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Written by Helena on March 30, 2024

 

BEHIND THE BLINDS – So, let’s talk Susie Glass and The Gentleman! You play this smart, scary, cockney gangster who runs her father’s weed operation with an iron fist. It’s so refreshing to see the gangster genre making a woman the main protagonist, especially as it’s one of the least progressive genres of the modern era in terms of female agency and representation.

Were you excited when you got the script to see what Guy Ritchie’s vision was for Susie in this male-dominated universe?

Yes, I was really excited to see that we were going to introduce a new kind of female character into the Guy Ritchie universe, or at least one with whom we would have more time to really unpick her and establish her; find out her ticks, her power, and allow her to be vulnerable and to be fierce and everything in between. That was really exciting to me, and I loved Susie from the moment I read the description of her. I knew I could bring something kind of interesting to that, and to have fun with her, and with this show we had time to add in some nuances to her, and I love that.

Did you have some freedom in the way you wanted to play her, was Guy open to suggestions in her story?

I had a conversation with Guy early on about how I wanted to play Susie, and as we started talking, he got a read on how I am as a person, and then decided to make some changes and reshape her. I was very adamant to make sure Susie didn’t just have a love storyline or fade into the background or be cliché as a woman, and Guy really agreed with that. He helped me to have input in building her and he wanted to lean away from the cliché of women in this world. So, he had a big say on her clothes, her hair and he wanted her to be immaculately groomed, to play with the idea that she’s so well kept and stylish, with perfectly manicured nails, but she’s the head of this huge crime syndicate and she never gets herself dirtied, which is important to project the power that she has within that world.

What was the experience of working with Guy like – did you learn anything new about your craft or develop new skills?

Working with Guy was a unique experience. He thinks on his feet and is incredibly detailed orientated but at the same time, that comes to him at the last minute. Like, we’ll all be on set ready to roll, and he’ll decide he doesn’t like what the character is wearing, or the dialogue for that scene isn’t right. So, he’ll ask the people around him what they think would work, and you can see all the puzzle pieces forming and coming together in his mind, in the moment, which is a really creative way to work, but can be quite intimidating if you’re used to directors who prepare beforehand and put all the pieces in place and so you know what’s going to happen. Guy’s the opposite of that, but it’s a great way to think on your feet and flexing a new muscle and it’s like improvisation without improvising, it’s a very interesting and unique way to work, and you can see how the scene is going to be edited in his mind while he’s in that space, and you have to trust that and lean into it and you can find some real freedom in that.

How did you research and prepare for the role as Susie, to find the right essence for her?

I listened to a few podcasts about women in the mafia and crime world, but I also wanted Susie to stand on her own two feet. It’s not difficult to imagine a woman like her, with that much power, and I embrace the idea of that. I think what’s important to Susie is that it’s a family business, and whether it’s about drugs or whatever, it’s important she’s good at what she does. She’s grown up watching her father run the business and she’s now taken the reigns, and it’s how they put food on the table, it’s their bread and butter. She’s never treated as a woman within this male dominated world, she’s treated like a powerful person in this world, and that’s what I wanted, for her to stand out as someone who is really good at her job.

Your father in the series, Bobby Glass, is played by Ray Winstone, who has a reputation for playing cockney tough nuts. Did he help you in how you hold yourself in terms of characterisation?

He might have a reputation for playing tough nuts, but he’s the biggest teddy bear in the world! He’s kind and the most incredible and giving actor first and foremost, whatever genre he’s in, and he’s very good at what he does, it was an honour to work and collaborate with him. We bonded very quickly as we grew up in the same neck of the woods [in London] and in a similar way too, so with my character it was very easy to slip into the mindset of being his daughter and wanting to impress him, as he’s a very fatherly figure anyway. He’s such a genius you want to bring your best self on set when he’s there.

This series is about how the upper classes play just as dirty as run-of-the-mill criminals. Why do you think the gangster genre is so loved?

I think we’re still fascinated by the class divide in this country and what it means, and I personally like the idea of seeing someone who’s come from nothing and is self-made and has built an empire. Whether it be from the wrong side of the tracks, or not, the finesse and the attitude and the vivaciousness to go out and just stand up there and build a family name or an empire for yourself; that’s something we all have respect and love for and enjoy. Guy [Ritchie] also does it in a really interesting way, as he makes these characters larger than life, but still fundamentally British, with all kinds of accents and everyone’s from different places and micro-cultures, and he puts that all together and unleashes it on a global scale, and it’s great to see British culture put out there in the world like that.

We have to talk about Susie’s wardrobe on this show too! The gangster silhouette is often about the narcissistic aspect of menacing men and their suits. Then here comes utterly ruthless and effortlessly stylish Susie! There are already websites dedicated to how to imitate her outfits. Did you have any input into your character’s wardrobe and the way she styled it all up?

I love Susie’s wardrobe! It’s one of my favourite things about working on this series, and I worked with our costume designer Lulu who’s a real genius and incredible. We had this very strong idea of who Susie is; she’s somewhat a chameleon who’s able to dress to impress for any kind of situation, and understands the importance of fitting in, in these different worlds no matter what her background is, or her accent or her job title. So, when we see her in the big country estate dealing with the lords, she’ll be wearing a lot of tweed and berets and country attire. Then in the boxing gym she’s got a tighter silhouette wearing double-breasted suits, and always in sky high heels, it’s where she gets her power from. I love the fact that she’s this busy woman with so much going on, but every hair is immaculately in place! We also made the conscious decision to have these ridiculously long nail extensions which are a different colour and style in every couple of episodes. I love that she’s dealing with danger constantly, you know, having people killed, and travelling everywhere around the country, but her nails are still perfect, and that’s because she has people who do all the dirty work for her.

