Juliet Stevenson on her character in Riviera Season 2
She also talks about Alan Rickman and why she once bought a double-decker bus on eBay
- Published 21.07.19, 6:14 PM
- Updated 21.07.19, 6:14 PM
- 5 mins read
British theatre and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, known for her roles in noted films like Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Mona Lisa Smile (2003) and Being Julia (2004) — has joined Season 2 of the Irish show Riviera. Set in the French Riviera, the series follows the life of American art curator Georgina Clios (Julia Stiles) whose billionaire husband Constantine Clios dies in a yacht accident. In a world of lies and crime, Georgina tries to uncover the truth about Constantine’s death. With Riviera Season 2 now live on SonyLIV, The Telegraph dialled Juliet in London for a chat.
How does it feel joining Riviera Season 2?
Oh, I was thrilled because I have watched the whole of Season 1 and it got me completely hooked. I thought that the acting, in particular, was amazing. It was strange to be a part of something that I’ve been watching, it was like a dream. It has been a very joyous, happy job... it had a wonderful group of actors and director. We were in the most beautiful places in the south of France... between the sea and the mountains.
What can you tell us about your character Lady Cassandra Eltham?
She is sort of from a minor English aristocratic family, she has got property but she is cash poor. She’s recently widowed, she has sold her house in England and she has come to the riviera where they have another house. She has come with her two young-adult children who are twins — Daphne (Poppy Delevingne) and Nico (Jack Fox). They are going to make a new life there and that’s where you find them. Very soon you discover the connection with the Clios family, which comes as a surprise. That starts a whole series of storyline that wraps the Clios family and the Eltham family together... that’s the starting point.
The trailer suggests that there’s more lies and deceit this season. What can the audience expect?
And a lot of intrigue! English aristocracy is very good at hiding their secrets. They’ve been doing it for centuries! (Laughs) So in a way, the riviera is quite a natural habitat for them because that’s the way everybody is functioning there... it’s a world where everything is about exuberance, all glittering and beautiful but what’s behind that is darkness and dirty dealings.
How was it working with Julia Stiles who plays Georgina Cleo?
Really, really good. She is such a professional, she’s generous and amazing. She had a new baby who was keeping her up some of the nights. But she was extremely welcoming to the new actors, the new characters. I can’t think of a job that was more of an ensemble —where people were really working together, not just on their own individual performances but like working together on making the scenes better, working on the script together, exploring the history of that character together.
Do you feel it’s the powerful women characters who run the show in Season 2?
I think that’s true. The head of my family is my character, there is Julia’s character and the head of the Clios family is Lena Olin’s character. That’s quite unusual for any television series where they’ve really cracked well with women over the age of 30. There were some great male roles but the forces behind the families are definitely female.
What did you do after pack-up?
We had so much fun! I have my kids and I work a lot and I do other stuff. So I don’t have a huge amount of spare time, I don’t party in England much. So when I go away for shoot I can slightly drop some of my domestic and maternal duties. We played hard and we worked hard. But you know, playing hard to me just means a couple of beers and running around Nice at night!
You have an Indian connection, having starred in Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham...
Gurinder, she’s so wonderful! I also came to India and played Mother Teresa in a film called The Letters in Goa. I had the most amazing team in India and I had never been there before. I had such a wonderful time... it was around five years ago. I had eight weeks in India and we shot a lot in a slum in Margao. I found the most extraordinary people living there.
What sets apart acting in a TV series as opposed to a film?
The beauty of a TV series is that you have a long, huge arc. When you start, you only get the first script, you don’t have the whole series given to you. And that’s bit of a gamble. But you start this journey and then it goes on and can go in an amazing, surprising direction... and there’s a great pleasure in that. And then you’re filming for a long period of time, when you’re living and working with people for seven months, you can really work on the details. I love shooting feature films but that is more challenging in this country. We have small budgets and that means it’s a very short, sharp shooting period — you start on Day One and you shoot almost six days a week very often. As much as I love it, it’s more challenging I think.
Talking about theatre, actor Alan Rickman was like your big brother. Tell us one thing about him that no one knows...
I don’t quite know where to begin... it’s so hard to just pick one. I met him when I was 20 and I was a child, very immature. I had finished drama school and I was a little sprog, an unhatched egg, and he was a young leading man, probably 10 years older to me. He sort of just adopted me. Alan presented to the world his seriousness, his gravitas, his intelligence but he was so playful and had such an amazing sense of humour. And he was the kindest human being I think I’ve ever met. You could never go to dinner with him and pick up the bill, it was impossible. He’d never let anyone pay for anything. He was completely unique, he’s irreplaceable.
You apparently once bought a double-decker bus on eBay. What’s the story behind that?
Oh, I did! (Laughs) I discovered that the blue double-decker buses are half the price than red! I went to the jungles in Calais to teaching camp where thousands of refugees of every age were living in the poorest conditions. They were freezing wet, hungry, completely neglected and there were no charities working there. Most of the child refugees in the camp didn’t have any family or parents with them. There was one amazing English woman who had made it her business to look after them. After the first few trips, I said to her, ‘What could I do that might be helpful to you?’ She said that people are living in mud and wet and pathetic little tents. There was no structure, nothing to protect them from the weather. She said, ‘I just dream of a double-decker bus that I can convert and heat it and make it into a dry space for the mums and their children’.
So I went on eBay and discovered that you can buy all these double-decker buses! I had never even bought a pair of shoes on eBay but that night with my credit card I bought a bus for £5,000 pounds. And I put in another £5,000 pounds on getting it converted. And then we crowdfunded. Then we put a stove into it, solar panels and made it into a cosy, warm, dry, clean space for the mums and their babies. Then we drove it back to that camp in Calais. It was on the side of the camp, away from the noise. Sometimes fights would break out but they had their warm space. It was a lovely idea. And then we kept the motor and the engine so that, if necessary, they could drive it away. The sad ending is, when the camp was destroyed by the French police, the bus burnt down. But it had two years of a happy life there.