Having acted alongside Lily James in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, starred with Penélope Cruz in a sultry Schweppes ad campaign, and played the fallen angel Gabrielle Givens in novel-turned-movie Fallen, Brixton resident Hermione Corfield is certainly on an upward trajectory. Here, she tells The Resident about her upcoming role in ITV’s new pre-war drama, The Halcyon, and discusses the changing role of women in the industry
Photography: Indira Flack
ITV’s The Halcyon is a new pre-war drama plotted around the inner workings of a hotel, and Hermione Corfield is excited for viewers to see how the story unravels – with a compelling love triangle and plenty of outrageous behaviour interwoven into the plot, there should be plenty to keep audiences hooked.
‘The series is set in a time just before World War II, in a Ritz style hotel in the middle of the West End,’ she explains. ‘It begins during “the phoney war”, when nobody thought the war would touch Britain, and ends on the first day of war.
‘It’s really about the inner workings of a hotel and what goes on behind closed doors with both the staff and the guests. I play the character of Emma Garland, whose dad [played by Steven Mackintosh] runs the hotel. He bridges the gap between the staff who run the hotel and the aristocratic family who own it, which results in an interesting dynamic.’
‘Along the way, my character has some love interests; the first series sees Emma make the journey from a girl to a woman,’ she says. ‘I also find my own voice in the war effort. People assume things were different in the 40s, and that everyone was so well behaved. Realistically, everyone still did everything we do today, sex before marriage and all the rest of it – it all went on. In that sense, the show feels very modern. It has modern themes and the soundtrack in particular reflects this in a strong way.’
People assume things were different in the 40s, and that everyone was so well behaved, but it all went on
Playing a role set in bygone era is anything but easy and Corfield says she grounds herself by putting modern day emotions into her acting. ‘Our director told us to take the fear of the big threats of our time, such as terrorism, and to put them into our roles,’ she explains. ‘Every single generation has a threat, so it’s tapping into that real life fear that drives the characters. The show starts off with everyone thinking there is no way the war would make its way to the UK, but as time progresses they realise it’s becoming more and more of a serious reality.’
When it comes to what makes the show so compelling, she adds: ‘The hierarchy of staff to customer creates an atmosphere of scandal, drama, secrets, and intrigue. The aristocratic family consists of two twin brothers, Lord and Lady Hamilton, and they are very much involved in the story that adds an extra layer to the dynamic – there is a lot of rivalry within the family,’ explains Corfield.
‘The series also plays on the fact that, on both sides of the war, there were people who were in cahoots with those pulling the strings.’
Of the push towards equal recognition for women in the film industry, Corfield says while big strides have been made towards equality, there is still a long way to go: ‘There are definitely more strong female roles to play with these days, and recently I have come into contact with a lot more female directors and female screenwriters.
‘There are brilliant female roles out there, but there are still hundreds and hundreds of girlfriend roles too, where you are the accessory to the man. We are not there yet, but women are starting their own production companies now and taking things into their own hands, like Reese Witherspoon, so the future does look hopeful.’
Corfield hasn’t lived in Brixton long, but she loves Mamma Dough and wandering through Brixton Village, which has a wealth of eclectic offerings. ‘Each area in London is so different, each little pocket has its own personality,’ she adds.
We are not there yet, but women are starting their own production companies now and taking things into their own hands, so the future does look hopeful
Corfield has always been into acting and her passion for the art took her to New York after university, where she enrolled in a method acting course at Lee Strasberg Group. She’s set to appear in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Bees Make Honey and Vin Diesel’s much anticipated, XXX: Return of Xander Cage, which are all to be released in 2017.
Looking to the future, Corfield hopes to one day play a great novelist, as she’s a big fan of both Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. Better yet, maybe one day she’ll direct these films under her own production company – we’ll wager that this one is soaring towards a glass ceiling at full force, set to smash right through it.
The Halcyon starts on ITV on Monday 2 January 2017 at 9pm