JESSICA ELLERBY [PENNYWORTH]
Dark, sexy and thrilling- that’s how actress Jessica Ellerby would describe the world of her show Penyworth. ELLERBY plays her own version of Queen Elizabeth II from the Epix’s action-crime drama, Pennyworth. In this interview, the actress chatted with us about the alternative world of Pennyworth, her deep passion and fascination for acting, as well as her love for people and travelling.
Read on and learn more about her acting journey, her affinity to dark ,gritty dramas, her dream projects and check out which charity she supports.
Tell us a little about your story. Who is Jessica Ellerby?
I was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates where I lived until I was 17 when I came back to the UK to do my A levels then drama school. I’ve always wanted to act. it’s like some weird built-in programming to tell stories and understand other people.
I’m from a really tight knit family though so moving to the other side of the world alone to pursue all that was much tougher than I could have ever anticipated (on everyone!)
What’s your favorite thing about being an actor?
The variety of it! I couldn’t do the same thing day in day out. Or sit at a desk. I applaud anyone who can sit in one place for 9 hours a day looking at a screen. I’d implode. At midday. On day 1.
As an actor, what type of roles and genres do you normally gravitate towards?
I always love this question, but I’m going to answer it honestly for once - you really don’t get that much of a choice until much later in the game. It’s very much about luck.
But If I COULD CHOOSE, it would just be characters that I find interesting (for whatever reason), and across as many varying genres as possible. I like to watch quite dark and gritty dramas, so maybe I’d start to swing in that direction eventually. Who knows!
What can you tell us about your character Queen Elizabeth II on Pennyworth and what’s in store for the season?
She’s an interesting one - iconically recognizable, but with a real slant. I think audiences will be surprised as to how the story develops!
How did you prepare and get yourself into the headspace for the character of Queen Elizabeth II?
So although she’s the Queen, Pennyworth is set in an alternate reality, so that was something I had to bear in mind right from the outset. She’s not completely historically exact - she’s not married, we don’t see any siblings etc., and the way that she’s written is far more relaxed & sassier than our actual monarch. So, as ever, the script has to be your bible over anything else. And that’s always the first stage of preparation for me.
And because of that she felt like she had a bit of an energy of Princess Margaret too - a bit of a mix of the both of them.
So I did as much research as I could (mostly online) on both of them to use as a foundation to build upon.
But there isn’t this massive ‘sit down and discuss’ moment with anyone, so you just find your way as best you can in advance, and then there’s a fair bit of finishing touches on set too - notes from the director, stuff bled down from production - thinking on your feet and being adaptable in the moment too.
Describe Pennyworth in 3 words.
Dark. Sexy. Thrilling.
What’s your dream project?
To be honest, the characters and their emotional landscape are what I’m drawn to. So that would be at the heart - a meaty protagonist where I’d be challenged and get a chance to really flex my acting muscles please!
I’d love to do a beautiful Indie film - I think you get a bit more freedom to tell less conventional stories.
Or maybe a mini series. I actually don’t care what the medium is, just a part that makes me squeal.
Aside from acting, what do you normally enjoy doing in your free time?
I’ve always had the travel bug HARD, so I love to explore new places whenever I can. I love that total culture shock of arriving somewhere you know very little about and just being immersed in a completely different way of living.
It’s that same fascination with people that draws me to acting I think - what makes us behave the way we do.
I also practice a lot of yoga - that’s a fairly immovable daily routine for me.
If you were a book, what kind of book would you be and why?
Hmm, I’d be a novel for sure (I’m not a facts and figures kinda gal)
Something with a lot of unashamed heart and adventure - maybe Eat Pray Love? God, that makes me sound like a total cheese ball *immediately tries to think of a more serious and intelligent book*
Fuck it, Eat Pray Love. I stand by it - it’s joyful and makes me feel fearless and want to gorge on life. Who wouldn’t love to be that?!
If you had the chance to help any specific charity / organization, which one would it be and why?
I’ve actually worked for children’s charity ’Spread A Smile’ for about 8 years. We go into 5 different hospitals across London and entertain sick children. The sole purpose is to make them smile. It’s an incredible charity for an amazing cause and I’m really lucky to be part of it.
See Jessica as The Queen aka Queen Elizabeth on Pennyworth only on EPIX.