Sian Clifford stole hearts as she played Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s sister Claire on the hit show Fleabag. Now, the duo have been nominated as Lead Actresses for the BAFTA Awards.
Vogue spoke to Sian Clifford about her nomination, life during the lockdown, and her latest show Quiz.
According to Vogue, Quiz is “a thrilling miniseries about Charles and Diana Ingram, the real-life couple accused in 2001 of cheating their way to the top on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.”
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WHAT DID SIAN CLIFFORD SAY?
BEING NOMINATED FOR A BAFTA WITH PHOEBE
“I mean—non stop tears. I thought it would be very unlikely because they don’t—foolishly in my opinion—have a supporting category for comedy, which I just think is such a misstep. Think of any supporting roles in any of the great comedies, I just think they’re some of the best parts. I knew that if I did get a nomination it would have to be alongside Phoebe, and it just feels extra special… I don’t know how they’re going to do the ceremony. It’s basically going to be a Zoom. It’s sort of a bit depressing, I kind of wish they’d wait, but oh well. We’ll just muddle on. I think I will actually be with Phoebe, because we’re allowed to open up our bubbles a little bit here [in London]. It’ll be fun.”
“God, it just feels so normal now doesn’t it? I can’t really remember what life was like before. I got a puppy, so I’ve been playing with her and training her and also contending with a lot of work, honestly. It’s been really busy.”
THE RELEASE OF QUIZ DURING THE LOCKDOWN
“We were about three weeks in when Quiz landed, and we had the most enormous viewing figures. Which was amazing for the show… It’s sort of weird to be releasing a show at this time, but it’s also great to be giving people some escapism, and to be part of another project that I’m exceptionally proud of.”
PRODUCTIVITY DURING THE LOCKDOWN
“I feel like some people have gone into hyper productivity and some people have gone much more introverted. I’m definitely on the other end and giving myself a really hard time for not doing enough, as well as wanting to help people. There’s been lots of confronting and reckoning with myself—I’ve really learnt a lot about myself during this period. And it’s certainly, within my own circles, freed up conversations around mental health, which is really extraordinary. The way people have been checking in with one another is amazing… I’ve really recognised the value of my community, because I haven’t left my area—I went into lockdown in early March, so it’s been over three months. People say hello to each other now! Which no one does in London. No one!”
QUIZ’S APPROACH TO ITS MYSTERY
“I think it’s so empathetic, this story. But it’s empathetic to every single person in it. There are no villains, and that’s what makes it remarkable and really special… I think the heart and humanity at the centre of this story is so compelling and so needed at this time, that we examine our relationship with the truth and what’s happened to our media. Matthew [Macfadyen] and I have discussed often whether the outcry about their guilt would have been the same now as it was then, in terms of it would have just happened online as opposed to in the press. But I feel like social media is an add-on, in terms of press harassment, rather than an equivalent, because the tabloids still exist… Raising some questions about how [the tabloids] operate is much needed, and I thought it was so important to give the Ingrams a voice in the story, which they had never been given before.”
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THE IMPORTANCE OF EMPATHY IN MAKING GOOD ART
“I think it’s what art is. Art can change the world! If it’s created from the heart, it can really change things. It can educate people, it can inspire people… The reason I love being an actor is because I get to stand in other people’s shoes, and it’s never my job to comment on the character. Diana was portrayed as this Lady Macbeth character, she was the villain of this story, of course she manipulated her husband into doing all these things. I knew immediately to dismiss that narrative because I just thought that was an easy thing for [the media] to create and write, that people would latch onto. I wanted to get to the heart of her as a human being. That’s how I approach all my characters, regardless of whether they’re fictional beings or not. I want to play the truth of that person.”
MEETING THE INGRAMS
“It was right before a take on the last day of filming, and we were in a quite cramped space. We just said hello, and they were very sweet. Huge fans of Succession and Fleabag. And Charles said, ‘I loved Fleabag even before I knew you were playing Diana.’ And he said: ‘You look just like her, you’re perfect for her.’ I got that for free. I did have a wig on actually, well, it was part my hair and part her hair, because my hair wasn’t long enough. But we didn’t use any prosthetic tricks or anything. Matthew had some teeth. They were fun. But that was as far as we went. We didn’t want to—you’re not impersonating someone. You’re playing a version of [someone]. I think they understood that, and felt respected because of that. That they weren’t going to watch a caricature version of themselves.”