Jessie Buckley Is About to Be Everywhere, but All She Wants Is to Go Home and Make a Cup of Tea
The Wild Rose star sings, acts, and is on a first-name basis with Renée Zellweger.
Join us for some Small Talk as we sit down with some of Hollywood’s biggest breakout stars.
Jessie Buckley’s not a household name in America just yet, but with a slate of star-studded upcoming projects, a formidable acting talent, and a lilting voice that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled, it’s only a matter of time.
Buckley's career began in 2008 when she won second place in the Andrew Lloyd Webber-led U.K. talent competition I'd Do Anything. And though more than a decade has passed, after just a few minutes with the 29-year-old it’s clear to see that she’s far from the jaded Hollywood type that time in the spotlight tends to produce.
Testament to just how quickly her star is rising, I met the multi-hyphenate just ahead of her appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. She was running behind so I volunteered to conduct our interview in her car on the way to the taping — a cool first for me that I will be bragging about for years to come. She’s raw when we speak, opting for honesty over the polished soundbites. When I ask her what she wishes more people knew about her, she takes a moment to mull it over, finally quietly admitting, “That I get scared.”
The Irish actress and singer’s latest endeavor takes the form of Wild Rose, a sincere and moving portrait of a strong-willed Glasgow woman, newly released from prison, who’s determined to become a country singer in Nashville.
In a performance bursting with heart and authenticity from the second she steps into Rose-Lynn’s cowboy boots until her final bow, Buckley gives the complicated (and not always likable) character her all. She’s been receiving similar raves for her performance in Chernobyl in which she plays Lyudmilla Ignatenko, one of the victims of the devastating nuclear accident.
What’s next for Buckley? Honestly, what isn’t? She has five buzzy films coming down the pike, including Judy Garland biopic Judy, Cold War drama Ironbark alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel Brosnahan, the 1970 Miss World competition-set Misbehaviour with Keira Knightley and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Charlie Kaufman’s hotly-anticipated adaptation of acclaimed novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things.
The star on the rise opened up to InStyle about everything from her musical new movie to Renée Zellweger’s tracksuits.
InStyle: As an Irish singer and actress coming to America, did Rose-Lynn’s journey to realizing her dreams resonate with you at all?
Jessie Buckley: Yeah, I suppose. When I read the script I wasn’t like "oh, brilliant, that’s me! I don’t have to do any work." I could relate to being passionate about something. If I’m honest, Rose-Lynn had much more courage than I had. I never ever, ever thought I would make a film or even be in a conversation of this land, ‘cause that was just so far away for me.
I also relate to wanting something for yourself, but also the reality of how you move forward while also nurturing the relationships that are around you, and how who they are to you informs who you are in the rest of the world. It’s not black and white like that. I can understand that.
I can’t get the songs from the soundtrack out of my head. I know your background’s in musical theater — what was it like to get to sing onscreen?
I hadn’t actually sung for a very long time. I did one musical like 11 years ago and then I went back to study at college, at [the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London] and I kind of lost my nerve for singing and I just didn’t really know what it was to me anymore. I hadn’t done it in a very long time and I had definitely never thought I would sing country. Getting a chance to find it again and sing again and sing with amazing musicians and get to sing great songs, and also be part of a story — it never really felt like a musical for me. For me it was more an extra limb of her.
Who’s your favorite country singer?
Probably either Emmylou Harris or Bonnie Raitt.
I love Bonnie Raitt.
I love her. Life Goals. She’s the coolest woman.
People have been comparing Wild Rose to A Star Is Born — what do you think of that?
I can understand why they compare it, yeah. They’re both stories about people pursuing a dream of being a singer, but I suppose her story is more embedded in actually the relationship that she has with Bradley Cooper’s character being the catalyst for her to get a chance to be a part of it, whereas this is something that’s more about your own self-belief, and actually acceptance of your own self and loving your own self is I suppose the main difference in our story.
Wild Rose is a rare film in that it’s centered on women, namely Rose-Lynn and her ambitions — there isn’t any great romance fighting for the film’s attention. Did that attract you to the project?
Yeah, she just wants to have a shag and go home and go and sing, that’s what she’s interested in. I didn’t even think about it when I first read it, because it does happen — people have lives without love, or life without a boyfriend. And for me, the first thing that I felt when I read it was it was like a prison break film for all of these women. Rose-Lynn was like the catalyst encouraging them all to break down the four walls of what they were told they were allowed to dream in. And I loved having a chance in the script to explore the relationships between women and being able to focus on like a mother-daughter relationship — and for Rose-Lynn she’s both those things in that film, and they’re such massive relationships, alone. You don’t need a fella in the middle of that to be another thing to think about.
You have a role in biopic Judy alongside Renée Zellweger — were you a Judy Garland fan when you signed on to the project?
Hard-core. My dad brought home Meet Me in St. Louis — that was the first film I remember watching. Throughout different phases of my life, Judy Garland has been a torch for me. I don’t think there are many performers like her. [She was] ruthless and liked turning her skin inside out and letting every ounce of her be felt. I cannot wait for people to see Renée. I couldn’t believe it on set. She’s the most amazing woman. I wish her everything. She’d [come in] to work every morning and she had her little cap on and tracksuit, like "hey, babe!" and then she’d get in the chair [and transform]. She’s so generous and she’s so cool. A beautiful soul. I really honestly hope everything for her.
You’ve worked with a lot of major names in the industry — is there anyone who’s acted as sort of a mentor to you?
They’ve all been! I’ve been like perving at them from the side, going like ‘Oh my God! How are you doing that!?’ The crazy thing about our job and the wonderful thing about our job is you do create little families, and people give you little nuggets of wisdom along the way, whether they’re telling it to you or you’re just watching them. And it’s so intense, and then it goes away, you know?
A few weeks ago I was walking home in London and there’s this amazing Irish actress called Brenda Fricker who’s in My Left Foot and she won an Oscar for My Left Foot, and she’s like a hero in Ireland. And I’ve never met her or anything and she called me out of the blue and she goes, "Now, listen, I’ve never done this and I don’t approve of it, but I needed to call you because I just wanted to tell you something. You have to promise me that you’ll look after your health." She was like "You’re getting into your 30s and you have to look after your body, because you have a lot of things you need to do, and if you don’t look after your body you won’t be able to do them." And sometimes in this world as well you’re just pulled left right and center, and to have somebody actually tell you you need to nurture yourself, in whatever way that is … I burst out crying. I was like "Oh my God!"
You’re not on social media — why is that?
My private life is my private life and my work life is my work life and I respect if people want to do that and use it, but I just want to do my work and then go home and make a cup of tea.
Which celebrity were you most starstruck to meet?
First celebrity crush?
Judy Garland [laughs].
What did you last binge watch?
Favorite item of clothing that you own?
My trainers. My Vans.
Is there a pop culture moment that sparked your interest in Hollywood?
I like old films. So I when I first moved over to London I liked Katharine Hepburn. I think my favorite performance and favorite actress is this woman called Giulietta Masina, who’s [Federico] Fellini’s wife and she did this film called La Strada and I watched it when I first came over and she’s just amazing.
What do you wish more people knew about you?
That I get scared.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I have coffee, with milk.
What’s the next thing you’re looking forward to?
Going to Sicily with some friends and drinking lots of wine and eating all the food and swimming in the sea.
Wild Rose opens in select theaters on Friday, June 21.