Carey Mulligan has come a long way since her star-making performance in An Education. Now a mother of two, she tells Karen Ann Overton about her new outlook on life.
“What does motherhood change? Well, your whole life – it’s undeniable – it changes everything,” muses a radiant Carey Mulligan, who gave birth to her second child, Wilfred, last August. “As regards my work, I don’t know if motherhood is always the first thought on my mind when I read a script, but I would suspect it’s altered my attitude.”
Having taken a two-year hiatus from filming following the birth of her daughter Evelyn in September 2015, the 32-year-old Londoner has adopted a somewhat different approach to parenthood second time round, working throughout and directly after her pregnancy. And it’s a process that hasn’t been without its challenges. Yet when an opportunity as irresistible as the lead role in Sir David Hare’s upcoming BBC detective thriller, Collateral, comes along, it can be difficult to say ‘no’. “With a second child, you’re a lot less paranoid, and I definitely felt I was ready for new challenges this time around,” she says.
Having worked with renowned playwright and director Hare previously on the critically acclaimed production of his play Skylight, the pair gained such a rapport that when Mulligan told him she would love to take on the role of Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie in the four-part series were it not for her recent baby news, he simply worked in a pregnancy storyline.
At the start of filming, Mulligan had to don a fake bump, but by the end of the process she was well into her pregnancy, with 70-year-old Hare joking that they wanted to make the series as quickly as possible before she gave birth.
“The biggest challenge was the night scenes,” she admits. “Towards the end I was seven months pregnant, driving around London all night and the baby was just going mental, kicking and mega uncomfortable!”
We all know the impact children can have on work and career, but for the actress, the repercussions have not just been practical or physical, but emotional too, transforming the way she approaches her characters. In last year’s Netflix drama Mudbound, Mulligan played Laura, a downtrodden wife and mother in America’s deep south during the 1940s. It was a role that proved to be symbolic, given it was the actress’s first opportunity to embody the thoughts and actions of a parent since becoming one herself.
“I’d played mothers before without having ever known what it’s like to have your own child,” she says of the film, which also featured a harrowing miscarriage scene. “My daughter was eight months old when we were filming so it was the first time I felt so connected in that way. It felt so much more intense, knowing and experiencing those emotions.”
The actress may have garnered a reputation for playing complex, troubled, and in some cases dowdy women, but Mulligan still enjoys dressing up when the moment calls; like her recent photoshoot for Vogue Australia in which the beauty donned a voluminous pink couture gown and oversized sunglasses. As she posed seductively on a rooftop in New York, you would have never have guessed that in between shots the actress was happily breastfeeding her infant son. “It’s the same as when I had my daughter – we started press for Suffragette three weeks after I gave birth, so you just get back into it and it’s fine, because it’s not like filming, where you need to use your brain all the time. It’s much more about showing up,” she told the magazine.
When not larking about on rooftops or working on set, Mulligan and her singer/songwriter husband Marcus Mumford (of Mumford & Sons) prefer the quiet life on their plot in Devon. Boasting a 16th century farmhouse and acres of lush land, it’s the perfect place to escape the heat of the media, even if Mulligan admits gruelling schedules often get in the way of the good life.
“It’s very relaxing in the countryside but we don’t always spend as much time there as we’d like, because I’m always shooting all over the place. But I do have a fondness for nature because half my family is Welsh, and I spent a lot of time in the countryside as a young girl,” she says wistfully.
With both her and Mumford notorious in their reluctance to indulge in press, even when their jobs demand it, it’s surprising to see how relaxed the actress has become. “In the past, I hated all of it,” she admits. “The interviews, the red carpets, I hated it. I used to get to the end of a red carpet and start crying.”
So what’s changed? “I think perhaps I may have taken it a little too seriously,” she says candidly. “And now, the emphasis can’t be on that, it’s on your dependents and their world.
I see this is a much lighter approach.”
This ‘lighter’ approach, however, ends when the cameras roll, for Mulligan still takes her work as an actor extremely seriously. Just one look at her next project, Wildlife, confirms that. The directorial debut of actor and writer Paul Dano, the film is set in 1960s America, and tells the stirring and turbulent tale of a 16-year-old boy who must bear witness to the breakdown of his parents’ marriage.
Given her own marital bliss, one can assume Mulligan would have to dig deep for such a gut-wrenching role, but instead she sees the opportunity of being able to portray such formidable females as a ‘remarkable honour’.
“It’s very important for young girls to watch a movie or a television series and see women in these leadership roles, making decisions for themselves, being proactive,” she says. “I’m very driven by that.”
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