Despite only being in the acting game for nigh on three years, Alexandra Dowling has already amassed key roles in big hitters like Game of Thrones and playing Queen Anne in the BBC’s The Musketeers. Now she’s heading back to the stage in The Last of the De Mullins, a sparkling feminist comedy drama
The Last of the De Mullins is about to open. Are you all set?
We are nearly set. We went into the theatre space for the first time yesterday, which was great. It’s good to see what it will look like. It’s been quite a quick rehearsal period, it’s been three weeks. I love rehearsals. I haven’t actually done it since drama school, so it’s been really nice to be back in a rehearsal room.
Was that deliberate choice – to not do theatre – or just down to the roles that came your way?
It was just the roles that came to me when I graduated. It was great to get work straight out of drama school, and that just happened to be TV stuff. I saw myself doing stage, that’s how you get into the industry, but it worked differently for me. I have always loved going to the theatre, so I had to learn a whole new way of doing things [for TV]. I wanted to come back [to the stage] as it’s a challenge, a different experience. I’m really looking forward to having that live experience, being with an audience.
What can you tell me about The Last of the De Mullins and why were you attracted to it?
It’s a really old play that’s never been done before, so immediately that was interesting. It’s a feminist piece. When I read it, it was so fresh, it doesn’t feel as old as it is. It was very forward thinking at the time. There are some feminist scenes that are still relevant, things to do with motherhood, but it covers a more universal theme of breaking free from family ties and traditions, and finding out your own way in life. It’s got a lot of humour in it, but some weightier subjects too. But it’s nice that it has never been done before.
My character is very much a supporting role. She is in to meddle with Janet [played by Charlotte Powell], who had a child out of wedlock. She returns eight years later to see the father, who happens to be engaged to marry my character Bertha.
Is it a great cast – which includes Roberta Taylor and Harriet Thorpe – to work with?
It’s amazing to have such experience around me. I’m by far the youngest and least experienced, so watching them all has been really wonderful.
Does it make a difference to be working close to home for you?
I can walk there! We have been rehearsing in Shoreditch, so it’s a mix of cycling or getting the bus. It’s ideal. I did really want to be working in London, especially because the last thing I filmed meant I was away quite a lot. First of all it’s amazing to be working, and to be working in London is even better.
You are London-born Alexandra and now live in East London. How long have you lived there?
Nearly a year now. I love it here. It’s basically full of independent shops, and the cafes and restaurants are great. East London feels like a real creative community. It’s also moving really fast – the area has grown and is changing, but still feels like a really exciting place. I am in Hackney, but the further east you go there’s markets and lots of green space as well, which I love. I am really close to Victoria Park and London Fields.
Culturally, is North and East London great for theatre?
I try to go to the theatre as much as I can – I always have friends in various things! The fringe scene around here is brilliant – the Arcola, Hackney Wick, Hackney Downs Studio… In Angel you have the Rosemary Branch, the Old Red Lion and I love the Almeida, although that’s a little more established. But there are lots of little places you can find around the area, such as a basement theatre in pub that I went to. There’s so much going on. That’s what I love about London.
You are also on our screens at the moment in The Musketeers. What’s it like playing a Queen?
It’s fun, really fun! Again I’m the youngest there and to go from messing about with the boys to suddenly acting as the most important person in the room is a big challenge! I feel very protective of the character and I feel very confident playing her now. It’s such a great thing to be able to stay with the character so long. Still, if I have a line that sounds a bit busybody, everyone goes ‘woohhhh’! But it’s really fun.
Why do you think the public can’t get enough of The Musketeers – not just this TV version, but generally?
The mystical aspect I guess. It’s almost epic in its scale, and the traditions of where it comes from, the chivalry and romance. There are some really wonderful characters in the story and it’s got a lot of acting and drama… There’s a bit of everything. To revamp it [for a modern audience] was a great idea as there is a demand for it still. It’s timeless.
Your screen credits to date include the likes of Merlin, Game of Thrones and Hammer of the Gods. Is fantasy a genre that interests you?
I didn’t seek it out, they were roles that just came to me. The more I have done it, the more I have become interested in it as a genre. I wasn’t a fan of all those kinds of shows before, but from watching them and being part of them I became really interested. Culturally, these kind of shows do get a bit of snobbery towards them, but the demand for it is huge. The worlds they create are much bigger and more exciting than the real world. I can see why there are so many fans.
All this and it’s only been two and a half years since you graduated from drama school…
It’s coming up to three years. It’s gone by really fast, it’s really strange. My first role in Hammer of the Gods was one of those lucky circumstances where I got the part at the last minute. I was actually in my last term of drama school at the time. It was terrifying! By that point I was so scared, there was nothing I could do about it, they had cast me. But I thought what was the worst thing that could happen? At least I had done one acting job… But it was really fun, everyone was so supportive and it wasn’t that intimidating. Everyone was together, there were no trailers, so it was almost like a big holiday!
Finally Alexandra, will there be nerves when the Last of the De Mullins opens?
There will be some nerves, yes – but to be in front of audience will be thrilling!