The bright young talent talks Cuba, dancing, and Day of the Flowers

One of the brightest young talents emerging from the UK, Charity Wakefield's latest film sees her roughing it in Havana with a cast of epic proportions. Here, she talks about what it was like filming in the Caribbean's musical island with none other than internationally acclaimed Carlos Acosta, and how she found her Scottish roots.



STUDIO: Day of the Flowers tells a story of two strong-willed Scottish sisters that are worlds apart. Your character, Ailie, is quite the fashionista. What drew you to the part?

Charity Wakefield: Just that. She's so different to anything I've played before. Playing someone from Scotland drew me to the part; I thought that was a great challenge. She's really feisty, she's quite street-wise, and she's got a strange inner wisdom. She just has really great instincts, straight off the cuff. But she doesn't necessarily have great tact!


I thought she was really funny and endearing, actually. I think the story about sisterhood is really interesting. There's a lot to be observed about how sisters, and how women, relate to one another. And also about families and how you can become estranged to somebody who's so close to you. I felt quite moved by the story of these two girls doing this extraordinary thing and becoming closer through putting themselves in peril. Which isn't something that I would advise!


STUDIO: Just how similar are you to the character you play?

CW: I've become more interested in vintage clothes since doing it! It initially wasn't written that she would be quite so styled in that way. Leoni Hardtard, who is the most amazing costume designer; that was her stamp. She wanted to see that she would be quite cutting edge. We decided at time that [Ailie] wasn't in a job that she particularly loved, so she puts all of her expression in her clothes. I thought that she might be a designer some day. She's a hard working girl – her money goes to her clothes.


The thing I definitely don't recognise in myself is that I'm never dressed up like that. I'm quite lazy – I really love wearing comfortable clothes; I don't really put on a lot of make-up, unless I've got to go to some kind of special event, and then I have to really rally. But that's what I really enjoyed about playing Ailie. She spends the whole time stomping about in nine-inch heels – she really couldn't care at all what anybody thinks. It's a really attractive quality. She just dresses how she wants to dress. It's not for anybody else. She enjoys it and that's what matters. That's quite fun.


STUDIO: Ailie and Rosa (Eva Birthistle) go through a series of misadventures, often funny and quite serious at times. What was it like blending such stark subject matters together?

CW: Really hard, actually. I think that it's strangely quite representative of some of the Cuba that I experienced. It is multi-layered as a country. It's been through so much in the last 60 years; it's such an extraordinary place, and very different to so much of the rest of the world. It has been, to an extent, in a bubble. The stuff that you learn when you go to Cuba is really incredible and wonderful. Aesthetically, it's so beautiful, and it looks from the outside adorable. But the truth is that there's also a lot of hardship. There are classically lots of conning scenarios that you might accidentally get into as a tourist, and you see that through Rosa and Ailie's experience. Even though a lot of it's really funny, there's a lot of truth in those stories.


STUDIO: What was it like filming in Cuba?

CW: It was brilliant. You didn't really feel like a tourist because half of our crew was actually Cuban. Cuba has an incredible history of film, particularly over the last 60 years, so we were very lucky that they took us on and wanted to work with us. We certainly couldn't have done it without them because the infrastructure is so different to our own – ways of working, getting access to all those incredible locations. We were lucky that we were so welcomed. Not very many people have filmed in Cuba – it's really rare. Most of those big American films about Che Guevara, they're filmed in Mexico.


We worked with some of the best Cuban actors – like the Judi Dench of Cuba! And because [we were] slightly 'roughing it', because it was a travel film at the end of the day, you got to know everybody really well. It was so amazing that it inspired me to do a photographic exhibition – my attempt to reflect a real collaborative experience working out there.


Aside from that, the place was really beautiful – it was warm, there was music everywhere. One of my lifetime favourite experience ever.




STUDIO: The nightlife looks incredible in the film. Did you get a chance to unwind and explore while you were there?

CW: We did. You would find yourself in the middle of big country estate and that would be a Cuban club. There'd be some serious dancers there – the dancing is just ridiculous! You feel a bit afraid at the beginning. You'd be like, "There's just no way I could do that!" But you find that you just get into it, and because you're there and the music's there all the time, you learn really quickly. There are so many different types of dance; it's really part of their social fabric. Everybody dances. They just do, all the time. So, Strictly Come Dancing, eat your heart out; Havana is where it's at!


STUDIO: Day of the Flowers introduces internationally acclaimed Cuban Royal Ballet dancer Carlos Acosta in his first leading feature film role. What was he like to work with?

CW: It was incredible, because I remember him saying when we first started that he felt nervous, because he hadn't really done it before; and then was just instantly a natural. It was so amazing to watch. He's very subtle and very genuine, always in the moment. It's a great part for him because he plays somebody that is a dancer, but it's not a film about him dancing. I think he found it quite strange, just the structure of the filming day, because it's not always very immersive. Sometimes you have to be very patient, while you're waiting around for technical things to happen. You don't get a lot of rehearsal; you don't really always know what you're going to do until you're actually doing it, so you can't set every tiny performance.


It was lovely to be with him in Cuba because he's very well known there – he's famous, but in a way that they're just so proud of him because of what he's achieved. And you really feel that when you're with Cuban people. They treat him like a member of their own family. It's very moving to see. It's fame in a different way that we experience it here.


STUDIO: Did he teach you any moves?

CW: We did a lot of dancing together. You're just sort of always doing it. Even when you're out in the evening, if you would go for a drink, it would just naturally happen that there's some kind of music there. So we did do some dancing, but just in a really relaxed way. Also, I guess as women, we're very lucky because it's the man who historically is the leader, so if you're dancing with somebody who really knows what they're doing, you feel great! You feel like you're a really good dancer, when they're actually sort of chucking you around.


STUDIO: You've just finished shooting Serena, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. That must be quite a whirlwind!

CW: It was really exciting. I had to be an accomplished horse rider! I hadn't really ridden horses before, so I had to learn how to horse ride and go out to Prague and film it. I think that's coming out next year.


STUDIO: Can you tell us a bit about your character?

CW: I'm not sure if I'm supposed to say. But let's say that I play Bradley Cooper's very good friend... (Laughs) Not in that way!




Words by Louise Robina Happé.


Day of the Flowers is in select cinemas nationwide now.


CUBA: Behind the Scenes of Day of the Flowers runs from 4th - 8th Dec, 11am - 7pm, 35 Marylebone High Street W1U.

“She couldn’t care what anybody thinks. It’s a really attractive quality.”

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