Award-winning Actress Juliet Aubrey's Love for Northumberland, Theatre and Performing
We talk to the star of stage and screen Juliet Aubrey about filming with Bryan Cranston, her love of theatre and why she's happiest messing about on a beach in Northumberland
She’s got a BAFTA for Best Actress for her role in the BBC’s 1994 adaptation of Middlemarch, has performed Chekhov’s Ivanov at the National Theatre and is responsible for the wonderfully villainous Helen Cutter in ITV’s long-running Primeval. But she’s also a mother of two girls (aged 11 and 12), a keen runner and a lover of the North East where she spends as much free time as possible.
‘Trips to the North East are always a priority,’ Juliet tells us. ‘It was so hot this summer that I was able to run on the beach and then swim in the sea, which was really beautiful. I love windsurfing and surfing – you get some really good waves and the kids are getting so good at it now. I’ve got to keep at it so that they don’t get better than me.’
Juliet met her husband Steve Ritchie, a North East born Production Designer, while filming an adaptation of Catherine Cookson’s The Moth in Newcastle and now regularly travels to our region for family holidays. ‘They always come first,’ she emphasises. But sun-filled days riding the waves on the Northumberland coast are a far cry from Juliet’s day job, which sees her travelling all over the world for film and television.
As we speak she has recently returned from filming A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Austria, playing an opera singer in Budapest and starring in the box office sensation The Infiltrator with Hollywood’s man of the hour Bryan Cranston (that’s Breaking Bad’s Walter White to you and me) in Tampa, Florida.
‘We actually filmed most of our domestic scenes in Watford – the glamour – and we did the exteriors in Tampa,’ she says. ‘I’d been training for the London Marathon all through the winter – in the sleet, the snow and the ice – and the spring was coming and it was beautiful running again, and then this job came up and the London Marathon was bang in the middle of the filming. I begrudgingly pulled out of the marathon because I didn’t want to miss this role. It’s a fascinating one.’
By her own admission Juliet like to play ‘strong, interesting women’ and Evelyn Mazur clearly fits the bill. For those of you who haven’t had chance to see the film yet, The Infiltrator is a crime drama based on the autobiography of Robert Mazur, the Federal Agent who spent five years working undercover as a money launderer to help take down Pablo Escobar’s drug trafficking operation. Juliet plays Robert’s wife and stars alongside Bryan, Diane Kruger, Amy Ryan and John Leguizamo.
‘The real Evelyn was on set most of the time as was her husband Robert who wrote the novel and is one of the film’s producers,’ Juliet explains. ‘It’s their story and it was interesting getting an insight into what it was like for Ev to be the wife of someone who had such a dangerous job. She does everything – looking after the kids, doing the lawn and teaching in a primary school – and she can put up with it, but once the kids start being affected by it, that’s when she’s had enough.
'Being a mum I can relate to that. As soon as they are in any perceived danger she chucks him out. Ev can come across slightly downtrodden, because she had to put up with a hell of a lot, but she’s a lioness with her cubs when they’re in danger.’
The Infiltrator premiered on the red carpet in New York on 13 July, opened in the UK on 16 September and has already got rave reviews. ‘Gail Stevens who did the casting found some amazing characters,’ Juliet says. ‘Bryan was great. John Leguizamo was amazing and the women – Amy and Diane – were fab. She also found some great actors to play the Columbian Mexican characters, the guy who plays the informer was incredible.’
With a gritty storyline, plenty of fast-paced action and some unusual characters, The Infiltrator was clearly a lot of fun to work on, but Juliet tells us that she and Bryan particularly bonded over their love of theatre. ‘Theatre was my first love,’ she says. ‘It’s where I came from and Bryan is theatre-based as well. I think that’s why we got on so well. We had a great time improvising, devising stuff and filling in the gaps.’
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Having done odd bits of theatre over the past few years, including Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree at Soho Theatre (where actors aren’t given a script in advance and must follow cue cards and instructions delivered by headphones live on stage), Juliet is now keen to return to life treading the boards.
‘I didn’t want to do it when the kids were very small, because I didn’t want to miss bedtimes,’ she explains. ‘But I plan to get back to it when I’m free next year. There’s something special about theatre, you can’t deny it.
'You have a good five to six weeks rehearsing so you know your characters inside out and then when you get on stage you’ve got to keep the ball up in the air. If someone else drops it, you all work together to pick it up – there’s a wonderful solidarity and companionship in that. I have a few ideas and a few propositions for roles. I’d love to play Mother Courage.’
But she has no intention of stepping away from the camera either. Our interview was carefully fitted in between filming for a new TV adaptation of Guy Richie’s Snatch, starring Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint as con man Charlie Cavendish, set to hit our screens in 2017. ‘It’s based on the film, but it has its own life,’ Juliet tells us. ‘The writers are fab and with over 10 episodes in each series there’s a fantastic opportunity to develop your character.’
Juliet is clearly a woman in demand. But she assures us she won’t let her trips to the North East fall by the wayside, not least because she still has big plans for her running. ‘I really want to nail a marathon,’ she says, ‘and I want to do the Great North Run at some point too.’