An Interview with Actress and Writer Sophie Winkleman at Soho House, LA
Sophie Winkleman is a celebrated British actress and writer born in Primrose Hill, London in 1980. Now based in LA, the vivacious Sophie is best known for her roles as Big Suz in Peep Show, Ashton Kutcher's girlfriend Zoey in Two and a Half Men (series 9-10) and as Susan in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Other television roles include stints on Waking the Dead, CSI: Miami, Death in Paradise and Robin Hood.
Sophie began acting on stage with the National Youth Theatre before moving into the Cambridge dramatic society Footlights as an english literature student. Here she wrote and acted in - the Perrier award nominated - Far Too Happy. Sophie's stage career has been an eclectic one taking her from the role of Veronique in Boswell's Beauty and the Beast with the Royal Shakespeare Company to being Abigail in Arthur Miller's The Crucible and acting in Eric Idle's What about Dick? alongside Russell Brand.
Not only does she shine in film, television and on the stage, but Sophie is also known for her frequent roles in Radio 4 plays like P. G Wodehouse's Uncle Fred in the Springtime and as Sasha in Von Ribbentrop's Watch. After watching her perform in various different contexts, it's breath-taking to see her smooth transition between comedy to hard-hitting drama and more romantic roles.
Having brought to light the diversity of Sophie's work you can get a sense of what a polymathic actress she is. I hope that our trans-Atlantic interview will illustrate how warm-hearted, fiercely clever and inspiring she is as a woman who has built an extraordinary career and succeeded across a range of artistic endeavours.
Despite the expectations of growing up in a talented family of writers alongside her sister the television presenter Claudia Winkleman - and later marrying into the British Royal family - she is incredibly down to earth. Given her field of work, it is no surprise that Sophie has the lust for life, amiability and strong work ethic, which has led to her earning some of the most coveted roles in contemporary theatre, television and film.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion?
When I joined the National Youth Theatre at the age of seventeen. I knew some sort of flame had been lit.
What piece of your work would you like to be remembered for?
I love all the radio plays I’ve done – it’s my favourite form of acting, conveying everything with the voice. My last job was a Shaw play with Alfred Molina and Rufus Sewell – such a delight. Screen-wise I liked my performance in a drama called Waking the Dead.
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
I don’t think the previous centuries were much fun for women, so I’m very grateful to have been born in the 1980s, free as a bird and with every opportunity open to me.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
I find beauty in kindness and an underlying peace. Both qualities are majestic to me.
Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?
All the books of Jean Rhys. Her writing is gaspingly beautiful. I love the film Howard’s End and it’s a cliché but I was transfixed by Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?
Philip Marlowe from the Raymond Chandler novels. I find his tough loneliness alluring.
Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?
Yes, I just don’t fully understand it.
What do you wish every child were taught?
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
Yes. Right now! I have a baby and recently couldn’t accept the role of Yelena in a London run of Uncle Vanya or the part of a brilliant Russian spy in a series shooting in Lithuania – all rather complicated!
What is your favourite museum or art gallery and why?
The Sir John Soane Museum I find very magical as I discover something new every time I pop in there.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Florian Donnersmarck, the man who wrote and directed The Lives of Others. He’s so insanely clever.
What is your daily routine when working?
No such thing when acting – you could be up at 5am being made up in your trailer on the Warner Bros lot or rocking up to the RSC twelve hours later for one of your eight weekly performances.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
Probably Greece when I was seventeen. I stayed with a family in Corfu for three months, learned Greek and fell in love with the hospitable, kind, fun, deeply civilized people I met there. I also met wonderful people and saw stunning beauty in Jordan in 2008.
What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?
Make an effort. I always assumed my talent would shine through the fact I didn’t always know my lines or had been to bed late. Don’t do that.
Why do you love what you do?
Because of the variety, the sense of community on a programme, film or play – everyone from the key grip to the catering man to the continuity lady is a dear friend for the months you’re on the project, and for the stimulating exhilaration of becoming another person.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com