Jessica Brown Findlay On 'Downton Abbey' Playlists, Fangirling Taylor Swift And Her Latest Role

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Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images

From ELLE

Jessica Brown Findlay's latest role couldn't be further away from the one that catapulted her to fame.

The British actress is known to many as Lady Sybil Crawley in Downton Abbey, but the period drama is a far cry from where she will be seen next, in Sky's huge new drama Brave New World - a dramatic telling of the famous dystopian novel of the same name by Aldous Huxley - in which she plays lead character Lenina Crowe.

It's not the first time Findlay has dabbled in futuristic stories, having starred opposite BAFTA winner Daniel Kaluuya in Black Mirror.

Ahead of the release of Brave New World on October 2nd, and before she privately married her partner Ziggy Heath earlier this month, ELLE discussed all things film, music, TV and books with Findlay for our new series, My Life In Culture.

Photo credit: Peacock - Sky
Photo credit: Peacock - Sky


Whenever I'm preparing for a role, I make a playlist...

I always immerse myself in music, I always make huge playlists for each of my characters. For Lenina, there was almost something so teenage about the way she is discovering her inner self. For the first time, she was really exploring sadness. So I included a lot of music that I was listening to when I was that age. It’s hilarious. I delved back into The Offspring and Nirvana, to explore the joys of being misunderstood and the indulgence of sitting in despair or anger. I also added some of the later albums of The Beatles, as the series gets quite psychedelic.

Photo credit: Peacock - Sky
Photo credit: Peacock - Sky

For Lady Sybil, there was a lot of early Charleston and swing music - rare recordings that would have been quite risqué to play. It was actually really difficult to find music that had lyrics, I just felt that she wasn't a big, classical music nerd, she would be wanting to listen to that record that had come over from America, that had an amazing artist on it as opposed to long, sweeping, romantic stuff, it was much more playful.

Photo credit: Photograph Nick Briggs.  - Sky
Photo credit: Photograph Nick Briggs. - Sky

I got a TV for the first time during lockdown...

It was so my partner could play some kind of game with his friends, virtually. But actually, to be fair, I watched a lot of TV and film so I've benefited from finally caving and buying a TV. It was definitely a good move.

What I've been watching recently...

I just finished I May Destroy You. It’s just so brilliant. I just felt so in awe of what it takes to be able to creatively process subjects as huge as those covered in this story. It's very rare to be able to truly tap into a deeply traumatising space and yet also be able to be funny and difficult and all those things. I love it when art is able to do so many things all at once.

Photo credit: Various Artists Ltd and FALKNA/Laura Radford - BBC
Photo credit: Various Artists Ltd and FALKNA/Laura Radford - BBC

My biggest fangirl moment was two years ago...

I received an email saying, "Hey, this is Taylor Swift’s team, she'd love you to come and watch her show in London." I sent it to my agent saying, “Oh, God, I think someone's got my email and I’ve been pranked. Is this going round? Have you heard about this from anyone else?” She emailed back saying it was real. So I went with two of my friends, it was so good, we were just bouncing around and then we got to meet her. I just fangirled her completely. At some point she said she was a massive fan of my work.. I was like, "Are you joking?" It was really funny.

Photo credit: Gareth Cattermole/TAS18 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Gareth Cattermole/TAS18 - Getty Images

The last film I saw was...

Ghost. I wept at the end. I really need to pull it together, with the penny floating up towards Demi Moore with these perfect tears coming down and Whoopi Goldberg just knocking it out of the park. It was great.

Photo credit: Images Press - Getty Images
Photo credit: Images Press - Getty Images

I listen to a lot of podcasts...

Brown Girls Do It Too is really good, and definitely worth a listen. They’re awesome women just talking really, frankly, about sexuality, and everything in and around the subject.

If I could play a character from any book it would be...

I'm completely wrong for it because I’m really short with brown hair and she’s tall and lovely and blonde but Dolly Alderton in a version of her book Everything I know About Love. I just loved that book.

I would absolutely love to work with...

Greta Gerwig. I think I would lose my mind. Florence Pugh, Michaela Coel. Or even just to become friends?

My favourite film to laugh to is a classic...

When I'm feeling sentimental, but I also want to just sit back and enjoy something, I always head to When Harry Met Sally. I just can’t get enough of that film, I find it heartbreakingly funny. I love it. but I probably need to expand my viewing range.

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