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Felicity Jones

Fresh after filming the Northern soul romance SoulBoy, the young actress takes on The Tempest with Helen Mirren and Ben Wishaw

Young British actress Felicity Jones has worked her way up through the industry, from her initial acting roles with BBC Radio and TV to her recent stage roles, but it’s her roles in a string of film releases this year that really establish her as one to watch. The 26-year old Birmingham native plays leads in Ricky Gervais’s autobiographical Cemetery Junction released in April, and her last film SoulBoy, is a teenage love story and homage to northern soul. Felicity will also be joining Helen Mirren and Ben Whishaw in Julie Taymor’s film adaptation of The Tempest which comes out in December in the US. Jones spoke with Dazed about her teenage days spent in Birmingham’s indie club du jour, why she wanted to take the role of Mandy in SoulBoy, and about having Helen Mirren as a mentor.

Dazed Digital: What initially attracted you to the SoulBoy script?
Felicity Jones:
I was intrigued by this idea of escapism as I think northern soul music is about people wanting to escape their daily lives. It gives you a tremendous opportunity to explore a completely different side of yourself. People would work quite hard during the week, then at weekends there would be this incredibly glamorous event that you would go to and dance all night. It was just so exciting to have a break from the monotony. Also I was intrigued by this idea that it was somehow like rave culture, but predating it.

DD: Do you like northern soul? Did you listen to it before you worked on the film?
Felicity Jones:
I hadn’t listened to it before I started the film but I have done since. The music is quite violent actually and the lyrics are often about making things better and there’s a consistent beat which obviously makes you want to dance. It ties into that
idea of escapism. I always thought there was such intensity to the music and something quite distressing about it at the same time, with it being soul music, which makes it so addictive.

DD: Did you have something similar when you were growing up - certain music you loved or a movement you were part of?
Felicity Jones:
Absolutely! I used to go to a music night every Wednesday after school. It was a club called Snobs, an indie club where the youth of Birmingham collected. It was where you’d meet like-minded people and the main attraction was dancing and a similar taste in music. I think especially when you are 16 or 17 you really look for that escape.

DD: What do you look for in a role when you are reading a new script and deciding whether to audition for it?
Felicity Jones:
It often depends on what I’ve been doing before because I like to keep changing the type of roles I do. If it offers something new that I haven’t looked at, then that attracts me. When you read it, you suddenly start building the character and
the excitement builds up. That seems to happen with some scripts and not with others.

Dazed: What was it like working with Helen Mirren in The Tempest?
Felicity Jones:
We lived together when we were shooting and it was extraordinary having the opportunity to question her, because she’s obviously in such a credible position. She’s become a mentor.

DD: Do you want to keep pursuing acting or are you ever tempted to try something else?
Felicity Jones:
Well I wanted to be a swimmer! I usually change my mind on a regular basis. I’m going to keep exploring acting but also I’m interested in art and fashion, I’d like to somehow explore those at other points maybe.

DD: What’s the most fun you’ve had in a role?
Felicity Jones:
I did on stage a play called The Chalk Gardens; a young pyromaniac called Laurel, who is someone that I would love to do that part again if I could. I still feel intrigued by it and she was fascinating. She’s a very troubled young girl, but supremely intelligent. I’m interested now in playing characters that have some kind of madness, as we all have, and that’s something I’m definitely drawn to at the moment.