Jessica-BrownFindlay Fan » JBF reflects on playing ‘intense’ Izzie Todd in adaptation of Kate Atkinson novel

Jessica Brown Findlay Fan

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Jessica Brown Findlay has been interviewed by for a small snippet of Life After Life which was out last Friday. We will soon bring you HD screencaps to the gallery, so be sure to check later this week:

Jessica Brown Findlay talks about changing the past in BBC2’s Life After Life and coping with the anticipation of the novel’s fans.

Jessica has a habit of playing the most progressive character in a period drama. We know all about her turn as women’s rights campaigner Lady Sybil Crawley in Downton Abbey and now we have a new name to add to the list: Izzie Todd, a free-wheeling, high-living ‘modern spinster’ who has made post-World War I London her playground and damn what anyone else thinks. She also happens to be the aunt to Ursula Todd (Thomasin McKenzie), who has the strange habit of living her life all over again every time she dies.

Life After Life is high-concept sci-fi with a period drama twist – and a fascinating look at what it means to live your best life. But is Ursula’s life a gift or a curse?

‘If you were consciously repeating parts of your life, that would be torture,’ says Brown Findlay, charming company as she pauses to say please and thank you to those who greet her as she arrives on set for a different job. – ‘Part of the joy of it all – and it doesn’t always end happily – is the unknown. A lot of the reasons why we survive the things that come our way is that we’re not warned about it first, you just have to deal with it as you are living. A lot of the weight that Ursula carries is this feeling that she’s been here before.’

Would Brown Findlay change her past if she had the chance?

‘When I was younger I had those tendencies,’ she says. ‘I used to wish that I could go back in time and do things again a lot. But now I don’t think like that at all because it’s such a waste of time! I find that I’m far more present now and that’s something I’ve learned from getting older.’

Izzie manages to unburden Ursula. She’s a strong figure any young woman would look up to – even if she manages to get Ursula killed within moments of appearing on screen for the first time.

‘That was terrible, just horrifically irresponsible!’ she laughs. ‘But Izzie is the sort of aunt everybody wants. She’s the epitome of the “fun aunt”, much to Ursula’s mum’s annoyance. She’s someone who steps into a room, doesn’t read it at all and says what she was going to say anyway. Ursula and Izzie share an affinity with one another, and she can really sense that there’s something special about this girl, this soul – and they have a real support and love for each other. There’s a delicious repeating line Izzie tells Ursula: that she is regarded as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’.

Would she like to be thought of in that way?

‘The mad bit seems to resonate quite a lot! But bad and dangerous? I’m such a goody two shoes,’ she says. ‘Izzie gave me a decent boost of rebellion, which I probably needed. I always come away from a character with a little bit of them and sometimes they can teach you a little bit about yourself.’

Life After Life is based on the novel by Kate Atkinson, which won awards upon its release in 2013. It is not a simple adaptation. There are multiple timelines, the repeating parts of life can’t be allowed to get boring and, yes, the Hitler subplot is still in there (it’s going to get people talking).

Brown Findlay is aware of fan anticipation – she’s got a whole WhatsApp group full of them.

‘I hadn’t read it but when I was auditioning I sent my girlfriends WhatsApp group a message and I was like, “Guys, has anyone read this book?” and all of them went wild for the idea that it was being made into a series as so many people loved this book,’ she says. ‘John [Crowley, director] brought so much joy to this very complex, complicated story.’

Would Izzie make a good addition to Brown Findlay’s friendship group in modern times?

She thinks so – with a caveat: ‘I think she’d be phenomenal but you’d need a drink as she’s quite intense!’

Life After Life is on BBC2 at 9pm on Tuesdays.


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