Welcome to Jessica-BrownFindlay.Com your #1 fansite for the beautiful and talented British actress. Best known for playing Lady Sybil Crawley in the ITV series Downton Abbey but you may also know her from Albatross, The Riot Club and Lullaby. Jessica is set to star alongside Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy as Lorelei in Victor Frankenstein (2015). Please browse the site and visit our image gallery featuring over 20,000 photos. The site is still growing and we will continue to bring you daily Jessica updates! If you have any questions comments or donations please contact us xoxo
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By Jess • November 09, 2017 • 0 Comments
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By Jess • September 17, 2017 • 0 Comments

A DREADED sunny day so I meet Jessica Brown Findlay in a hotel near the cemetery gates. This morning she’s in the Caledonian in Edinburgh, opposite St Cuthbert’s (where Thomas de Quincy is buried, if you’re interested). It’s the morning after the night of the world premiere of her new film England is Mine at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. That’s the new Morrissey film, if you didn’t know.

She does enjoy a good cemetery, does Brown Findlay. “I love cemeteries. I find them comforting. There are so many in London, really beautiful ones. There’s a great one in Stoke Newington. I go when I have a day. I like to go to the Good Egg in Stoke Newington for brunch and then walk through the cemetery with my partner.”
She doesn’t have a day just now, though. There is a film to promote. Jessica, let’s get down to it. Morrissey. Tortured genius or knob? “Oh God … Well, it’s the music that has always got me. Certain things can be said of the artist …”

Brown Findlay is a massive Smiths fan. All-the-albums-on-vinyl-sized. And maybe the fan in her hesitated before committing to England is Mine in case it all went Smiths up. “But the script was so beautiful,” she says.
Plus, it wasn’t about the flowers and the band and the theatrics. The film, she explains, is about “the world and soul and mind of someone before that”.

England is Mine sees our very own Jack Lowden (the Scottish RAF pilot in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk) play the singer. But it’s set in the days before he was thrashing gladioli, making a beautiful noise and giving hope to the clumsy and shy, the bookish, the boys (and girls) who were scared of life. Brown Findlay, who came to prominence in ITV heritage-fest Downton Abbey as Lady Sybil Crawley, plays the famed Linder Sterling, artist and Buzzcocks cover sleeve illustrator in the film. Back in the day, Linder was Morrissey’s friend; “the friend” who had “Keats and Yeats” on her side in the song Cemetery Gates (from The Queen is Dead, which is the best Smiths album. Or is that Hatful of Hollow? Me, I’m partial to Strangeways Here We Come).

The character of Linder is the first time Brown Findlay has played a real person. She tells me she only realised this on the train to Edinburgh. “However, all the characters I’ve played feel for me absolute real people. It’s just that, technically, this time someone can go: ‘Hey, I didn’t do that.’”

She shouldn’t worry. Brown Findlay’s Linder gives the film – which, it should be said, is much, much better than the fan in me feared – a real energy boost when she turns up; a choppy-haired, confident, beautiful woman who gives the becalmed Morrissey a kick up the backside.

That, Brown Findlay says, is the role of all the women in the film. “They aren’t afraid of what he’s afraid of, which is himself. And they’re able to go: ‘F****** stop it. You can do it.’ We all know that feeling of knowing that someone will never be happy unless they go and fly.”

The thing is, Brown Findlay could be describing herself there. She knows what it feels like to know that where you are when you’re young isn’t where you are going to end up.

“I remember I was about nine and I looked around where I was and I knew that anything I wanted to do wasn’t going to happen there. I just knew it. I knew I was going to leave and I never put those roots down because I knew I wasn’t going to stay. Even at nine.”

The last time I spoke to the actor was six years ago when she was 21, and had come to Edinburgh – her grandmother’s home city – to promote Albatross, which was both her first film and her first acting job.

Back then she came across as young, eager, excited, full of beans. The 2017 version is more serious, more reserved in person, at first glance more brittle. But speak to her and you discover someone with a much clearer sense of who she is and ready to speak up for herself more.

“She’s changed a lot in a year,” suggests Mark Gill, the director of England is Mine. “She seems a lot more confident because I think she was very, very nervous about doing it. I think she had fallen out of love with filmmaking. She told me last night it was one of the best experiences she’s had and it re-instilled her faith of what it can be to make films.”

England is Mine is a film about friendship, yes, but it’s also a film about looking for a job and finding a job and being miserable as a result, a film about depression, about mental illness. It’s a film about, as Brown Findlay says herself, feeling “other”. Turns out she knows all about those things too.

Jessica Brown Findlay grew up in Cookham, Berkshire. The daughter of a financial advisor and a teaching assistant, she trained as a ballet dancer until heel spurs ruined that dream. After art school, acting became her fall-back.
It hasn’t turned out too badly. Her second job was a part in Downton. Films with Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe (Winter’s Tale) and James McAvoy (Victor Frankenstein) followed.

