Jemima Rooper on One Chance

With BBC show Atlantis hitting its stride and gaining a substantial and dedicated fanbase, there’s no better time to talk to Medusa herself, Jemima Rooper. You might recognise her from such shows as As If and Hex, as well as Hollywood movie The Black Dahlia.

2013 is proving to be a busy year for Rooper as she also stars in One Chance, the British film based on the story of Paul Potts, operatic winner of Britain’s Got Talent. A tale that warmed hearts across the world, One Chance features James Corden as Potts, and stars Julie Walters, Colm Meaney and Mackenzie Crook. It opens in UK cinemas on 25 October.

Flicks And The City caught up with Jemima to talk about her longevity in the business, looking for a variety of roles on stage and screen, and the challenges of playing such a notorious character on Atlantis.

Rooper1You are currently promoting One Chance in which you star alongside James Corden. Could you tell us a bit about how you came to be involved in the project?

Well, I knew the film was happening because I was working on a stage play with James at the time – One Man, Two Guvnors – and we talked about the script and he seemed really excited about it. I got a call from my agent about it, but originally the role was described as a tall, thin blonde woman. I’m about as far away from that as possible so I thought I had no chance!

I met the director and producer and ended up doing it, which was really exciting and unexpected. I saw James so much, right from the play touring to doing the movie. It was super fun to work with him and he’s such a great guy.

James seems to be getting more critical acclaim in recent years and moving towards more serious roles. How has it been working alongside him as he achieves that success?

Honestly, James is such a hard worker, you have no idea. He has had to prove himself every step of the way and the success he’s getting now is well deserved. Doing the play in the States helped his image over there immensely and really transformed his career. It’s been a real pleasure being a part of it.

2013 has been quite a busy year for you as well – not just One Chance but also Atlantis that’s currently airing on BBC1 on Saturday evenings. How are you finding the success of that show?

Oh it’s great. I’ve worked with the team behind the show a number of times before, probably on four or five different shows. I love the way they work and it’s a great thing to be a part of. We don’t know if there’s going to be any more Atlantis yet but it has been a lot of fun to work on so far. The nature of the show is that you never know what’s going to happen, as things change so often and everything can be quite last minute. You just have to surrender to the ride and go along with it. You trust the team and you get to shape what you’re doing as you go along.

In terms of new projects, do you have a particular approach to the roles you want to do? Do you have a preference for a particular medium?

I just do whatever I’m offered! There’s something truly magical about movies. They sort of combine the best bits about stage plays and television. I grew up on TV sets so there’s a romance about those too. I find movies a bit more controlled with a beginning, middle and end, where sometimes you don’t get that on TV.

Plays are far more disciplined and come with their own pressure. Everything is enjoyable in its own way. You can have a movie with huge special effects involved and you’re acting by yourself but having to pretend loads more is going on. It’s very challenging and involves a lot of patience.

Talking about special effects, is that something you’ve been involved in on Atlantis? It certainly has the setting and the monsters to need CGI.

Well, it’s funny, people kept asking about that when I originally did press and actually at that point I hadn’t done anything. Yet a few days later I was in prosthetics and enjoying hiding behind a mask! It’s so exciting working with amazing props and having the prosthetics. The process took about three hours to do and I was completely transformed. That doesn’t sound much compared to some projects I’m sure but it was a lot of fun for me.

Working with effects is a completely different challenge as an actor as you’re used to just focusing on emotions for a particular shot, but when there are effects involved you really have to turn it on for so many more shots in different directions.  The scenarios are a lot more complicated.


Without wanting to make you feel old, you’ve had 20 years in the business now. Do you still enjoy it as much as ever? What influences your decisions these days?

Well, it’s really 17 years since my first proper role (The Famous Five), so don’t write me off yet! No, seriously, as a 31-year-old I’m still really enjoying it and actually I’m in the position now where I’m able to be pickier about what roles I do. You have to keep pushing yourself as it needs to be a challenge and there’s no point being complacent. I used to watch my projects back when I was younger and critique them but now I don’t as you can’t change anything once you’ve done it!

Every job is unique with different circumstances. You never know what’s going to be around the corner so you can never be prepared. I always take rests in between projects which is important. That helps to keep it fresh and enjoyable.

And when you look at the future, do you have any particular goals left to fulfil?

Now we’re all getting older, my friends seem to be talking more about moving towards making their own projects happen one way or another. Like James Corden – he was restricted in his roles at a young age, so he made things that he wanted to make, and it’s really helped his career.

I fancy myself as a director or producer far in the future. Maybe even a writer. Thinking about it at the moment is a scary thought though! It’s often about who you know and how far they can take you down that path, so we’ll see when the time comes for me to step in that direction.

One Chance, starring James Corden, is out in UK cinemas on 25 October.