In “Victoria,” airing on “Masterpiece” on Sunday, Jan. 15, Coleman — a former “Dr. Who” companion — interprets England’s long-reigning queen from age 18 to 21.
British actress Jenna Coleman tried to attend drama school. She really did. But her intentions were constantly thwarted when people kept hiring her as an actress.
There are worse things, she sighs during an interview in a hotel conference room. “I learned on the job really. I feel I missed something – it’s one of those things: what if I’d taken that road, or what if I’d taken THAT road, what would I know? I’ve never been trained in Shakespeare. Does that mean I can’t do it?
“I think the one thing I would’ve liked would be to have that rehearsal space, whereas I’ve done my training, but on camera, which is wonderful and I’ve learned a lot, but in a different way,” says the 30-year-old Blackpool native.
9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, KCTS 9
What she learned on camera catapulted her to “Doctor Who,” where she performed 39 episodes of the sci-fi favorite and became friends with two of the Doctors, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi.
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And while it doesn’t seem probable, that part led to the lead role in “Victoria,” premiering on PBS’ “Masterpiece” on Sunday, Jan. 15. In “Victoria” Coleman interprets England’s long-reigning queen from age 18 to 21 — the defining years as Coleman sees them.
“I did lot of research on Victoria, how creative she was, which I never knew. She had such passion for music and opera and ballet and visuals. She created her own wedding dress, and wrote in her diary, and did watercolor and sketch, and she tried to learn how to sing opera. She had people come around to the house and teach her. She’s so vibrant and unapologetically full of life and never tried to hide it or pull back from it, which I really love about her.
“She’s really inconsistent and very flawed, but I love that. I think that’s what’s been quite tricky to play her, being unashamedly flawed. I’m trying to make that likable. It’s really tricky, but it’s who she was, and it’s what makes her so marvelous,” she says.
Coleman, who studied dance from age 4, relinquished the idea of becoming a prima ballerina and decided, at about 10, she wanted to act. She participated in school plays and later helped establish In Your Space, a small theater company.
“I did my first two TV jobs then didn’t work for about a year,” says Coleman. She decided to try her luck in Los Angeles where she landed various odd jobs. “I did waitressing in a bar. I tried to start a baby-sitting company, then I realized, ‘Oh, my goodness, people are going to put the care of their children in my hands, I don’t want the responsibility right now,’” she laughs.
“I remember we did loads of all sorts of stuff, did voice-overs, had a flatmate, but I don’t remember what the rent was.”
To make ends meet she had what she calls “car-boot sales.” “You fill up your car with stuff you don’t want anymore. You open your car boot (trunk) and set up a store. It’s like a flea market. I did that every Sunday.”
That year of unemployment proved frustrating, she admits. “I didn’t know how to go about achieving what I wanted to achieve; getting myself in a place where I could be in rooms to try. If I could be in rooms and people then say ‘No,’ then fine. But I felt like I was in a place where I couldn’t get in rooms for people to say ‘No.’ But you feel as long as you’re trying your hardest, that’s all you can ask for really.”
In Los Angeles she endured a massive number of auditions. “I was part of the ‘cattle,’ and then I went home and got a tiny part in ‘Captain America’ and from there things started to move a bit and interesting work came in, and scripts that I adored. And it was great. I loved it.”