Last year she was on screen in the ITV drama Harlots, alongside Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville, and when we speak she is appearing onstage every night as Ophelia, opposite Andrew Scott at the Almeida Theatre in London (on until September 2 if you hurry).

In a way Albatross, in which she plays a headstrong teenager having an affair with her bezzie mate’s dad, and England is Mine, where she plays an artistic enabler, are bookends on a series of what you might call corset roles. But they also chart the development of her voice.

Back then, she implies, she wouldn’t have said boo to a goose. “When I started out I knew what I didn’t like about being an actor, but early on I would never have said any of that out loud. I thought: ‘You can’t rock the boat like that.’”

What was it she knew she didn’t want to be? “I just didn’t want to be in a cat suit. Making a film where you say about three words and you’re there to be looked at.

“If I can get away with not doing that … Cut to this time next year I’m promoting a film in a cat suit and I don’t have any lines.” She is joking.

What has she learned about herself since the last time we met? “I’ve learned that I really, truly love acting. I’ve learned that for me to be an actor and stay an actor I need to do a play a year for the rest of my life.
“I’ve learned that I need to go on holiday. I’m yet to do that. I’m going on holiday in September. It’s the first holiday in a very long time. Maybe since the last time we met.

“I’ve learned that I’m a very private person as well. And I’ve learned not to ever type my name into the internet.”
Well, yes. In 2014 she was one of the actresses who saw private images leaked to the web. I suspect that’s in her mind when she is talking about the way the personal rubs up against the public part of her job.

“I don’t think anyone will want to know anything about you. And then people do and that’s fine when it’s a certain context. But when it’s invasive, it’s scary and you can feel truly violated.”

And yet earlier this year she revealed that since the age of 14 she has been battling an eating disorder. You can’t get much more personal than that. A few months on, though, she is certain revealing it was the right decision.

“When you are given a platform you can choose to talk about the shoes that you love and promote that or something you feel passionate about. And mental health, depression, eating disorders are a daily struggle and interaction that I will have for the rest of my life. I think it’s really important to talk about that.”

In the light of this you can see that her career choices – playing Ophelia, playing Linder opposite a young, cripplingly shy boy who turns into Morrissey – are in conversation with her own life.

“I think shame carries so much strength,” she continues. “To feel ashamed in yourself, I think, can stand in the way of people doing so much. And I felt so much shame myself. And actually over the years and a lot of therapy I was sort of able to get over that or at least say it out loud, which I had never done in my whole life.”

The more she speaks the clearer it is that this has been the central battle of her life.

“I had best friends from school who saw me almost disappear – quite literally – in front of their eyes. But I never said to them out loud that I have an eating disorder.”

Jesus, Jessica. It was that serious? “Yeah. Extremely serious. Life and death situation.”

It’s hard to square that statement with the poised woman sitting in front of me. “It’s something you live with every day and can bleed into your work,” she says.

And of course she works in an industry that is obsessed with looks, which mustn’t help. “There can be a lot of pressure. ‘The more successful you are the slimmer you become.’ There’s a lot of that. Or you get a film and they’re like: ‘Brilliant. Lose weight.’ And you think: ‘But I got it like this.’”

People have said that to you? “Yes, 100 per cent. And I flat refused. ‘No, no, I don’t want to do that.’ And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to stop eating cake. I can’t do it. That’s really dangerous for me.

“That’s why I wanted to say it out loud, to let people know there is more than one way of doing things.”

Does she feel better for speaking out about all this?

“I feel liberated. The silence and the shame and the head down on your chest, what it is to be tied into your own head; that can quite literally stop someone in their tracks and be the thing in the way of their potential for the rest of their lives.

“It’s not a Band Aid. It won’t make everything disappear. It can make things harder. But somehow saying it out loud has allowed me to step away from that.”

She smiles. “It’s funny. When I think of all the things I don’t share in my life and that’s the thing I’ve shared. Sometimes I think it’s quite an extreme decision. But it’s actually the one that now I’m most released by. And I don’t mind anyone knowing it.”

It should be remembered too, that Brown Findlay is still only 27. She has been dealing with all this while effectively growing up in public. Having left Downton in 2012, how does she look back on her time in it now?

“It feels like another life, another time. It’s very odd to do something where you’re just finding your feet while everyone is watching you do that.

“It’s quite exposing. At the time I became aware that it was exploding it made me really go into my shell and really want to run very far away from that. I felt intimidated by it.

“I’m sure it has opened more doors than I know, but there was a certain element to it that scared me because I couldn’t keep up with it.

“And I knew that for me to learn what I wanted to learn and be the actor I wanted to be and do the things I wanted to do, I knew I was going to have to step away from that.

