Abbey Lee on starring in new sci-fi thriller, Elizabeth Harvest
In the new sci-fi thriller Elizabeth Harvest, based on the tale of Bluebeard, 31-year-old Abbey Lee plays Elizabeth, the wife of a brilliant scientist whom she later finds out has been cloning her ever since her death many years earlier. Full of twists and turns this is a story of how science and technology can go horribly wrong.
ELIZABETH HARVEST IS A DARK AND TWISTED MOVIE. WHAT DREW YOU TO THE ROLE?
I was drawn to it primarily because, as a female, it’s really difficult to get sent material to read that has guts to it and with a character that has such an incredible arc; at the same time as being graceful is also really ballsy.
For the most part, scripts that I’m handed don’t have this richness to them so I was really excited to get this because there was so much room to explore all these different things in acting that a lot of the time women don’t get to do, like getting shot in the guts, hold a gun, kill someone, drag a body. Also, just the idea of playing 4 or 5 different versions of a character was really interesting and really challenging.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT HOW YOUR CHARACTER PROGRESSES AND HOW YOU APPROACHED PLAYING SEVERAL DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF YOUR CHARACTER ELIZABETH?
I became really obsessed with this idea of osmosis in that I kind of believe that through generations of bloodlines we carry a history. This woman and the way I varied her character was with this in mind, that if the experiences of the one before her carried over into the current one then she would be a little bit wiser, stronger and more self-sufficient. It was a challenge because even though they are all different characters they are essentially the same person so the adjustments had to be really slight for all the characters to remain true to the original Elizabeth. Sometimes I had to play all four Elizabeths in one day I carried palm cards around with me and each Elizabeth had a different name, a playlist, a picture of something I thought represented them and then each time I had to get into the other character I had the prompts if I needed them.
HOW DID YOU MASTER YOUR BRITISH ACCENT?
You just have to work hard at it. I think a lot of actors are lazy and they think that you can just be a parrot but you need to do more than that. I do lots of things, I’ll listen to British radio, listen to YouTube videos of Helena Bonham-Carter while I’m doing the dishes so I just have it in my ear constantly. I also worked with a dialect coach to specify the type of accent I want, there are so many different dialects so we work out what Elizabeth’s would be like so the coach can help me with that. You read the script and they let you know where your slipping.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE POWER DYNAMIC BETWEEN ELIZABETH AND HER HUSBAND HENRY?
She doesn’t know that he’s her creator in the beginning, so she’s been fed an idea of what he is so her feelings and thoughts towards him are all just what has been fed to her. I think it’s a different story with the original Elizabeth and Henry, they were deeply in love and there was mutual respect for each other, there was a lot of love there and they were equals in terms of power. Now, at this stage years later, Henry has gone a bit crazy so their relationship isn’t real, it’s questionable as to whether Elizabeth is even real. It’s like he’s playing God.
WE’RE MAKING STEPS WITH SCIENCE EVERY DAY. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS KIND OF THING BEING POSSIBLE IN THE FUTURE?
I find it all fascinating. I am resistant to a lot of that stuff, I’m much more the sort of person that wishes that things were a little more natural and I’m a little bit frightened about how things are moving on. I’m not tech savvy, I’m more feet in the dirt.
ELIZABETH COMES ACROSS AS ‘OTHER-WORLDLY’ – HOW DID YOU CHANNEL THAT?
When I was trying to work out who these women I, first of all, gave a backstory to the original Elizabeth which sets in stone her class, beliefs, what she was doing with her life at the time she died, because it informs the way that she walks, talks and moves. Going beyond that it was really difficult because if you’ve been asleep for your entire adult life, what happens when you come out of it? I realised that there would be an almost child-like response to it, so the first Elizabeth is super tactile. It’s like a newborn baby, there’s this woman who’s been infused with intelligence of some sort with memories and ideas, but in terms of being out in the world you’d be fascinated by everything. I just tried to make her really young at heart and really curious.
YOU’RE PROBABLY BEST KNOWN FOR MODELLING. ARE YOU HOPING TO TAKE YOUR CAREER SOLELY INTO ACTING?
Acting is my passion and modelling is my work, I just take jobs as they come depending on whether I want to do them or not. I don’t want to give up one for the other and don’t want to identify with just one. I do a lot of things like writing, painting and reading, I just identify as a woman who is working her life out. I won’t ever give up modelling, it helps me financially but it’s a very different thing for me now, it’s not a full-time job like it was.
DO YOU FEEL THAT EITHER ACTING OR MODELLING HAS HAD AN EFFECT ON YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?
Yeah, when you start modelling as a child and you’re put into an adult industry it’s not simple or easy. I was 14 when I started modelling and that’s no joke, I was still a kid. It’s had a huge impact on my mental health. It can be a very lonely life at times, you travel a lot, it’s hard to maintain relationships, I live on the other side of the world to my family. With acting, if you’re willing to do the work in the way that I always do then you have to go to places in your head that sometimes aren’t comfortable, and in your body, physically and mentally you have to explore things that aren’t comfortable.
DO YOU THINK THAT ACTING IS A MUCH MORE FREEING THING FOR YOU THAN MODELLING WAS?
I’m so obsessed with the craft of acting, it’s given me incredible freedom because the things that I’m able to explore within the work makes me feel free in a creative sense. There’s nothing creative about being a model, everyone is projecting their creativity on to you, from the hair, makeup, styling, the photography, it’s essentially someone else’s work on top of you. There’s very little creative outlet as a model, so creatively, acting has done a tremendous thing for me. It’s a communication, it’s the body and the mind, and everything that I’m interested in that comes from music, painting, and writing, it’s all in acting, the performance part of modelling is in acting so for me it’s made me feel free because I’m so happy doing it.
HOW DO YOU FIND BALANCE IN YOUR DAY TO DAY LIFE?
Day by day my life is really different, I work strange hours, I sometimes have long periods where I’m not working, so for me I need to be able to release energy in a creative way. I maintain balance just by keeping myself busy creatively. I have to study, I have to stretch my mind, because otherwise I feel useless and I go mad. I can’t not be doing some sort of mental activity which is why I think modelling drove me mad.
Health wise I’ve done transcendental meditation for a couple of years which helps to really take the edge off of some of the stress in my life. In terms of physical activity I do a lot of different things, sometimes I feel like going to a contemporary dance class and sometimes I want to go lift really heavy weights. I just listen to my body, and I’m severely allergic to a schedule, so I just allow myself to do what I need to do.
Elizabeth Harvest will be available on Digital Download from 1st April and can be bought here