One look at Faye Marsay in Pride and the audiences knows, her character Steph, is not a young lady to be trifled with. Dressed in a red tie-dye overalls with a quaffed rockabilly-inspired quiff — cooly saturated in a tangerine shade — Marsay’s character puts the spunk into social action. Known for her role in the popular BBC series The White Queen, Marsay delves into another period drama, this time playing a member of an alliance of gay and lesbian activists (including Bill Nighy as Cliff and Dominic West as Jonathan) protesting in the name of the National Union of Mineworkers, a pinnacle socio-political campaign in British history called the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM). That’s right, miners.
Set in 1984 during the UK miners’ strike, the film’s action begins wih the Union reluctant to accept support from the activists, not only because the government has sequestered all funds during the strike, making it impossible to bank money, but because the Union is worried about the public’s perception of an open affiliation between the two organizations. Undiscouraged, the activists take the funding they’ve been raising in the name of the miners, direct to a small mining town in Wales and the families of those on strike. Here, local miners come to realize the benefit of an understanding between parties and individuals.
As is to be expected of a film plot based in the politics of the ‘80s, Pride takes the audience inside Thatcher’s Britain and the social divide the government’s management of domestic affairs, such as the marginalization of the trade unions, gave way to. “Thatcherism was barbaric in my opinion,” declares Marsay. “I am from a North Eastern town that was hit hard by it, and you can still see the effects of her policies today within the community. I was incredibly passionate about the film due to my roots and also [because I was] surrounded by Bill, Imelda and others who really remember vividly that period in British history.”
Celebrating its North American premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) — following its world premiere at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the coveted Queer Palm award — audiences can catch Pride in select theatres around North America and the UK this month. Anticipating the upcoming walk down the red carpet at TIFF, we caught up with an enthusiastic Faye Marsay to talk about her role in the film, her character’s style and her own personal fashion sense.
Tell me about your character Steph? How does she fit into the action of the film?
Steph is sassy and edgy, yet obviously vulnerable underneath it all. She moved to London alone and has found her surrogate family in the other members of LGSM. When we first see her, she is the only lesbian within this group of men, and I think she quite likes that. She has a quirky and bold fashion sense and amazing hair! She is one of the founding members of LGSM and like the rest of the group, she digs deep to help raise funds for the miners, in a time of mass homophobia and prejudice. She goes on the journey with everyone through this incredible true story. I absolutely adored playing her.
She sounds wonderful! For better or for worse, Margaret Thatcher’s England is such an iconic time in British history. I imagine it was quite interesting being immersed in the culture of that particular moment in history, no?
It was wonderful to have the opportunity to be recreating the atmosphere of that time. The protests, the blood sweat and tears, the sense of community and togetherness against the enemy.
‘I understand that you didn’t know about the gay right’s activists supporting miners until you were sent the script. It’s such a fascinating piece of history, what about the story gripped you most upon your first reading?
The enormity of it all and why the story had never been told before. From the moment I started reading it, I was absorbed by the power of Ben’s character Mark, whose idea it is to help the suffering miners. Such passion, such conviction is a beautiful thing to read and I was hooked in by the first page. The main thing for me is the enormity of the statement these people made. Two groups, polar opposites, different worlds and yet here they are standing together, working together. What a beautiful story of the nature of human beings.
Have you had a chance to meet the real-life Steph yet?
No I haven’t met her, but I will at the premiere and I cant wait!
The film features an incredible ensemble cast; and you all seem to share a very natural chemistry. Was there much room for improvisation with the script, a chance to play off of the other actors during scenes at all?
Stephen’s script is so good that I don’t think we really felt the need to try out anything else! Of course we discussed different ways of approaching a scene, the details and the characters wants and needs, but the script itself is so good that all you needed was right there for you! Stephen was an actor, so he gets how actors work and the result is having an amazing script!
