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Interview with Aisling Franciosi – Star of ‘The Fall’
14 Nov 2014 : Seán Brosnan
Best known for playing babysitter Katie - teenage temptress to suburban serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) in the Belfast-set drama ‘The Fall’ – actress Aisling Franciosi has indelibly started her career off on a high.

‘The Fall’ is currently one of the most acclaimed shows on Irish television, winning the IFTA for Best Drama at this year’s IFTA’s, but the murky drama does not represent the entire gamut of the actress’s fledgling career. Despite her young age, Franciosi has already worked with director Ken Loach (in Irish film ‘Jimmy’s Hall’), with Gabriel Byrne (in ‘Quirke’) and has most recently starred opposite Aiden Gillen in the science-fiction short film ‘Ambition’, helmed by Oscar-nominated director Tomek Bagiński.

IFTN caught up with Aisling Franciosi to talk about her work in ‘The Fall’, currently airing Sunday nights on RTÉ (and Thursday nights on BBC) , and what the future holds for the actress.

IFTN: How did your role in ‘The Fall’ come about?

AISLING FRANCIOSI:Well, I sent in a tape of me singing first and then I was asked up to do the first audition in person with the casting director. After that I got a call-back where I auditioned with producer Julian Stevens and the director Jakob Verbruggen in the room. That was quite a long audition but I found out the next day that I got the part so it was all quite quick!

Were you given much direction by Allan Cubitt (creator and writer of the show, and director of the second series) in preparation for the role? Were you told to read or watch anything as a reference point?

You know, Jakob obviously was director of the first season so in terms of acting notes you turned to him. But Allan was on set all the time too actually so he gave some really good notes. Allan allows the actors to make a lot of their own choices unless he feels story-wise that it’s not going to work. He would perhaps come up with things that would remind you of something that happened beforehand so that it would give you a slightly different perspective on what you are about to do or say. I find that actually it’s interesting the way the direction came about in the sense that for season two he has written with what the actors had already done on season one. He wrote an amazing storyline for me in season two but I think it was based on what he had seen from season one. He’s very clever in the way that he does things. Sometimes it can be overwhelming if a director is giving you a million and one notes but Allen just gives you one thought - or he’ll ask you ‘would you think that?’ and he sows a seed in your head. So, it comes from the actor but with a nudge in the right direction from him.

We talked with the DOP of the show Ruairí O Brien last week and he spoke of the sparse dialogue and the use of imagery to help the story. I suppose this can be true of the characters too and in particular with Katie – whose machinations and motivations seem entirely removed from a normal 15 year old - there is always the sense that she is saying a lot more with her eyes and face than with her words. Was this a challenge for you?

Yeah, actually Allan said that – we were at a Q&A last week there in Belfast and he said that he quite likes using actors who are able to say things with their eyes more so – and those are his words not mine! I’m not saying I can do that but he seems to think I can [laughs]. But I think that’s one of the reasons that Jamie Dornan is so good, and obviously Gillian Anderson too, but as a model Jamie had to learn how to send something across with his eyes without saying anything and that really helped the performance because you can read so much without him saying anything. With Katie, there is definitely a troubled side to her. She initially seemed in season one a slightly rebellious and precocious teenager who is kind of coming into being aware of her sexuality but actually in season two you start to realise that it’s a bit more than that, there’s something else going on. So, I would maybe describe myself as quite a cerebral actor anyway so I quite like trying to portray stuff through the thought process of actually seeing the character think. So, I quite liked that about ‘The Fall’ and I hope it comes across!

You have worked alongside Gabriel Byrne in ‘Quirke’, how was it working with as big an Irish actor as Gabriel?

Great! I am so grateful to Gabriel and Louise Kiely (casting director) - they kind of took a risk putting me in ‘Quirke’ because ‘The Fall’ hadn’t come out yet when I got the part. So, I auditioned with Gabriel when Louise was in the room and Gabriel and I got on really, really well. We chatted about the part and read it a few times and something just clicked. He was really supportive the whole way through especially when he found out I hadn’t done much before – I mean I had done ‘The Fall’ season one but that was I think a 10 day shoot for me whereas ‘Quirke’ was a 16 week job where I was the lead female protagonist so it was a bit of a step up pressure-wise! He was just really supportive and I asked him every now and again to pass on any nuggets of information or advice that he had, just because he’s so experienced. Even just technical things not necessarily performance things, stuff that I wouldn’t have been aware of because I wouldn’t have been on set that much and he really helped me along and gave me great advice. Even now we keep in touch and if I am anxious about something or think I need a second opinion on something I can email him and he’ll give me some wise words!

You have been touted on a couple of different publications as ‘one to watch’, most notably you were the first Irish actress to be ‘one to watch’ by Screen International. Where other actors your age may be snatching at any scrap of a role, does your glittering reputation and your success so far give you freedom to be selective and pick and choose roles?

It’s a great honour, particularly Screen International because so many people have been on that list that I really admire – Andrea Arnold, Benedict Cumberbatch and loads of others! But it’s two-fold, I feel I have been spoiled. I got to work on ‘The Fall’ which was amazing, I got to work with Ken Loach – amazing! And of course working on ‘Quirke’ for BBC. I have been very lucky so far to work on projects of a certain standard and I am so aware of that and I don’t take it for granted. But at the same time I now look at a script and I if I don’t like it I won’t do it. It means I essentially choose not to work which can be difficult at times because I think ‘oh God, I need the money’! But I would prefer to be able to put everything into a role as opposed to just doing it for the sake of it. At the same time though, people aren’t falling over backwards offering me things but I am hoping ‘The Fall’ season two will add some fuel to the fire because I have some interesting scenes and storylines coming up.

With many up and coming actors in the industry like Jack Reynor, Sarah Greene and yourself, what is your opinion on the Irish film industry? Do you find it cut-throat?

In some regards it is cut-throat but I think that’s more from the higher powers that be rather than the creatives. We have so much talent here. Programs like ‘Love/Hate’ prove that and what I love about that show is it proves that we can cultivate a completely home-grown show that captivates Irish audiences. I hope that encourages RTÉ or whoever else to continue to support Irish writing, Irish directing, Irish acting more and more at home because ‘Love/Hate’ proves that it does pay off if you put the money in. Creatively, we have always had fantastic exports and I think we are starting to get more recognized even on the international stage.

We have mentioned your work with Irish actor Gabriel Byrne but you also worked with filmmaker Ken Loach, who we’ll call an honorary Irishman! What other Irish filmmakers and actors would you like to work with in the future?

Oh God – so many. All of them! But I would love to work with Jim Sheridan and am a big fan of Lenny Abrahamson’s work and would love to work with him too. Also, just touching on honorary Irishmen, I would also love to work with Daniel Day Lewis! But what really gets me is a great script, a great storyline and great quality. If it’s something that has a great story to tell and we’re all on the same page, then I would do it.

Aside from ‘The Fall’, what else can we expect from you in the future?

I am reading a few interesting scripts at the moment but nothing is set in stone right now. I have been so lucky to have been involved in so many great projects. Now, I am just kind of putting my feelers out there to see what I can do next.

‘The Fall’ is currently airing on RTÉ One on Sunday nights at 9.30pm and on BBC2 on Thursday nights at 9.30pm. Read IFTN’s interview with another actress on the show – Valene Kane - here.

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