Q&A with The Nevers’ Viola Prettejohn
Fantasy shows set in bygone eras are all the rage right now, with the latest addition being Sky Atlantic’s The Nevers. Set in the Victorian period, The Nevers follows the story of a group of mostly women who have suddenly been given magical powers of different kinds. Below we chat to one of its stars, young actor Viola Prettejohn, who plays Myrtle Haplisch, a middle-class girl rescued from a family who can’t understand her – literally, as she can no longer speak.
Q&A with The Nevers’ Viola Prettejohn
What can you tell us about The Nevers?
It’s set in the Victorian period so you can expect corsets of varying tightness and plenty of faux politeness. But aside from that, it very much rails against the social restrictions and etiquette of the time, with loads of crazy fight scenes, fascinating gadgets and complex and intriguing characters.
Any funny stories from filming?
I remember one day while we were filming some extra stuff for the first episode, I ended up spending the vast majority of the day in a sack. I must have received some of the strangest direction I’ve ever heard – ‘can you just move your arms around a bit more?’, ‘can you chew down on the gag a bit harder?’. The inside of the sack also had the pungent smell of car air freshener, which, ever since school coach trips in primary school, has made me feel incredibly sick. All in all, a very odd day.
Favourite person on the set of The Nevers and why?
Don’t make me pick one! The wonderful thing about this show is that everyone was just a complete delight to work with and as a cast we all got on incredibly well. I had a lot of scenes with Ann (Skelly) and Anna (Devlin) so I probably ended up spending the most time with them but the whole cast was lovely.
Favourite role to date and why?
Myrtle is the obvious choice, but aside from her I’m going to have to say one from my time at school. It must have been three years ago now, we did a school production of The Crucible and I got to play Abigail. It made me truly realise acting was what I wanted to pursue, as it was the first time I felt really challenged by a role and like I had something to sink my teeth into.
Role you’d cut your right arm off to get?
Any role where I’d get to act alongside Daniel Day Lewis.
Director you’d most like to work with and why?
Paul Thomas Anderson is my absolute dream director to work with. His film Phantom Thread is one of my favourite films of all time, with There Will be Blood very high up there as well. I adore the way his films often have a slightly strange twist to them or confront a seemingly straightforward story but feel off in some sort of way.
What qualities do you think have made you successful?
Honestly, so much of what has happened so far in my career has been down to sheer luck, but I think I have always been very determined and competitive – sometimes a little too much so.
Film you think everyone in the world should see?
I’m sure there’s a more intelligent or profound answer to this but, Mary Poppins. I think the world would be a happier place for it.
What’s your relationship with social media like?
It’s complicated. Having a job where you meet so many amazing people from all over the world, social media has become an asset for staying in touch. However, the constant need to appear perfect and the unrealistic images you can encounter on platforms like Instagram can make it difficult to remain confident in yourself and can be overwhelming at times.
What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
I never really settled on one thing, although I did want to be a fashion designer for a long time – until I realised I would probably have to learn how to sew and didn’t have the patience for it.
Three books you’d take to a desert island and why?
Madame Bovary, because it’s my favourite novel of all time and no matter how many times I read it, I never tire of it. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because it would provide such pure escapism. Finally, Ulysses, just so I could read it over and over again and feel like I had fully conquered it.
What’s your interior design style?
Very eclectic, I like most when rooms feel like they’re bursting with antiques and furniture and the walls are covered top to bottom with paintings.
What are your indulgences?
Once a fortnight I allow myself to get an acai bowl from a place in Notting Hill. It’s frankly ridiculously expensive but I love it anyway.
How do you relax?
I watch a lot of TV – I like to pretend it’s research to make me feel a bit better about it, but if I’m honest, re-watching Mad Men for the fifth time is slightly unnecessary. If it’s a race weekend I’ll watch the Grand Prix, but quite often that’s not all too relaxing.
Are you a rule breaker or a rule taker?
I’m trying to be a bit more of a rule breaker, life just seems so much more fun that way.
The Nevers will be available on Sky Atlantic and NOW from 17 May. Image credits – photographer: Aaron Crossman, stylist: Tilly Wheating, make up: Nadia Altinbas.
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