Interview with Simone Lahbib of “Bad Girls”


AE: You started filming Wire in the Blood just months after giving birth to your daughter. How did that affect your acting?
I just had to work in a different way. My priorities had changed. I had this gorgeous but very demanding little person to look after. Thankfully, my mum came with me so I knew that when I was working, the wee one was happy. I've heard other women talk about their brains going to mush after giving birth. I had to start learning lines at least three days in advance to let them sink in, and overall, I had to just surrender to the situation and be a bit more laissez faire. My work felt messier, which in some ways was quite liberating. And because I was so tired, I got the giggles a lot. [Laughs.]

AE: Mandana Jones, your co-star on Bad Girls, used the word “meticulous” to describe your acting and mentioned how hard the two of you worked to prepare for your scenes together.
SL: Well, I had the luxury of time on that job! But yeah, preparation is important to me. If you can get together with the other actors, even just to talk things through, I think it can make all the difference. Mandana and I would always try to get together to work on scenes, especially when they were complex. It helped us to be clear in our intentions so we knew what the characters wanted from moment to moment … which in turn translates to the nonverbal communication that fleshes out a scene and can often tell the audience more about the characters' relationship than the dialogue.

AE: Do you pick up things from other actors when you're working with them?
SL: If you get the chance to work with someone who's really good, it ups everyone's game. It's inspiring and exciting to be around. The concentration goes up a notch, and they seem to draw the other actors away from the temptation to act — to be fake, in other words. Mandana's incredibly bright and has a lot of heart. She always works from truth, and I try to do the same. I think when something comes from the heart, then it can make the audience feel something, whereas if it's just clever acting, the audience goes, “Wow, that was great,” but they haven't necessarily felt anything.

AE: For non-actors, it's hard to fathom the degree of trust necessary to carry off intimate scenes.
SL: For me, if you can find that level of trust when you're working, it can help the chemistry. Maybe it's partly why the chemistry happens, because you let each other in. Mandana and I worked together very intimately for three years exploring Helen and Nikki's relationship; there was a lot of trust between us.

AE: There's a physical trust, obviously, and what else?
SL: I can't speak for other actors because everyone has a different way of working and thoughts about what's important. But for me, to play an intimate scene you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable, drop your ego, drop your barriers — and just connect with the other actor. It's like a switch that you flick and, when it's on, the scene flies.

AE: You mentioned to me before that of all the characters you've played, you admire Helen Stewart the most. Why is that?
SL: Because of her courage, first and foremost, and because she cared. She was very sincere in what she was doing. She risked a lot to build this relationship. She fell in love, possibly for the first time, and against all odds they find a way. Of course, she was flawed as well. She could be really annoying, the way she reacted to certain things. She could be quite … not pompous, but authoritative, which made her human, as flaws do. It wasn't necessarily endearing [laughs], but it all made up the whole.

AE: That's interesting that you list “authoritative” as a negative quality.
SL: Well, I was meaning it in terms of how she used it sometimes within her relationship with Nikki. She would use her work status and pull rank. Whenever she felt frightened, she would throw the walls up. But the whole authoritarian thing, with certain other characters like [prison officer] Jim Fenner or Simon [Stubberfield, prison governor], was different. With them you were quite happy to see her show of strength. But not in her relationship with Nikki. That was all part of Helen's complexity, and Nikki was always trying to break those barriers down and get to the true person behind all of that, which won through in the end.

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