Juliet Aubrey on Hampshire roots, her acting career and future ambitions
- Credit: Archant
Fleet born Juliet Aubrey has had an acting career spanning stage, set and big screen. But her memories of Hampshire keep her coming back time and time again as she shares with Peter White
Juliet Aubrey was just six years old when she stepped onto the stage at St. Nicholas’ School in Fleet and decided she wanted to be an actress when she grew up.
Now, more than 40 years later, Juliet has emerged as one of the country’s finest acting talents, having appeared in numerous films as well as a string of popular television series and highly-acclaimed stage roles.
But despite her fame, she has never forgotten her roots, and returns to Hampshire as often as she can, not only to see her father, but also for reunions with friends she went to school with at Farnborough Hill, where she moved to after her time at St. Nicholas’.
She said: “About eight of us who went to Farnborough Hill still keep in touch and have reunions whenever we can, so I get back there quite a lot. I love the reunions with all my old school friends.
“I have very happy childhood memories. When I was growing up, Fleet was a very small town, and I remember we had donkeys in a field at the bottom of our garden. But now it’s a big town, and it has changed a lot. I used to catch the train every morning from Fleet to Farnborough when I went to Farnborough Hill.
“I loved acting as a youngster. My earliest memory was playing a doctor in George and the Dragon at ‘St Nicks’ when I was six. For me, acting was all about trying to understand what it was like to be a different person, and as my dad was a doctor it was interesting to find out what it was like to be in his shoes.
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“Hampshire for me is all about beautiful memories of my dad, and even now I ring him if anyone has an ailment. And my mum and sister were very loving, so I had a happy family life.”
Juliet has become a familiar face on stage, the small screen and the large one, with her TV appearances having included parts in Silent Witness, The Village, Primeval, Midsomer Murders and Middlemarch opposite Rufus Sewell, for which she won a BAFTA for Best Actress, and the Broadcasting Press Guild for Best Actress. She said: “That was one of the highlights of my career so far. It was a wonderful job. There were so many incredible actors in Middlemarch, and I had been at drama school with Rufus.”
Unlike many youngsters, Juliet concentrated solely on acting rather than diversify with singing and dancing. “I was never one for music or tap dancing and that kind of thing as a child, and not now,” she admits, “But after I had been on stage a few times at school everything just developed from there. Then when I went to university at Kings College, to study Classics and Archaeology, it was all about being in more plays than lectures.”
While at Kings her love of acting continued to grow, and during a year studying in Italy, where she joined a travelling theatre company, Juliet decided to apply for drama school on her return. She did, and went on to train for three years at the Central School of Speech and Drama.
“I knew acting was a tough profession to break into, but I was completely 100 per cent wanting to do it. I knew it was difficult, and when I was given my first job, playing Miranda in The Tempest, I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to be paid for something that I loved doing. That was a great job, and it just went on from there.”
Juliet’s first film role was playing opposite Jean Hughes Anglade in Look to the Sky, a film produced by Elda Ferri, and set during the Nazi Holocaust. She says: “That was my first amazing experience being involved in the filming for the first time.
“Later I had just come off filming Middlemarch when I played opposite Robert Carlyle and James Nesbitt in the much acclaimed film Go Now, and that was another great experience, because Michael Winterbottom’s way of directing is very much to let the actors develop the story and improvise.
“I have been very lucky that I have played a lot of different roles and have had some amazing experiences. There have been a lot of highlights, but then you just move on to the next role. You never think it is going to get any better, but then I find all my roles wonderful in their own way. I love the one- off performances, like films or a one or two-part drama.
“But deep down all my roots are in theatre, where I absolutely love it. When my children are a bit older I am planning to go back into it a lot more.”
Meanwhile, her latest film, The Infiltrator, has just been released in Britain after receiving rave reviews in the United States. She said: “The Infiltrator is a film about an agent, who went undercover in the 1980s for the Drug Enforcement Agency to take down the whole of the Mexican and Colombian drug cartel. I play the wife of this undercover guy, who is played by Bryan Cranston.”
Another film she is currently making will be released sometime next year. She explained: “I have recently been in Austria filming Midsummer Night’s Dream opposite Dudley Sutton, which has been another amazing experience, with so much history involved in the story.”
Despite her busy schedule, Juliet still finds time for plenty of exercise, something else she has carried on from her school days in Hampshire.
She smiled: “I had a wonderful PE teacher called Mrs Berry, who was really inspiring, and she had us running around the hockey pitch. But in those days the pitch was muddy and had long grass, so hockey was quite a dangerous game.
“In Fleet I did a lot of horse riding, and went to Hawley Equestrian Centre with my brother and sister, and I also played tennis. But I was very much into hockey, and played a lot while I was growing up. I still play now, but my kids are better than I was, and already play at age-group county level.
“I do a lot of running. I trained for last year’s London Marathon all through the winter sleet and snow, and was often running up to 19 miles at weekends. Then The Infiltrator came along. Most of the time we were filming in glamorous Watford, but during the weekend of the London Marathon we were filming in Tampa, Florida, and I was unable to change the schedule, so I couldn’t run. I was quite disappointed, but then of course to make that film was quite an amazing experience.”
She continued: “I also do a lot of yoga and windsurfing, and in 2014 I trained at Hayling Island in preparation for the Great London River Race. We trained on the sea, which was quite hard because it was choppy, but it put us in good stead to row 26 miles up the River Thames.
“You have to keep fit and healthy to be an actor, and I love doing all my own stunts, as long as they are not too dangerous. I might become a stunt woman one day!”
Juliet is an ambassador for Women for Women International, the charity which helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives.
She said: “My sister Sian was living in New York, and she did a lot of fundraising for Women for Women International. She used to tell me all these stories about women in war zones. We were going to put on a play together in London highlighting the plight, but unfortunately Sian died in 2011. Because she was so involved in Women for Women, after she died I wanted to take it on and become more involved.
“It has been an amazing journey learning what these volunteers do, and how they help people and rebuild their lives. It is not about throwing lots of money in there, but it is individual sponsorship of women who go on a one-year programme and it is very effective.”
Despite missing out on the London Marathon last year, she is determined to compete in 2017, saying: “I am planning to run it for the Women for Women charity next year, and I go into schools to give talks, because it is all about raising awareness to young girls and boys.”
Despite her wide variety of successful roles, Juliet still has plenty more ambitions. She said: “There are so many I still want to do, but if I had to choose one, I would really like to play Mother Courage.”
It’s a play written in 1939 by the German dramatist and poet Bertolt Brecht with significant contributions from Margarete Steffin, and is considered by some to be the greatest play of the 20th century, and perhaps also the greatest anti-war play of all time.
She added: “Nothing is lined up at the moment, but I am planning a return to theatre in the very near future. I have never played at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, so who knows, I may bring Mother Courage there one day.”
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