When Rosie Day zipped through the Hoxton Hotel foyer to greet me wearing a shimmering short wool dress, fringed with frou-frou white feathers and paired with chunky DM boots I knew it was going to be a fun interview.
Despite the near freezing temperatures outside she’d braved bare legs for the shoot and rushed down to meet me without time to change. And Rosie didn’t disappoint.
Hailed as ‘one to watch’ by industry big-wigs, with a long list of stage and screen credits already behind her aged just 20 and now starring alongside everyone’s favourite on-screen sex-columnist Sarah-Jessica Parker in her brand new film, I was keen to find out what makes this British starlet tick. A conflicted rabbit, Tinder dates and a love of the Royals were just the tip of the ice-berg. And just FYI, this girl has been in SJP’s real life, actual walk-in-wardrobe…
Wow – you look glamorous!
I got to wear loads of different outfits for the shoot – lots of grown up stuff which was amazing. There was this one dress that was cut really low – it was really cool.
I’d be tempted to forget to give a couple back!
I know – but at the moment I’ve just got noodles on my mind. I’ve just discovered Wok To Walk in Leicester Square – I’m definitely going there afterwards.
Sounds good. I’m a bit obsessed with Itsu at the moment, so I might do the same. So, you’ve been acting since you were five-years-old – what got you started?
I was a really shy kid, but my sister was one of those annoying all singing, all dancing children. My parents took her to stage school and when she was eight she got a part in a BBC series called Hope and Glory. The producers decided they wanted a little sister for her in the show and the casting director came to me and asked me if I would do but I said no. In the end the fact that I’d get to miss school persuaded me to do it. I had no idea what I was doing, and have hardly any memories of actually doing that job now.
Is your sister still acting?
No, she stopped. She’s a talented musician and she went into that side of performing.
Wow – so her love of acting as a kid changed your career path!
I know, it’s so weird. I sort of owe her everything, as without her I would never have gone into acting.
[At this point Dougie Poynter from McFly walks through reception with a massive entourage and both Rosie and I get distracted. I haven’t got my glasses on so have to take Rosie’s word for it that it’s definitely him!]
Sorry, yes – so for me it was completely accidental. I never would have found acting on my own because I was really shy at school. I was into dance and gymnastics, but not acting.
And then you dropped out of your A-Levels to act full time?
Yeah, I acted all through school and when I was 16-years-old I got a part in a play at The Royal Court, and that was when I got signed by a big agent. I’d started my A-Levels, but there was no way I could be getting jobs filming for four months in Manchester and be in school in Winchester at the same time. So my parents – who are not at all pushy – said I could quit my A-Levels. And I just continued acting from then.
It looks like you haven’t stopped working since. Your IMDB profile is bulging and you’re not even 21 yet…
Yes, although I’m playing teenagers, so I’ve got to transition into playing an adult soon which is a bit terrifying. I play 14 to 18 at the moment, so I’m yet to play a role my own age.
So tell me about your new film All Roads Lead to Rome
It’s really cute – I just watched a preview of it and I was really proud of it. It takes a lot for me to say that, normally I’m hiding under a pillow. I think because I don’t look like me in it, I could watch it and enjoy it.
Yes – you got to dye your hair pink! Was that all real?
Yes – my hair is ruined! They bleached my hair for seven hours and then dyed it pink over the top. Growing up I was a massive Avril Lavigne fan and she always had pink hair, so getting to do it was really cool. But I did have to chop lots of my hair off after the shoot – it’s much shorter than normal now - it was really dead after the dying!
And did you dye it back after filming?
Yes, it just didn’t feel like me. It just wasn’t right.
So you definitely didn’t have more fun as a blonde?
No, although I just did a film where I got to wear a long ginger / red wig and I loved it. I’m tempted to do that. I think if I wasn’t an actor I’d be one of those people who dyed their hair constantly, and had loads of different hairstyles.
Another actor said the same to me about tattoos – that he’d have loads if he wasn’t an actor.
I’ve only got one tattoo – I got one for my birthday.
Ooh, for your 20th? What’s it of and where is it?
Yes – it’s an arrow that I drew myself, and I have it on my side. The meaning is follow your arrow and keep doing what you want to do. There’s a song by a country artist called Kasey Musgrave called ‘Follow Your Arrow’ – it’s really funny and true, and that’s what inspired me to get it.
Do you look at it every now and again to motivate yourself?
I completely forget I have it! I look down and I’m like, “Oh yeah, I have a tattoo!” No one ever believes that I have one.
It’s a good idea to have it somewhere tucked away, especially when you are playing younger roles.
Definitely – I wanted one on my wrist, but I knew that was never going to happen.
So tell me about Sarah Jessica Parker. I just have the biggest girl-crush on her.
She is my favourite woman ever. She’s amazing. I hadn’t ever watched any of Sex and the City, but some of my friends were massive fans. I remember doing an audition tape for All Roads Lead to Rome and thinking there was no way I’d ever get the part. I look nothing like her, so I just couldn’t see how I’d get cast to be her daughter. And then somehow they chose me! We just had the best two months in Rome together, riding bikes around and eating so much gelato and pasta every night. We’re both massive foodies.
