ALEXANDRA ROACH was once the lead in the hit British thriller series - 'Utopia'. Now she's starring in a different kind of utopia, seething with techno-paranoia and dark, satirical themes that examine modern society - Netflix's 'Black Mirror'. The anthology series usually tells a different story every episode. However, 'Black Museum' (episode six of the upcoming season) is an anthology within itself, consisting of some unsettling stories relating to artifacts in an equally unsettling museum. Roach prominently features in one of the stories told by the Museum's proprietor.
AC: Were you a fan of ‘Black Mirror’ before joining the cast?
ALEXANDRA ROACH: I have been a fan of the show since it first aired on Channel Four - I think it has really captured the imaginations of a certain generation - my generation. It’s the one show all my friends are obsessed with so I was really excited to tell them I got a part in it.
What was your favourite episode?
That's such a hard question - my favourite episode I think of last season was 'Shut Up And Dance' - in true 'Black Mirror' style it left me disturbed and upset and thinking "Christ - this could actually happen at any moment to anyone".
What was your initial reaction to the script?
When I first read this episode of "Black Museum" - the pace of the episode left me breathless. I was very vocal when reading it - "No! That can’t happen!". It was certainly a page turner . It’s incredibly charming and then suddenly extremely disturbing.
Is an anthology format more appealing to you as an actress?
In a way it felt like we were shooting a film. As the whole crew is new, a new director comes in for each episode - it is a very intense quick shoot. I love the challenge of not having six episodes to establish the character and you have to dive in head first and hope the character comes to life and the relationships with the other actors are believable, as there isn’t time to warm up or for the audience to get on side.
What kind of preparation do you do for roles?
My preparation varies from part to part and is unique to the character that I’m playing at the time. When the character is far away from myself, I delve deep into a back story so I can imagine her part life and that brings her to life for me. Sometimes it doesn't happen until I put on my costume on day one of a shoot (which is terrifying) sometimes it comes in the accent or in images and research and other times it's all about trusting that my atoms will change when they need to.
"I think 'Black Mirror' and 'Utopia' are disturbed sisters in the same family."
Whilst establishing herself in high profile television roles, Roach also appeared in as the younger version of Margaret Thatcher in Meryl Streep's 'The Iron Lady'.
Do playing real-life figures like Margaret Thatcher limit your ability to be creative in a role? Are real-life figures just a different beast altogether?
I was very lucky in my casting of Margaret as I was tasked with playing her young, the Margaret that wasn’t yet in the public eye or before she had that famous voice, so in that way it was a very creative process as I had artistic licence. I read as much as I could about her, I had to then make it real. I adore that information being given to you but it is only helpful up to a point - then you must let it go and fill in the blanks with your own imagination and stories.
Did ‘Black Mirror’ bring back any memories of your time on ‘Utopia’? Were there any comparisons that could be drawn on-set?
I think 'Black Mirror' and 'Utopia' are disturbed sisters in the same family. There are so many comparisons and similarities in the style and world where they live in the genre. I think they also have a lot of the same fans, so I am excited to bridge the gap between the shows. The make-up designer Emma Scott - designed 'Utopia' and my episode of 'Black Mirror' so that was like revisiting a part of 'Utopia'.
If you could give ‘Black Museum’ an alternative title, what would it be?
Not For The Faint Hearted.
'As Good As It Gets' with Jack Nicholson & Helen Hunt
Best show to binge-watch?
'Transparent' on Amazon Prime
Everyone has a clever app idea, what’s yours?
Can’t tell you that now can I!
Last photograph you took?
Of my dog Ronnie Barker looking cute in a blanket - a miniature dachshund with a lot of attitude
What is your favourite quality about yourself?
My honesty - although it does get me into trouble!
Where were you born?
Swansea, South Wales
What was the last place abroad you visited?
What about your favourite country to visit?
Greece - the food, the sea, the people...LOVE IT.
Last song you listened to?
George Michaels - Freedom
Favourite solo artist?
The Black Madonna (DJ)
Is there a sport you wish you could play?
Tennis - love it when Wimbledon is on - would love to "hit the courts" one day and impress everyone
What's your hidden talent?
I know all the moves to 90’s pop classics.
Best gift you've ever received?
Tickets to an incredible music festival called Meadows In The Mountains in Bulgaria. The most incredible festival on top of mountains, above the clouds.
Getting into RADA - you have to go through four rounds of difficult tests and nerve-racking solo performances.
Biggest pet peeve?
Bendramwnwgl - 'To fall head over heels' in Welsh.
Last book you read?
Joan Didion - The Year of Magical Thinking
Advice to your younger self?
Don’t do anything you don’t want to do.
Black Mirror Season 4 begins streaming on Netflix globally from 29 December.