True Fiction’s Olivia Grant: “‘Be hungry, be humble and be the hardest working person in the room”

“My very wise agent once said that the people who keep working are the ones that keep getting better” says Olivia Grant when asked about the secrets of successfully breaking the world of acting. They are true words to live by, regardless of your industry.

And Olivia Grant embodies her philosophy to a tee. You might recognise her from a myriad of roles including the Channel 4 flagship drama, Indian Summers, the ITV show Endeavour and possibly the Clare Danes starring film, Stardust.

Taking new strides in her career, Olivia Grant is about to take the lead role in Bravo’s new US drama, True Fiction. We catch up with the actor to discuss her ascension into the world of acting.

1. Where did acting begin for you?

I’ve always been the kind of child who was prancing around in a tutu but I didn’t really start acting until University. My college turned out to be very sporty and I started auditioning for college productions to, mainly, make friends. The first role I was offered was Isabella in ‘Measure for Measure’ at Corpus Christi college which I remember loving. Not just for the play itself but for the late-night rehearsals in dark panelled rooms and get-ins in rehearsal skirts munching chocolate fingers with the cast. That was it really. I felt I’d kind of found my people.

2. Can you tell us anything about your new role on True Fiction?

I play a character called Clea who is an English professor and published writer but has hit severe writing block and is losing her mind. It has a kind of Ally MacBeal feel about and is a brand of comedy drama I personally really love, kind of quirky and off-beat.

3. What job do you think you’d be doing if acting hadn’t worked out?

I probably would have taken the LPC and then tried to get chambers as a barrister. To be fair there are lots of similarities between the two jobs but I remember asking my tutor at Oxford what I should do and she said in response, ‘Well…do you have any interest in the law?’ and I told her no and she said, ‘…then you’ve answered your own question.’ Sage advice I feel.

4. Have you worked with any of your acting heroes yet and if not, who else would you want to work with?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing women. One of my first jobs involved scenes with Michelle Pfeiffer who I’d always admired for her grace and subtlety on screen. Julie Walters has also been a complete delight on ‘Indian Summers.’ She has such a playful energy and is a masterclass, not only professionally, but also in how to be on set; everyone loved her. I’ve grown up watching Merchant Ivory period dramas so I’d also love to work with Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins…who knows.

5. What was your most difficult role to perform, and why?

I played a lesbian transwoman in a BBC3 comedy-drama called ‘Personal Affairs’ a while back which was an extremely challenging role. I was very unversed in the subject and spent a lot of time watching confessional-type YouTube videos by transwomen to try to get to grips with the challenges of transitioning and feeling trapped in a body of the wrong gender. The most striking thing was how young many of the women in the videos were and how early they felt such a strong identification with the female gender.

6. If you could tell Olivia Grant 10 years ago something about the film industry, what would you tell her?

My key piece of advice to a younger me would be to keep pushing oneself to get better; keep finding new teachers and mentors to learn from, keep watching what the best people are doing around you and try to emulate them. I have a quote from Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) which I have written in felt tip pen on my mirror at home which says, ‘Be hungry, be humble and be the hardest working person in the room.’

Photographer – Hanna Hillier (www.hanna-hillier.com)

Stylist – Kelvin Barron (www.kelvinbarron.com)

Hair – Calire Healey using Moroccanoil (www.clairehealey.com)

Make Up – Amber Pitkin using Chanel (www.amberpitkin.com)

What now?