Ellie Bamber has a spark about her that just lets you know that she was destined to be in front of the camera. The English actress has been captivating audiences since her early childhood days, with leading roles in theatrical productions including her breakout portrayal of “Young Jenny” in Sir Trevor Nunn’s Aspects of Love. And after setting her sights on Hollywood, the 19-year-old found herself breaking into the film world to play Lydia Bennet in the 2016 book-to-screen adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It was a role that placed her alongside the likes of Lily James, Suki Waterhouse, and Douglas Booth. From there, the spunky redhead caught the eye of Tom Ford who cast her in his sophomore directorial endeavor, Nocturnal Animals (in theaters on November 23rd).
In her latest cinematic endeavor, Bamber plays the daughter of Jake Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher and delivers an impeccable Texan accent. To prepare, the actress binged on episodes of Friday Night Lights. “Because I thought, what’s better than that Texan accent?” noted Bamber, in between looks at her Just Jared photo shoot. The bubbly teen also took a moment to gush about working with the iconic designer-turned-director and touched on the moment that Ford complimented her fashion sense. “When I first met Tom, I was wearing flares, a white shirt, and clogs. I had a real 70’s sort of vibe,” she explains. “And when I was walking out that day, he said, “I see you have good personal style!” she squealed. It was a moment the self-proclaimed fashionista will never forget.
Off screen, Bamber is as down to earth as they come. The budding star can quickly transition from raving about her latest theatrical feat to poking fun at her innate sense of clumsiness. “It’s a real problem. I’ve broken so many bones,” she says with a giggle. Bamber laughs off the typical UK clichés and jokes that although she does enjoy a good crumpet every now and then, the majority of Brits do not talk in the proper dialect of the Queen or partake in daily high tea ceremonies. Still, she does consider her “charming” English accent as the perfect way to win over a crowd at an American party, that and her inimitable dance moves. And she’ll be the first to admit that her life isn’t all glitz and glamour. “When I get a day off, all I’m doing is sitting in front of the TV,” she candidly admits. “I love to watch loads of old movies and lately I’ve been addicted to HBO’s The Night Of.”
During our Just Jared Spotlight interview, Bamber discusses learning how to speak like a Texan for Nocturnal Animals, how working with Ford has upped her fashion sense, and why she has fallen in love with being a redhead.Just Jared: How did you initially catch the acting bug?
Ellie Bamber: I just really enjoyed it at school. And I had this amazing teacher who was really passionate about it. It progressed from there. I just loved everything about it!JJ: Was acting always the plan? Was there a plan B?
EB: No. I’ve been set on acting or something in that region since I was very young. I always loved acting and singing. It was always my goal.JJ: If you weren’t an actor, what do you think you’d be doing?
EB: Something creative. Maybe directing. But probably something in music because I love music so much. I sang in a band for a while and I’m still sort of doing some music on the side. I listen to a lot of music on set.JJ: Will we see you singing in some roles anytime soon?
EB: I hope so. That would be cool to combine both worlds.JJ: You got your start doing plays. Were you ever nervous to go out in front of a live audience?
EB: No. Not at all. I never really found it nerve-racking. I used to get really excited about things like that. So when I was on stage, I would just get this sort of burst of energy and adrenaline where I would be so happy and excited to be there. I remember the press night for High Society; I was very lax about it. Everyone else was freaking out and I was sort of like, “Hey! Can’t wait. Looking forward to it.” And my mom would be testing me, panicking like, “Are you doing okay? Are you doing okay?” and I’d be like, “Mom. I’m fine!” She would be a lot more tense than I would be when the press night was happening.JJ: Any funny on stage bloopers?
EB: I remember there was one time when one of the actors didn’t come out on the stage and I ended up having to make things up in the middle of the play. So that was quite fun. It’s something that you’re doing repetitively for 19 weeks at a time. In film you become a family but in theater you really become a family because you are with these people at least 8 shows a week. You are seeing them, hanging out with them, and spending all your time with them. I became really great friends with Kate Fleetwood, who is an amazing actress in London who does a lot of plays. She’s sort of like my mentor. I can go to her for advice and she’s awesome.
EB: Yes. We did. There were two months of fight training, which was crazy. But I had the best time. It was my first proper meaty role that I could really get myself into. I loved every second of it. And working with all of those actors as one of my first big jobs was something that was really incredible for me because I gained an experience just from watching them work and hanging out with them. So it was a really brilliant experience, a lot of fun, and the director was incredible. Lily was amazing with me. I loved Lily and Matt; they were great. I remember watching Sam Riley in Control when I was younger. I was a big fan of [the band] Joy Division. When I first met Sam, I was asking him all these questions about the stuff that he knew about Ian Curtis and how he got into the role and it was interesting to speak to him because I really admired him as an actor. We had some fun moments laughing around on set. I think learning the martial arts was something that was really exciting for me. It was a real different thing that I had never experienced before.JJ: Did you stick with it? Could you defend yourself if put to the test now that you’ve had the training?