“I was going to have to get off the train because it was going so fast and I had so much to learn and it was my second job so I was very aware that there was a chance I might not be able to do anything other than that. So that’s why I made the decision to leave.

“I am very, very grateful for it but I am also grateful to my younger self that I stuck to my guns and I went for it. I am grateful that I made that bold, quite brash decision.”

Jessica Brown Findlay tells me that she loves poetry, cooking (“or being cooked for) and mornings in bed. She’s not keen on austerity and Tories. Jessica Brown Findlay is looking forward to leaving her twenties. “They’re so overrated.”

As bad as your teens? “It’s as terrifying but you don’t get a guaranteed roof over your head. You’ve got to sort that out too. And I’m stubborn as well. There was no way I was going to settle for something-ish.”
Jessica Brown Findlay has not settled for something-ish. She is no longer a girl afraid. Morrissey might approve.

By Jess • June 18, 2017 • 0 Comments
By Jess • April 12, 2017 • 0 Comments

If there’s any doubt that Jessica Brown Findlay has left Lady Sybil of “Downton Abbey” far behind, consider a recent interview with her by phone from London. Findlay was discussing her role as Charlotte, an 18th-century prostitute in Hulu’s drama series “Harlots,” while commuting by bus to perform that night as Ophelia in “Hamlet.”

If others remain fixated on the popular character she last played five years ago in “Downton” — “I think the British press think I might be that person” — she’s focused firmly on the work at hand.

“Harlots” is a bold showcase for Findlay, whose character is a madam’s daughter who went into the family business, and the rest of its female-dominated cast. But women also are the power behind the screen as writers, producers and in other key positions – a change that Brown found richly rewarding.

“Normally, when I’m reading (a script), I’m like, ‘That character’s brilliant’ – and it’s a guy,” she said with a laugh. But in “Harlots,” the women are fully formed and as intriguing as any man.

“It’s really exciting to allow female characters to be frustrating and imperfect and infuriating and funny,” Findlay said. Her co-stars include Samantha Morton as her mother, Margaret, and Lesley Manville as Lydia, a rival madam with a vicious streak. The history-based story was a revelation to Findlay.

“I was aware it was a time when London was exploding economically, doing incredibly well, and with that came lavish lifestyles,” she said. For the prostitutes and madams and catered to men with disposable income, the reward was the ability to “own property, have rights over their own bodies, make a living and survive.”

The idea of survival by any means was the harsh reality for women who lacked connections or a man, whether husband, father or otherwise, as their protector, said Moira Buffini, who created and produced the series with Alison Newman.

A woman without such a safety net might end up in the sex industry, said Buffini, who says the tally is startlingly large when all connected to it are included “One in five women were working as sex workers or in associated businesses, like cleaners or cooks in the house,” she said. “There were three sex shops in Covent Garden; condom makers; back street abortionists, and the child-minders who looked after the prostitute’s children while they worked.”

London’s Covent Garden, now a popular shopping and tourist area, was the city’s version of a red-light district in the 1700s. It even boasted a guidebook to individual prostitutes, “Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies.”

Newman came across a copy, which opened a window for the creative partners on the “amazing outlaw society of 18th-century harlotry” and led to “Harlots,” Buffini said. But it wasn’t Buffini’s first work on the general subject. “Loveplay,” which received an Olivier Award nomination for best comedy play in 2003, dealt with it as well. The inspiration for that was more direct. Early in her career, she taught drama to female prison inmates and discovered how many had supported themselves as prostitutes.

“It struck me they were defined by what they did and not by who they are. Because I knew who they were, it struck me as odd,” she said. She’d already seen the toll it could exact on one individual, an older woman who had been left in a “bad way” by her past life and who Buffini’s mother helped care for.

“You could see the way her job had played out in her life. You could see the damage, not just on her but on her children’s children,” she said.

“Harlots,” with its lavishly costumed and painted prostitutes, looks at both the hard-earned freedom and the anguish such a life accorded. But given the number of people now working in the sex industry, voluntarily or not, why not tackle the modern reality?
Buffini has a ready answer.

“History gives you a fascinating prism through which to look at the contemporary world and to look at contemporary gender politics. History removes you from the dead weight of documentary, if you like, as a dramatist,” she said. “It frees you from that and it gives you a language and gives you a bright, focused color palette in which to explore quite specific things.”

By Jess • February 13, 2017 • 0 Comments
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By Jess • March 14, 2016 • 0 Comments
By Jess • March 14, 2016 • 0 Comments

Director Robert Icke has become the great hope of British theater. The 29-year-old has a rare talent for tapping into a text’s driving forces. He staged “1984” not as a possible future, but as a warning from history. Last year’s “Oresteia,” compressed and contemporized, felt like a box-set thriller. Now, bringing the same scrutiny to “Uncle Vanya” at the Almeida Theater, he gives us Chekhov in high-definition, its every texture exposed; a study in stasis. His meticulousness might hinder the play’s momentum and, for all its lit-crit insights, it’s more moral than it is moving. Small bother, though: This is rich, wry and wise – level-up stuff.