And are clothes your favourite drug in real life, how you would define your personal style?

Yes, I do love fashion and having fun with it, using it as a tool to express myself, whether I’m at home and doing the school run, I’m a jeans and T-shirt girl. But then when I’m travelling, I like to embrace the style within different cities, such as when I’m in New York I’ll wear a lot of heeled black boots and cashmere jumpers, usually an all-black wardrobe! But when I’m in LA, I’ll go for more of a boho beach vibe, and then in London it’s leather jackets and Doc Martens. I think that’s a really fun way to play with fashion, to adapt it to wherever you are in the world and embrace what’s culturally relevant about that city and its influence on fashion.

So, what style decade do you most identify with?

In a dream world, the 1960s, especially for female liberation within fashion, with having the miniskirt and feminine colours and cool haircuts and it felt very expressive and fun. In what I relate to more of day-to-day, it’s probably an early 2000s vibe as that’s really when I discovered fashion and was going to events and seeing Kate Moss and Sienna Miller around and that whole festival fashion style, I still really love that era.

As a Londoner then, Camden Market or Notting Hill?

Camden Market one hundred percent!! I adore North London, and I love Camden and what it stands for, and what it used to be and what it’s turning into now. I love all the vintage stalls, where I bought my first ever Levis vintage denim shorts, and I still have lots of pieces I collected from Camden Market, it’s one of my favourite places in the world!

Speaking of London, I also love that you’re always bigging up North London, having lived in Islington myself for years! What is about the place that keeps you here, rather than up sticks and head to LA?

It’s first and foremost where most of my friends are and I love being close to them, but as a part of London to me, it represents so many things, like the hustle and bustle of Camden Town and the vintage clothes and the indie rock seen. Then you also have the Heath [Hampstead] which is a huge area of nature where I try to go for a walk every week, and you can also discover these pockets where you’ve never been before. Like in Green Lanes, where you can get the best Turkish food in the world! It represents how unique and exciting our city can be, so big up North London! And Islington is where I grew up!

I also wanted to ask about your cultural heritage, as you’re half-Latino as your Mum’s Brazilian. Your culture is obviously important to you – do your primal emotions come out of your mouth in Portuguese or English, like, are you more Brazilian in your mindset, as your value system has kept you so strong?

I’m a combination of both cultures, as it’s how I was raised, but my emotions and my passion come more form the Brazilian side. I was lucky enough to work on a Brazilian production earlier this year, and I was in Brazil for four weeks, and walking around hearing the music and the laughter and joy, I felt like I had come home. I do have English traits too though, like I can be incredibly shy and self-conscious and self-deprecating, but I try to embrace both sides. I’m lucky to have grown up with both cultures as it’s shaped who I am. But in my core, my heart and my soul, I consider myself Brazilian first, then a Londoner and then British.

As a bi-racial woman, do you actively seek out roles where you can portray your own story on screen, and as the industry continues towards more diversity, are you finding that those types of roles are coming up for you?

Yes, it’s something I’ve been actively looking for in the past few years, and as I mentioned, I was lucky enough to shoot on a Brazilian production, speaking Portuguese for the first time, and that was a dream come true for me. I had some insecurities around it, as I’ve never been educated in Portuguese, so I can’t read it or write it, and I’m sure I’ve probably got a bit of a Gringo accent when I’m speaking it! [laughs]. I had an identity crisis growing up, and I felt quite alone in that experience, so it would be great to tell some stories that help other people who come from Bi-racial families and mixed cultures to see themselves represented on screen, and the journey of what that’s like.

Are you decisive about roles? Do you instinctively know whether it’s a woman that you want to play? There’s not really a common thread between all your characters, so is there a particular thing about the women that you play that keeps coming back?

I can usually tell within the first five pages of reading a script if it’s something that interests me or not. First and foremost, it’s the writing, the character, and if there on the page the character seems interesting and flavourful and exciting and dynamic, then your job is half done. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case with female characters, so it takes a little longer to weed that out, and to find those characters that do feel rounded and interesting, which is a shame. I want to play a character that feels real, that I’ve met and can identify with. I’ve never met a woman who isn’t interesting, whether she be fragile or vulnerable or strong and independent, above anything else, she’s always interesting.

I read that you really want to work with more female directors and prove that women can carry a studio film. What are the ingredients that you need from a director to feel like you can challenge yourself or feel supported in a job?

I think the role of a director is really important, as it should push you and also be collaborative, and a long-standing relationship that develops over time from the beginning when you get the script. The director should reassure you that this role is something you can find all the different notes to, and they basically need to be approachable, and you need to feel comfortable around them.  You may not always agree with them, but that’s also interesting too. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few female directors, and I instantly feel comfortable around women as there’s a shared common knowledge of how the industry is for us and how much harder we have to work, to be taken seriously or respected, and that’s a safety net that you might not otherwise have on set.

When you’re working on sets where there are more and more women in positions of authority, has it made you look around and think that you would like to direct or write something yourself one day?

One of my goals over the next few years is to be a producer. I want to be part of a project right through to the end. I’ve had so much experience on set and in the industry, and I feel there’s only so much you can do as an actor. For me it would be so exciting to be there from the beginning, from the casting process to having a say in the world around the character, how that’s built and put together. I’ve always been fascinated by set decoration and the skill that goes into that too. I would love to collaborate with people and feel as though I’m shepherding a new generation of talent on set and working with them to tell stories that really matter to them.

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