Sarah Jessica Parker eats a lot of pasta? That’s breaking news…
Yes! She loves food – all we did was eat! To have her as a friend was great – she’s a really smart, funny woman. And she’s a business woman too – there’s nothing she doesn’t know about acting. She’s the consummate professional on set. She was a child actor too, so the way we work is really similar, and we very instinctively bounced off of each other. It was great to be able to have her help and advice. There are just not enough words in the dictionary to describe how much I love her.
I’m glad she’s as nice as I want her to be!
We had a really weird moment where we were in her real life closet and I was trying on her clothes, and I just thought to myself, “There would be so many girls who would kill to be stood right here!” And I have loads of her clothes. We’re the same dress size, so anything she didn’t want she gave to me. She went back to New York one weekend, and brought back a whole load of clothes for me. People ask me where I got my trousers from, and I’m like Sarah Jessica Parker. They think I mean a shop or something, but no, it’s actually trousers from Sarah Jessica Parker!
Do you ever get star struck?
I get star stuck all the time! Like just now with Dougie Poynter! Apparently when I first met Sarah Jessica Parker I was like a rabbit in the headlights. But she took everyone out to dinner on the first night and immediately got rid of any nerves. But yeah, I get star-struck all the time. Teenage girl fandom is something I very much buy into! My bedroom is still covered with pictures and photos of everyone I love.
So did you go back and watch some Sex and the City once you knew you had the part?
No! I tried to watch it afterwards, but obviously Sarah Jessica Parker’s 50 now and watching her back when she was 28 just felt weird. One day, when I’m a bit older, and I’ve got a boyfriend I think I’ll watch it. When I feel like I can relate to it a bit more.
You cannot have time for a boyfriend – I don’t know how you’d fit it in!
No but I’d quite like one! I’ve never had one, so I feel like I’m ready for one now.
You’re not tempted to go on Tinder?
I’m on Tinder! I’m 100% on Tinder!
You must be constantly bugged by guys!
No, I’m really fussy so I’m always swiping left. I’ve been on two Tinder dates and they were really good, but I lied and told them I was a psychology student. I’m not going to get into what I do.
That’s really wise.
I’m always asking people “Do you know any fit guys between 20 and 25 you could set me up with?” Because that would be really good!
Maybe the perfect guy will read this article and get in touch! Like a personal ad! So you’re super busy at the moment, and getting lots of screen work. Are you ever tempted to move to America?
I could totally move to New York. LA I like, but only for short periods of time. It’s a bit crazy there. Plus I’m so British – I love London and I love England. I’d like to go work over there and then come back home. I’m incredibly patriotic – when Kate and Wills got married I decorated our entire house and hung banners around the windows!
Plus you’d miss your family
Yeah, and my family would miss me. I think they’d just keep Skyping me until I came home. They’ve learnt how to Facetime and it’s dangerous.
My parents can text and call, that’s it. I’m keeping it that way!
My parents hold up the dog when we chat. And they’ve bought me a rabbit. Who buys a 20-year-old a rabbit?? Now they just hold up the bunny instead.
That’s so cute, what’s he called?
He’s evil and he’s called Twizzle. He’s got one ear that constantly sticks up. When they got him they were told he was a special-needs bunny and he really is. He wants to be cuddled but every time you go near him he bites you. He’s a really conflicted rabbit.
Talking about conflicted, your first film role - The Seasoning House – was about as challenging as it could be. You played Angel, a deaf mute in a war-torn Serbian brothel. The polar opposite to a rom com really.
Yes, roles like that for teenage girls just don’t normally come up. I thought they were going to go for someone older, who just looked really young. Weirdly it was really fun to do – the set had to be really happy because what we were filming was so dark. My character was seeing things like girls being raped and her mother being killed. I remember I was still trying to balance it with my A-Levels then, and going back to school and not believing what I’d spent the last two months of my life doing.
I’m surprised you didn’t get flashbacks
Yeah, I did! The film got a really mixed reception – people either loved it or hated it. But it was all based on a real girl’s life. She was great to play because she was so kick-ass. I’m a massive feminist so girls fighting back is a big thing for me. And I got to do all my own stunts – I’ve still got scars all over my legs and we filmed it four years ago. I got pretty beaten up!
And you learned sign language for the part?
Yes – the other girl in the film was much better at it than I was, but it was me who was supposed to be deaf. We had a lovely teacher, and we used to do it all the time. I can’t remember any of it now though.
I tried to learn sign language once, but I found it really hard because I’m not good with my left and right.
Neither am I! When I walk out of buildings I have to look at my hands to see which way to go.
Yup, me too. You’ve acted for theatre, TV and film – do you have a favourite?
There’s nothing like the live buzz of an audience, and you learn so much in theatre so I think that’s very important. But I love filming too. The thing is I have no memory of not acting, which is scary, so it’s just what makes me feel normal.