EB: Yeah. I still remember my routine from the film. I do feel like when you do it for two months, you develop more of a sense of awareness of your own body and how you can work it in combat. So maybe. Who knows?
EB: I did it for one of my friends who asked me about the fighting on PPZ. I remember I got my plastic swords from my bedroom and basically showed them the routine and they were like, “shit!”JJ: Nocturnal Animals is coming out in November. Tell us about your character.
EB: I am so so excited to see the film. I can’t wait! I play a Texan teenager. That was something! That was a new experience for me, playing a Texan. And I really, really dug that. I play Jake Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher’s daughter and that in itself was an amazing experience, working with two actors who I’ve admired since I was younger. That was really great. It’s a beautiful story and Tom has a real way with words and picture and with his aesthetic vision, which is incredible and just actors in general. He was a dream to work with. It’s a really heart-breaking storyline. I just can’t wait for everyone to see it.JJ: Did you do anything to bond and form your backstory with your on camera parents?
EB: We used to talk on set in a Texan accent the whole time just so we could get into that because it was a new thing for all of us. I would just sit and chat with Jake and Isla. We would talk about their past experiences and how they love to work. I learned an awful lot just from being on that set and being around the actors.JJ: What did you do to help develop your own Texas accent?
EB: I watched loads of Friday Night Lights because I thought, what’s better than that Texas accent? And I really took inspiration as well from Sissy Spacek in Badlands. Jake and Isla and I would have normal conversations as Texans. It was sort of bizarre but it was also quite good. I remember sometimes I’d slip into an English accent and Jake would be like, “What are you doing? What are you doing? Come on! Get back to work!” And Tom’s from Texas originally so it was a little bit daunting doing it to him because he’s from there. It was nerve-racking at first but Tom has this real air of making everyone feel comfortable.JJ: Working with Tom Ford, the outfits in this film must be amazing!
EB: Yeah! We went through quite a few outfit choices. Working with such an iconic person was a real joy.JJ: What does one wear to meet Tom Ford?
EB: So when I first met Tom, I was wearing flares, a white shirt, and clogs. I had a real 70’s sort of vibe. I will never forget what he said when I was walking out that day. He said, “I see you have good personal style.” And I was basically like, “Well that’s fine then. I can just forget anything else. My life has been made.” Tom saying that was something that was really special. I used to wear these silver boots on set. They were these beautiful Camilla Elphick boots and I had a bit of a thing for them. I would just wear them continuously and he started calling me Barbarella on set so I sort of stopped for a while.JJ: Did you learn anything about fashion from working from him that you’ve taken into your own individual style?
EB: He was very composed, always looked so immaculate. He has this way where he always looks so put together. He’s really a graceful person. I also learned to just dress simple sometimes. Simple is still beautiful and still chic. I did try and wear cool clothes around him sometimes but then I remember one night giving up and being like, “Ahh I’m wearing sweatpants.”JJ: What was the hardest word or phrase for you to master as a convincible southern person?
EB: The weirdest thing was I had this catch phrase that would get me into it. I had to say “I’m from Texas (says in a heavy Texan accent)” and I was completely fine. But there were certain words. The R’s are quite hard. There would just be little words I couldn’t quite get right. My vocal coach would be like, “It’s that word again!” But I think the best thing with an accent like that is you do have to master it but once you’ve sort of got it, you have to just learn to forget about it and concentrate on the acting and everything else. I’ve had my general American accent since I was young so that’s quite easy for me to turn on. But the Texan has a twang!JJ: Out of all of the actors that you have worked with on set, who were you the most star struck by?
EB: I think just because it was my first film, it may have been Sam. And mainly because I watched him in Control and I loved the film so much and I had a whole thing for Ian Curtis. Also I think definitely Tom. When I first met Tom, that was really quite amazing, especially with all of the amazing things he did with Gucci. He’s such an iconic person!
EB: Yes. She comes around with me. I’m here in LA at the moment shooting a film so she hasn’t come for that. And I’m just here on my own; my grandma came for a few days. My mom is so chill and so down to earth and not fussy about anything. If I want to be a bit sexy, she’s quite lax. I think she’s great because she the choices are mine essentially and she’s just there to guide me. She’s my manager but I feel like she’s more of a mom. Although she helps me with certain things, she’s still my mom. And I think that’s something that I want to keep. But she’s awesome and it’s just great to have my family’s support.JJ: You dyed your hair red for PPZ. Are you going to stick with being a redhead?