What was Matthew Warchus’s like as a director? Was he very hands on or was he more the type to allow the scene to unfold organically from the actor’s interpretation of the script?
Matthew is so quiet and such a nice man, but you can see his cogs turning all the time. He is soft spoken and you just feel safe in his company. He was a mixture of hands on and letting us do what we felt was right. He is a genius though in my opinion, and I consider myself extremely lucky to have worked with him.
TIFF is a wonderful festival to screen the film. What are you hoping audiences across the pond will take from this retelling of British history?
Power and inspiration. A group of very dedicated and beautiful human beings managed to achieve what we are showing in this film. It happened. I hope audiences will be able to appreciate the enormity of that. Also I want them to laugh their heads off too!
I think that’s a given! I feel like we can’t really talk about your character Steph without mentioning style. She’s got a great edge to her fashion sense. Was it fun slipping into a more quirky and dramatic look like hers?
It was incredible to be able to walk around wearing those clothes. Designer Charlotte Walter was brilliant with me and we spent time talking about how we wanted Steph to come across. They clothes are a mixture of class, quirky and cool. Steph is inspired by old movie stars, so she mixes lots of things up. The detail was amazing as well. I had loads of mad little accessories that went with each outfit. It was so cool!
We’re you nervous at all cutting and dying your own hair into a bleached Mohican quif ? Pretty big change from your White Queen look.
I’m not going to lie, I did have a glass of wine to chill me out while I was getting it done. Yeah, I was nervous, but I wanted to do it and felt something would have been missing if I did just get stuck in and commit completely to the whole process. I loved it in the end.
I imagine though that having the actual hairstyle rather than just a wig, helped get you into character.
Absolutely, it was a total embodiment if you like… and cool!
About your own sense of fashion, how would you describe your personal style?
I’m quite chilled out I think. I like to rock about in a dress, but then the next day I want jeans and comfy boots. I just go with what feels good. I like so many different styles. I love shoes though, and hats!
If you had to choose, what would you say your “uniform” is; an outfit from your wardrobe that is quintessentially you?
Skinny jeans. Heeled boots, Brogues or Nike hightops. Either a really dainty top or something more quirky. I seriously change my mind so much that this one is hard!
What about your red carpet style, do you have a particular “look” you gravitate towards?
This is my first time on a red carpet, so I’m a bit overwhelmed to be honest. I just fancy something that I’m going to love wearing and that is cool.
So no idea regarding what you plan on wearing to walk the red carpet at TIFF?
No idea yet! I think when I see it, I will just know and that one will be the one.
What item in your closet would you never want to part with?
My coats. I have many different styles and types to suit the weather!
What item in your closet might have already overstayed its welcome?
Oh loads of things. I am such a hoarder and can’t bear to throw anything away just in case “I might need it,” which never happens until the minute you give it away and then you are like, “oh…no…”
Any particular fall trends your excited about this season?
The ’60s Mod trend is exciting!
On the topic of trends, are you one to chase the latest looks off the runway, or would you say you prefer sticking to classic ensembles?
I’m just quite chilled when it comes to my look. I love to wear things that make me feel good about who I am, but I wouldn’t force myself to wear things just to fit in with everyone else. I just like what I like you know? I’m a big vintage coat fan though.
What are some of your favorite brand/designers, and what do you like about their style?
Miu Miu because they have that balance between edgy and classic, and I love their stuff. I also like high street stores such as Topshop. I like to find things in independent businesses, pre-loved clothing is always cool as well.
What style trait do you feel like is most attractive to people? In other words, if you were looking to attract attention from someone, what element of your personal style would you seek to highlight?
I would want to talk to them.
Who is your style icon and what do you love about their signature fashion look?
I don’t think I have one… is that bad? There are so many talented designers who bring great happiness to people who love the clothes, and the artistry of each individual designer. It’s quite a world, but I like to see people enjoying the clothes they wear because they feel good about them and themselves.Published September 3, 2014