Hannah Murray is one of the nation’s most adored young actresses who first shot to fame as Cassie in Channel 4 drama Skins. With a sweet personality and cute smile she has brains to boot (she’s studying English at Queens College), and this actress proves there’s no excuse not to follow both your professional and academic passions.
Since the age of 17, Hannah’s been breaking the mould in the acting game. Now at 21, she talks about growing up inside her Skins character, through to her latest film Chatroom – a story that follows teenagers who meet online and encourage each other’s destructive behaviour.
For your first acting appearance in Skins, did you feel really nervous the first time you were on set?
Yes, the whole thing was completely unexpected for me. I was 17 when I started, so the fact that my character was the way she was – dippy and damaged – was a scary thing as well as because it was all so new to me.
Regarding the role of Cassie, arguably the most adored cast member by the majority of Skins fans, do you feel she was a test? Was there anything you’ve discovered about yourself growing up?
Yeah, I think I learnt loads because it was two years of my life and I grew up a lot along the way while doing it, not just because of acting, but also in general.
What do you think about the issue of young people, like Cassie, who suffer from low self-esteem?
Everyone goes through periods of low self-esteem. I definitely have had moments of being really insecure and I guess I still do. I think that’s why Cassie is a character that a lot of people can relate to, even if they didn’t have problems that are quite as extreme as hers. But everyone knows what it’s like – not being sure about yourself and doubting yourself. There are people who come across as really confident, but they also have issues, so it’s more about learning to deal with it and to overcome your fears and not let it take over your life.
You’ve developed a promising career. How would you encourage youngsters who have talent to push through their fears into the unknown like you?
I think life in generally is pretty terrifying, so doing new things is always quite a scary prospect, but not in the same way as falling in love is scary or university is scary as those are both exciting at the same time. You need to be focused and go for it, because it’s sad to hold back just because you’re worried things will go wrong. Life is about making mistakes too, so you learn things. Even if you try but fail, the main thing is knowing that you tried.
What have you been up to lately?
I’ve just finished filming for The Tamed Ones, which we shot in Belgium and Canada. It’s about a young guy whose parents have passed away and he’s trying to fight for custody with his little sister. I play his girlfriend, so it’s a sad story looking at how much they care about the situation or whether they just want the money that will come with it. It was a really interesting choice of characters and the film’s tone and look is quite realistic. That was really good.
Are you a typical student?
Haha! I’ve just started my third year at university studying English. I’ve been doing it part-time, so it’s worked out really well. In my first year I made two films – one I completed in the easter holidays and another in the
summer. My studies just happened to fit around those really well. My college was really supportive of me doing my own thing and was really helpful. The good thing is that what I’m studying and how I work put each other into perspective, so I don’t get too stressed out as they balance each other out. They really help each other.
You were recently at the Cannes Film Festival. How did you find it mixing with all the movers and shakers? Was there anyone special you got to meet?
Oh, no we were sort of ushered around, unfortunately, and we didn’t get to see anyone. We were only there for one night, so we arrived in the afternoon with the festival in the evening then the next day we had to get ready to leave for the airport. So we didn’t get to hang out and meet any stars. But it was really exciting and I’m really proud to have got to talk about the film, and see it.
Your fellow Skins star Dev Patel shot to global fame with Slumdog Millionaire. Do you think you can handle being a celebrity as well as a young actor?
I don’t think even Dev was ready; I don’t think people walk around saying like: ‘Yeah I’m ready to be really famous now’. I think Dev made a really great film. He did his job really well, but I don’t think it makes him a celebrity in any way; it makes him a good actor – which is what he is. That’s all I’m interested in – doing good work. I don’t know if I can cope with something like Twilight. I don’t think it’d be something I’d enjoy being involved with at all. I don’t think anyone can prepare for that kind of fame because it’s so surreal. Plus, it will change your life forever for better and worse. I’m just happy as things stand – I want to keep working and trying different things.
Chatroom is released in cinemas nationwide Dec 22
Interview by Saima Azam