily UK’s prestigious ”Stars of Tomorrow.” She is a classically trained singer and pianist, and is fluent in Italian and has excellent skills in French.
Tara Karajica talks to Aisling Franciosi about being an actress and a Shooting Star, women in film and her next projects.
What made you want to become an actress?
Aisling Franciosi: I did my first ever Speech and Drama class when I was six years old and remembered loving it right away. It was so much fun and I could let my imagination run wild. I came home and told my mum I wanted to be an actress. Many actors remember being struck by a performance or a film, but for me it was sparked by how acting and performing made me feel.
In your portrayal of Clare in The Nightingale, you start off as a young and fragile woman, but you spectacularly morph into a kind of Joan of Arc. Can you talk about this transformation?
A.F.: Personally, I actually think that Clare is already remarkably strong at the beginning of the film. It’s just that it’s a kind of strength not often remarked upon. Endurance. A constant state of endurance. She is in a position in which she has no option but to endure the pain and suffering so that she can one day live a life with her family. She is incredibly resilient. Endurance is a contained and controlled strength. Of course, after the horrors committed against her family, she then finds a different strength. It becomes a strength that is unleashed by loss and an absolute burning fury and rage. It is the kind of strength that is driven, in part, by not having to protect anyone. By not having to be cautious. By not having anything to lose. At the beginning she is enduring to survive and then she becomes a woman who is so strong that after all she experiences, somehow manages to save her humanity.
How do you see Clare? Are you anything like her?
A.F.: Hmm… I could only dream of having the resilience Clare has. I don’t know that I’d be as strong as her in her position.
How have you prepared for this role?
A.F.: I prepared a lot. A lot! Jennifer [Kent] is so committed to accuracy and truth, so it was important I be as prepared as possible. I did months and months of research. I needed historical context, obviously, so I read about the history of convicts in Australia, particularly in the case of female convicts. I watched documentaries about and read about violence against women, about sexual violence and PTSD. I was lucky enough to also work with a clinical psychologist called Dr. Elaine Barrett. We talked a lot about PTSD and its manifestations and she went with me to talk to social workers in women’s domestic abuse centers. I met with a victim… Closer to the shoot I learned to horse ride, wood chop, I babysat the twins who would play my daughters… I did some improv’ and workshopping with Baykali and Jennifer…
Can you talk about your brief stint in Game of Thrones as Lyanna Stark?
A.F.: It was really exciting to be a part of such a huge and beloved show, if even just for a few minutes! Because it was a big spoiler reveal, it felt like maximum exposure for minimum time! *laughs*
In that sense, you have appeared on TV and in film. Which medium do you prefer? Why?
A.F.: I find it difficult to say… There are great aspects to both. I love that in TV, if you have a regular role, you get more time to live and explore with your character. With film, though, there is a nice challenge in trying to present the fullness of a character in limited time. As long as the writing is great, I don’t have a particular preference.
How do you pick a role? Which one is your favorite, if any?
A.F.: I’m not quite at a point of getting to “pick” a role! I wish! But I am a bit choosy in terms of what I audition for. If the writing is great, that’s a start. If I don’t feel anything when I read a script, I find it difficult to feel enthusiasm. I loved playing Katie Benedetto in The Fall. I find it so amusing how much people seemed to hate her. Playing Clare, though, was definitely the most rewarding and challenging role I have ever played. I will always have a special place in my heart for Clare.
Does your education as a classically trained singer inform your roles? Does it help?
A.F.: I have sung in a couple of projects, but never in a way I would usually sing. Certainly not classically. Each time, the voice had to change to suit the character. I would love to get to sing in lots of different ways for other projects.
What does being a Shooting Star mean for your career and how do you think it will impact it?
A.F.: It’s impossible to know how anything will impact your career but, personally, I am honored to be a Shooting Star. Career wise, it certainly can’t hurt! It’s known to be a prestigious award. I’m really looking forward to meeting the other Shooting Stars and industry professionals. Making connections is something I enjoy.
What does it take to be a star, according to you?
A.F.: I have no idea! But I know the kinds of actors and stars I admire are the ones who seem to constantly challenge themselves and who always seem committed to truthful performances. It’s such huge topic to address in a couple of sentences and I don’t pretend to really have the answers.
There has been a lot of talk about women in film this part year. What do you make of the situation of women in film? How is the situation in Ireland?
A.F.: I think conversation and discussion prompt awareness and that is only ever helpful. And there has been much discussion. But I also think the real change ultimately has to come form a wide-spread change of the perception of women professionally. What I mean is, women are frequently perceived as being a riskier choice when being put in a position of leadership, no matter the sector. Why, I have never understood. Talking specifically about film, women have proven time and again to be successful both critically and commercially in all genres, across the board. It shouldn’t be harder for a woman to get funding, to be trusted with a film, to take the reigns, but it often has been. Making a film is always risky, putting women in positions of power should not be. It does seem like things are changing, though, and continuing to champion women who have been able to break through, make great films and pave the way is important.
Who is your favorite female filmmaker? Is there one you would love to work with?
A.F.: I love Jennifer Kent! For obvious reasons! *laughs* Really though, she is really inspiring and getting to work with her taught me so much. I would work with her again in a heartbeat. I would love to work, too, with Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion… and so many more.
What are your next projects?
A.F.: I’m not sure yet. I’m still looking for something that gets me really excited!
Photo credits: © Harald Fuhr / EFP