Benediction star Kate Phillips on the 'fascination' of period dramas and life after Downton Abbey

Virgin Radio

16 May 2022, 14:50

Kate Phillips

Credit: Getty

Kate Phillips knows a thing or two about period dramas, having starred in some of our biggest historical pieces on the big and small screen. 

The actress is back in biographical film Benediction, which focuses on the life of war poet Siegfried Sassoon, who found himself climbing London’s social ladder while dealing with the emotional aftermath of World War One. 

Jack Lowden stars as the legendary writer, while Kate plays Hester Gatty, who went on to marry Siegfried long after his time in war, and scandalous life within the elite of the art world.  

Benediction marks Kate’s third cinematic period drama, alongside the likes of WW2 drama The Aftermath and the first Downton Abbey film. On telly, Kate has starred in Wolf Hall, Peaky Blinders and War & Peace to name a few.

Ahead of Benediction’s release on Friday (20th May) Kate spoke exclusively to about what she enjoys about period pieces, and the pressures of playing someone real on the big screen. 

Kate explained: “I've done all these period dramas, but they're all completely different. And I think there's maybe this idea that they're kind of all the same really, because they're all in the past, but even one set around the same period is very, very different. That fascinates me. 

“I love the journey with a costume. And I really love that you enter into what feels like a very vivid and very different world. But ultimately, it is always just about that project and the uniqueness of that show."

On the challenges of portraying someone real on screen, Kate continued: "I think there's a reminder to bring this person to life in the most authentic way. Which is the aim when you're doing anything, but you have this person kind of haunting you or just reminding you, tapping you on the shoulder to stay real."

Kate recently starred in her first contemporary role in FX series Atlanta, and revealed that the idea of finally wearing a pair of jeans in a project is “nerve-wracking.”

She continued: “There's something very special about doing a period drama because it feels like you're bringing the sepia to life. And I think that's why we all love it. They're all very different. But I've never yet put on a pair of jeans, so I think that'll probably be my most nerve-wracking because it feels too close to home.

“Perhaps you feel more self conscious because you know how you like to wear your jeans, whereas I don't have to worry about how I like to wear my corset.”

Kate appeared as Princess Mary in the original Downton Abbey film in 2019, and while she hasn’t yet seen the brand new film, Kate wouldn't be opposed to making a comeback. 

She told us: “I think that [Downton] was great. I had such a lovely time. I haven't seen it, but I loved doing Downton. I loved watching the show. And, of course, if they wanted to bring back Princess Mary, I'd be happy to oblige.”

Benediction arrives in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on Friday 20th May.