The Conscious Mind of Kate Phillips.
Written by Vaughn Eric Stewart
Photography: Joseph Sinclair
Styling: Celia Arias
Hair: Shukeel Murtaza @ The Only Agency
Make up: Justine Jenkins
Fashion assistants Daisy Huskinson and Samuel Enabulele.
Behind the extraordinary talent of actress Kate Phillips, currently in the PBS series Scarlet and the Duke, is a woman who cares about things that really matter to us and our planet. Cool America Magazine caught up with Kate to talk about her acting and a few personal things that she holds dear to her heart.
Okay, I’m going to start by saying I loved Downton Abbey. How did you enjoy working on the film and with the cast?
It was such a happy job. I really connected to my character and loved the journey she went on over the course of the film. I was among a number of new cast members and we were welcomed really warmly. They’ve been such a tight knit family for so many years that it was clear what an amazing time they had shooting the series and the film was no different.
It’s obviously a period drama much like Miss Scarlet and The Duke – what drew you to that role?
The script just jumped out at me the moment I started reading. It’s so unique in its tone – really funny and pacey whilst maintaining a real depth and warmth at the same time. It won me over immediately – I couldn’t wait to play this witty and sparky character of Eliza.
What age were you when you knew you wanted to be an actress?
When I was young, I was always putting myself forward to perform in school plays and I joined lots of after school drama classes but I never thought for a second I’d be able to carry it on professionally. After I left school, I went to University to study Theatre in an academic sense but ended up acting in more plays and loving it. I knew then I had to try and pursue a career in acting, even if I wound up unsuccessful!
Was anybody in your life pushing you to act?
I still remember those teachers at school that saw potential in me. I wasn’t very academic and I very easily went unnoticed but every now and then I was championed for some bit of acting I did. That meant the world to me at the time and it’s probably what spurred me on. Thanks to all those teachers!
You’ve worked so much in such a short period of time. What do you think makes you so easy to cast?
Oh, I don’t know if that’s true! I still credit having been cast in Wolf Hall as being the thing that kick started my career. I’m sure I wouldn’t have the career I’ve had without that leg up. So, I credit Peter Kosminsky for that.
What character has kept you up at night?
They all have their challenges. I often have sleepless nights the night before my first day on a job even if it’s a series I’m returning to like Peaky Blinders. I find the hardest leap is getting past that first day but once the ball is rolling it’s easier to relax into.
What type of characters do you like to play?
Feisty, clever, witty characters. It’s always fun to play roles that give you the permission to say and do things you might not have the courage or skill to in real life.
Is there a place that is very difficult for you to go to emotionally when you act?
I’m not really scared to go to emotional places, in fact it can feel incredibly liberating when you get there. The fear for me is that I won’t be able to drop into that place when the camera starts rolling.
Did you study acting? And if so, where?
Yes, at Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London.
“It’s clear we all need to urgently wake up to the effects global warming.”
What are you currently working on?
I don’t think I can really talk about it. But I’m sure you’ll see soon!
Can you give any advice to an aspiring actor/actress that dreams about having a career in the business?
Stick at it; Get advice from people you respect; Don’t expect it to happen all at once; and It’s okay to fail.
What 3 people in the industry that you are dying to work with?
The director Alfonso Cuaron, actor Alison Janney and the director Taika Waititi. They’re all amazing at what they do.
What do you think you would do if you couldn’t act?
I’ve been watching a lot of David Attenborough and I’m realizing I would want to be doing something in conservation. It’s clear we all need to urgently wake up to the effects global warming is having on our environment and the things we can do to help reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. That’s definitely my goal this year; to try and get more involved in whatever way possible.
What do you like to do when a day is totally yours?
I think I’d go out in search of a really great view and sit and read a book. With a couple of cookies.
Who are your favorite fashion designers?
Rosie Assoulin, Temperly London and Erdem.
How do you like to dress normally?
Right now, I’m reaching for a pair of high wasted slacks and a knitted jumper.
“I often have sleepless nights the night before my first day on a job.”
How have you dealt with Covid19?
Zoom! It’s the best and worst thing to have come out of COVID. It’s like a lot of things – you couldn’t live without it, but too much of it will send you over the edge.
In a nutshell, what do you think 2020 taught you?
I had my 2020 all planned out at the beginning of the year and was still obsessing over the small details. Of course, none of what was planned went ahead. This year has taught me a lot about letting go and trying not to control so much.
Do you feel the world is going through some type of change?
The world has forever been in a state of flux, that’s undeniable, but right now we’re seeing some very significant changes in thought. Conversations around gender politics and racial inequality are finally being had in a meaningful way. There is a long way to go until we see this change in full flow but for now it’s exciting to see how it’s penetrated the social consciousness.
“Conversations around gender politics and racial inequality are finally being had in a meaningful way.”
Our magazine is called Cool America, what do you find cool about America?
For me America has this really nostalgic quality to it that I find so romantic. I’ve figured it’s because until only recently I’d never been and what I knew of it was from movies and television shows I watched when I was growing up. I hope that quality never fades for me. When I arrived in New York for the first time two years ago, I was so full of emotion I cried.
What do you find cool about Britain?
I love the architecture we have in this country. It spans so many centuries – as early as the Tudor period. Just walking around London, you get a real sense of our history – every building tells a story.
What makes you cool?
I don’t think I am cool. Does that make me cool?
MASTERPIECE’s Miss Scarlet & The Duke is available to stream on pbs.org and the PBS Video App
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