Charity Wakefield, best known for her role as Mary Boleyn in Wolf Hall, on working with Jack Whitehall – the king of improv – and her love for Greenwich’s riverside pubs
If you’re lucky as an actor, it can be the best career ever because you just get to constantly learn new things,’ smiles Charity Wakefield.
‘You are always immersed in so many different walks of life.’ It is this open, enthusiastic and optimistic nature of Wakefield that shines through immediately as we settle down to talk, and it was easy to forget that we were doing an interview as we got carried away chatting and laughing. She’s one of those special characters that immediately puts you at ease.
And special characters she likes to play too. Wakefield is currently on screen in the new comedy thriller for Sky1, Bounty Hunters, with Jack Whitehall and Rosie Perez, a project that is particularly exciting due to it being such a genre departure for which she is usually known in the UK.
Her late Grandfather was the actor James Hayter, and although he died when Wakefield was young, she credits having him in the family as one of her reasons for following her dreams and chasing new and different opportunities.
‘This new show is very exciting for me as it’s so different to any of the other work that I’ve done in this country,’ she smiles. ‘It was quite exciting and nerve-racking to do this job because of this, but I felt supported by the amazing team.’
Amusingly, as Wakefield is so used to doing drama – she’s well known for her role as Mary Boleyn in Wolf Hall – and ensuring she is very invested within the scene and the time period, her biggest challenge with Bounty Hunters was that she found filming hilarious.
‘If there is a line that undercuts the drama and is very funny in the middle of it, which there are several in this show,’ she points out, ‘it is just so difficult not to laugh!’
In the show she plays a real wild child, who has been travelling all over the world. And from the enthusiasm and bubbly nature of Wakefield throughout our chat, I feel that there may be some innate similarities between her own character and the one she plays.
You feel that the scenes are alive in Wolf Hall. I think Hilary Mantel’s writing was all about immersing yourself in the past, so I felt we were doing a good job
But having just been in the National Geographic’s first scripted series, Genius, it’s clear that it’s important to Wakefield to be a part of projects that are different and that are progressing the art of drama in different mediums. It is perhaps for this reason that she is known for her forays into period dramas, as well as her work on stage.
Wakefield tells me how she found it special to be working with the real 14th century setting when filming Wolf Hall, lit by candlelight, as it made her feel entirely a part of the past and the events that happened. It’s clear that authenticity is something she prides herself on in acting.
‘You feel that the scenes are alive,’ she says. ‘I think Hilary Mantel’s writing was all about immersing yourself in the past, so I felt we were doing a good job.’
She oozes enthusiasm when it comes to trialling different types of theatre and arts. In a completely different vein to period drama, she tells me how she loved working with Wesley Snipes as a martial arts and fight coordinator.
‘I loved being allowed to throw myself into stunts for The Player, which was an action thriller,’ she says. ‘I had to do a lot of training and got to jump off buildings and precision drive. You learn something from every person that you are exposed to in this industry.’
For Wakefield, one of the most rewarding elements of working on Bounty Hunters has been working with the king of improv, Jack Whitehall, and learning from him.
It’s great to see Jack Whitehall bring his ideas to fruition, it was fascinating for me. The way he bounces off other people and the way he brings his work to broadcasters is very clever
‘It’s great to see him bring his ideas to fruition, it was fascinating for me,’ she says. ‘The way he bounces off other people and the way he brings his work to broadcasters is very clever.’
She goes on to tell me how as an actor you learn things from fellow actors on a human level and she is using these life experiences and gathering of stories to put together her own work now too, and will be directing her first short film in January as well as having produced a feature this year.
‘Everything adds to the boiling pot,’ says Wakefield. ‘Relationships are crucial and I’m always watching out for people to put in my little black book too. I’ve got a whole host of ideas that I’m working on, it’s just about finding the time as acting is still my focus.’
So does Wakefield get to spend any time at home in south east London outside of her busy schedule? ‘I spend a lot of time finding new parks and I love Greenwich, the pubs by the Thames are just lovely,’ she says. ‘And I absolutely love Peckham – it has become the coolest place ever.
‘I used to have a little vintage shop in Nunhead so I will always be very interested in what is going on there. I have a friend called Tracey Cahoon who had a really brilliant hairdressers at the back of our shop and she is opening her new shop in Peckham Levels, which is exciting.’
It’s clear that she has a lot more to give and I for one am particularly excited to see this new side of her in Bounty Hunters. But what’s next for her?
‘I just want to keep on exploring and pushing these different boundaries,’ she smiles.
Bounty Hunters is on Sky 1 and NOW TV Wednesdays at 10pm