Like playwright Annie Baker, whose version of “Uncle Vanya” played New York’s Soho Rep in 2012, Icke gives Chekhov a contemporary, colloquial update, slowing stage time to something more like life. The names are anglicized – Vanya is Uncle John (Paul Rhys), sometimes Johnny — although it’s not specifically set in England. “To leave them in Russian,” the director’s note explains, “would be to make strange that which Chekhov intended ordinary.”

This is Icke’s way: He finds pinpoint images that pull the play into the present — earrings on middle-aged men, or a young woman (Sonya, played by “Downton Abbey” alum Jessica Brown Findlay) dressed in shabby mens’ shirts. He stays faithful to the original but stretches it all a bit further, upping its contrast, reactivating its drama. Astrov and Yelena don’t just kiss, they rip one another’s clothes off and roll about on the floor.

You see the play afresh and, moreover, in full. At three and a half hours (three 10 minute intervals keep us alert), Icke’s version gives each interaction its due. Abstract ideas – age, beauty, time, work, love – glide past one another like orbiting planets. It really is profound, heaving with life.

On Hildegard Bechtler’s slow-revolve of a wooden set – always moving, but going nowhere – there’s a sleepy atmosphere. People sit and read newspapers, toy with Rubik’s Cubes, tune guitars. Everything’s unhurried. Nothing’s urgent. Leaving on call, Tobias Menzies’ doctor puts his watch back on, as if time, here, were irrelevant. Ian Dickinson’s soundscape highlights the silence. Wood creaks, rain falls, an airplane whirs overhead.

Out of this emerges a study of inaction: the ways we waste time and the ways time wastes us. John and Sonya bury themselves in work – but, as the eco-friendly doctor says, “God only knows what our real work is.” Icke peppers proceedings with images of disrepair: guitars that detune, roofs that spring leaks. Furniture piles up on Bechtler’s set until, without anyone noticing, there are too many rugs and too many chairs. It’s the exact opposite of Michael’s beloved forests, disappearing bit by bit, year on year.

Rhys plays the title role as a man incapable of imposing himself. He’s too soft for it – the burr of his beard matches that of his voice. Life’s held him back – through grief, labor or simply personality – and he’s held back from life. When John notes, “I could have been a Schopenhauer or Dostoyevsky,” you almost believe him.

Icke’s great on the agonies of middle-age. Rhys shows us the ache of 47 year-old knees, but Hilton McRae (as the professor) suggests the tortures ahead – gout, breathlessness, worse. Even Elena (Vanessa Kirby), at 27, thinks herself “old.” The play’s attuned to the particular darkness of men, and the soothing presence of women. The lonesomeness at the play’s heart becomes unmissable, as three drunken fortysomethings howl Bowie songs at the moon.

The production is exquisitely acted. McRae catches the pomp of a man who’ll use a wooden chair as a lectern in his own sitting room, while Menzies finds the underlying oddity of Astrov, a darkness that surfaces like a long-range submarine. Brown Findlay’s Sonya, so in want of a decent conditioner and a confidence boost, is quite wrenching to watch, so entirely and so hopelessly in love, while Kirby is a superlative Elena: lithe, fickle, hypocritical, shallow and yet always sympathetic. It’s a performance that confirms her as the outstanding stage actress of her generation, capable of the most unexpected choices. Fumbling with Astrov, she gets her head stuck in her jumper – for all her outward ease, she’s as clumsily human as any of them.

However, Icke asks us to analyze these people, not feel for them. Its slowness prevents momentum; its constant significance, credibility. Icke’s knowingness, though amusing, can get in the way.

His sincerity can clear a path though. At the end, Michael holds up a globe and lays a finger on Africa. The heat, he says, must be unbearable: “Now, I mean.” It pulls us back into the present; a direct accusation. Their inaction is all of ours.

By Jess • January 25, 2016 • 0 Comments

Photographs have been released of the cast rehearsing for the upcoming production of Uncle Vanya at the Almeida Theatre. Jessica Brown Findlay plays Sonya alongside Paul Rhys’ Vanya. Vanessa Kirby is Elena and Tobias Menzies plays Astrov.

This is a new version of Chekhov’s play from Robert Icke, who also directs the show, following his radical re-imagining of Oresteia which transferred to Trafalgar Studios.

Uncle Vanya runs at the Almeida Theatre from 5 February to 26 March with a press night on 12 February.

By Jess • January 11, 2016 • 0 Comments