Culture

Agyness Deyn: "Fight for what you want and what's right"

Model-turned-actress Agyness Deyn on her first starring role in Electricity - and changing the perception of epilepsy

Are you looking forward to Christmas?


Oh yeah! I’m going to spending it with family and friends and just chill. It’s good to be back in England for a second and see everyone.

You’re based in the US but do you always come home for the holidays?


No, I mix it up. Sometimes I’ll be in New York or LA. They don’t really do the Christmas we have here. Last year I was like, “Where’s the turkey guys?!” They have that for Thanksgiving but in my opinion you can’t have Christmas salmon! Obviously I miss the weather as well. It’s mad to have Christmas in the sunshine.

You’ve shifted from modelling to acting. Was that a deliberate career plan?

I was spotted on the street at 16 then made the choice to work hard and make a go of it but acting has been a guttural passion that I want to pursue.

Where does that come from?


I love old movies and that quality Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn had. There was a playful freeness in the drama, which is really captivating.

You don’t get those kinds of characters in film anymore.


No but there are a lot more roles and amazing actresses to play them like Cate Blanchette and Kate Winslet. That’s what I want to connect to, strong women who have something to say and a journey to go on. I love to watch those women because feel empowered. I’m drawn more to roles like that.

So are roles in independent dramas more appealing than Hollywood blockbusters?


Drama is my favourite genre. Whatever you do has to resonate with you. I imagine for you also, when you’re interviewing someone or writing a piece you have to find a hook to make it interesting and enjoy doing it.

Of course. Your first lead role in Electricity. What is it about?


It’s like a modern day Alice in Wonderland, about a young woman who goes on a journey to rekindle a relationship with a brother she’s lost contact with. But also it’s about her finding peace within herself and understanding who she is.

Your character Lily comes from a northern council estate, which must seem a million miles away from your glamorous jet set lifestyle.


It’s not that glamorous! I really related to her on so many levels. She’s from up north – I know who she is, that’s who I am. She battles through, whatever the cost.

Is that a northern trait?

I definitely think so – I don’t really know if it’s a southern thing because I’m not southern – but it’s true for me, to really fight for who you are, what you want and what’s right.

Lily suffers from epilepsy, how did you make sure you portrayed that correctly?

For so long the portrayal of epilepsy is like it’s being on drugs or needing an exorcism because you’re possessed – certainly something that’s seen to be bad. It was amazing to take away the taboo by understanding it a bit better and living through it. That’s what the film is about, really.

Did you learn that your own preconceptions had been wrong?

I didn’t have any knowledge at all, just this vacuum. You have an idea of somebody convulsing but a lot of young people I spoke to said how it was part of them and even if they had the chance to take it away they wouldn’t because that’s their reality and how see the world. Everyone’s experience with epilepsy is totally different, which is beautiful. Everyone’s unique.

Electricity is out now in cinemas

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