Most of us have a photo album to look back at childhood memories; you must have a show reel!
Yeah! But most of the old ones from when I was really little are on video tape, so I’d have to get them all converted from VHS!
That sounds like a job for a dad! So, you were named as a Screen International Star of Tomorrow in 2013 – following in the footsteps of actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne and Carey Mulligan. Does that feel like a massive privilege, or a massive pressure?
Carey Mulligan is the all-time favourite idol of my life, so that was amazing. We joked that our year was the let-down year, because the next year they picked people who were already quite famous. None of us were, but it is supposed to be stars of tomorrow! It’s such an honour though, to know someone in the industry believes in you. When I got the call I couldn’t believe it.
Is that what happens, your agent calls you up to let you know?
Yes – the first thing I did was phone my mum and ask her if she wanted to hear some good news. She was so excited.
So which other actresses inspire you?
Kate Winslet, Julie Walters, Helena Bonham-Carter, Emma Thompson. People who are versatile – it’s all about that versatility for me, playing different roles, that’s what excites me and what I’m impressed by.
What do you do when you want to get away from it all?
I’m not very good at it because I’m obsessed with work! I go to dance class, watch a lot of telly and films and I eat a lot. And my four best friends, who aren’t actors, are like my backbone and I hang out with them loads. Two of them are coming with me on a shoot tomorrow, and I’m so excited because I just love them.
They are going to distract you massively!
Totally! I’ve realised as I’ve got older that friendship is so important – some people just don’t value it as much as others, but for me my friends are everything. I’d do anything for my friends, and they’d do the same for me.
Red carpet events sound pretty glamorous – but are they as fun as they look?
They are terrifying! Once you get inside the event is really fun, with nice food and cool people. I always take a friend who will talk to anybody because I’m still pretty shy and won’t just go up to people, but she will. We went to the polo, and she dragged me up to meet Prince Harry. I’d never do that on my own! But the red carpet bit is really scary. I’m always worried I’m going to fall flat on my face. I haven’t so far, but it’s a big fear.
The guys get it pretty easy in comparison. How long does it take you to choose a dress?
Yeah, the guys just have to wear a black suit! For the last red-carpet event it took me two days to decide on a dress, but it’s easier when you are given options and you just have to choose.
I guess the more famous you get, the more people throw clothes at you to wear
Yeah, but I don’t think it will ever feel better, having to stand in front of screaming photographers. I went to one awards ceremony and I had these really see-through trousers and tiny black vest top and I was so cold. It might have looked great, but I was just trying to look like I wasn’t freezing and terrified. But I don’t have many red-carpet events to do, so I get away with it!
Well you’ll have the All Roads Lead to Rome premiere soon. Maybe SJP can lend you an outfit?
I’ll definitely be wearing her shoes – the SJP line of shoes is amazing!
Good tip. OK, quick-fire round – What were your New Year resolutions this year?
For the first time ever, I did a massive list of resolutions with my friends. It’s essentially about being the best and happiest version of yourself possible.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes, 100%. We had to move house because my dad got haunted. He was being pulled out of bed every night and thrown against a wall! My dad’s side of the family – the Days – are all very sensitive to that kind of thing, I haven’t got it thank God – I’ve never seen a ghost! But for filming Outlander in Scotland we stayed in an old asylum, and the first three nights I had to sleep with my light on because I was so scared.
Everything! Um, chicken nuggets, pizza, pasta – everything I’m not meant to eat!
Well you’d never guess!
It’s going to go wrong at some point – I love food!
Ah well, then you can play character roles. Best way to spend a surprise day off?
I love an afternoon tea. I’m going to one tomorrow, and I’m so excited.
If you hadn’t been an actress you’d have been…
A Norland Nanny - I love children. I would have gone to Bath to train.
And you get an amazing outfit too!
Yes, just like Mary Poppins! And you get to travel, and get paid really well too.
Hmm… I might re-train. Do you believe in fate?
Yes. I believe what is meant for you won’t go by you.
Any recurring dreams?
Yes, an anxiety dream where all my teeth fall out. I spit, and they all fall out in my hands. The moment I’m worrying about something I get that dream.
Dog or cat person?
I have to say dog, because we have two, but I do really like cats.
Your dream role?
I think every girl would say a Katniss Everdeen style role, like in The Hunger Games. I think it’s important to play smart, funny, strong women. They’re being written for more now, but I think there’s still a long way to go.
Have you met Jennifer Lawrence?
No, I’d love to. I met Taylor Swift and that nearly made me die. She’s amazing. I met her at a party and she stood and spoke to me for 20 minutes. She’s been my idol since I was about 12 years-old.
Wow, you’re ticking them off - Sarah Jessica Parker, Taylor Swift…
J-Law is next.
So what does 2016 have in store?
I think I grew up quite a lot last year, so I want to put everything I learned into practice this year. Self-improvement, happiness…
And meet J-Law!
Exactly – 2016 done!
All Roads Lead To Rome is available in digital platforms now and on Blu-ray and DVD from February 29th courtesy of Signature Entertainment