EB: I think so, for the moment, yeah. But at the moment I love myself red and I can’t even remember myself blonde actually to tell you the truth. I think if I went back blonde, it would be a real shock for me.JJ: Does it change your personality for you at all?
EB: Yeah. It’s a real bad-ass thing. It’s really fun and cool. I would miss red if I had to go any other color!JJ: What do you love most about fashion?
EB: The way that I can express myself with it. It’s a lot like acting to me because to me, acting is a form of expression and so is fashion. So that’s what I love about.JJ: How do you describe your own personal style?
EB: Extremely eclectic. I think because it’s so hot here, I’m really into cute little dresses. But generally, I’m quite eclectic and I love Chanel.JJ: Chanel dresses you a lot. What do you love about the brand?
EB: I love Chanel because it’s extremely timeless. It’s got such a lovely classic chic feel to it. It’s so timeless; it is so classic, and so beautiful. When I put anything that’s from Chanel on, I immediately feel graceful and just beautiful. The amount of craftsmanship that goes into their designing process and their creative process is very interesting to me and I really love that about it.JJ: Describe yourself in a few words.
EB: Goofy, clumsy, happy. I’m happy a lot. I’m always happy. Energetic. I love learning new things. I’m a fun person. I can also have my moments though. I can be serious sometimes.JJ: Have you ever broken a bone?
EB: Oh yes. I have broken a lot of bones. As I said, I’m clumsy! I have broken my arm from jumping on a trampoline with a handle, that’s how clumsy I am. We didn’t know for two days that it was broken. I was sent off to stage school and I was doing this with my arm (flaps arm around). I had the top of my finger cut off. I was 4. It was cut off but they managed to sew it back on. It was in the park gate and my mom accidentally closed it. It was hanging off. They gave me an injection into my knuckle, which is apparently one of the worst injections that you can have because it’s into the bone. I have quite a high pain threshold so it was okay. But then they stitched it up and my nail still grows, which is quite amazing. It grows slower than the others but it still grows. What else have I done? I’ve cracked my head open. When I was younger I fell off a chair. I stepped on a piece of hot coals and had to limp around. I’ve done a number of things. Broken my wrist. I’ve sprained my ankle several times.JJ: You should get a tattoo on your injured finger as a little memento.
EB: That’s such a good idea! That would be really cool. I’m going to think about that actually.
EB: I was at Jared’s for a pool party for the 4th of July. That was my first time at an all American pool party. It was amazing. It was so much fun. And I had a very nice dinner after that and I went dancing. I love dancing. I love music so I think it goes along with that.JJ: Do you have a celebrity crush?
EB: I have a girl crush. I’ve always loved Marina and the Diamonds so I have a bit of a crush on her music and how great she is. There is this album Electra Heart that she did and she took on a new persona and I loved that. I thought that was such a cool idea.JJ: Do you have any hidden talents? Or something that would be an icebreaker at a party.
EB: Whenever I’m here, the icebreaker is that I’m English. They are like, “Oh, you are from England. How long have you been here?” and I’m like, “Three weeks.” I also can do this thing, it’s a dance that we do in England to drum and base music but I wouldn’t call it a hidden talent.JJ: What’s it called?
EB: Skanking. It sounds repulsive. It’s kind of a little shuffle. It’s like a rave sort of dance.JJ: What is your biggest fear?
EB: Losing people I love. I’m good with spiders. I’m really good with heights; I don’t mind them at all. I love the idea of an adrenaline rush.
EB: I’m really into Kaytranada’s new album at the moment. He’s this cool producer DJ and he does a song with Craig David so I’m really into that album. And then I love Kendrick Lamar. And I’ve been having a little disco throwback as well.JJ: What is your favorite thing about the UK?
EB: The rain at night. I like going to bed with the rain at night and thunderstorms in the evening. That’s what I miss over here. I was in my trailer the other day and I was trying to get sleep and I just played rain sounds because I missed the rain on my window at night.JJ: What do you do to calm stage fright?
EB: Just try to chill. I like reading. It’s quite calming or just listening to music or lighting a candle or putting my feet up. It’s nice.JJ: Do you have any rituals for learning your lines?
EB: I just sort of chant them out loud to learn them and I like to write them in my own handwriting. For some reason, that really gets them into my brain. I memorized the whole of my Spanish GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). I’m pretty sure that’s why I got an A star because I was able to memorize an essay, which I wrote on my exam. So I think I just have a pretty good memory.JJ: What is the biggest misconception about British people?
EB: Whenever anyone at the moment tries to do a British accent to me, they are not very good at it. They try to sound too much like the queen. They think everyone sounds like the queen. We don’t all sound like the queen. We don’t have tea all the time. Not every English person likes drinking tea. I like green tea rather than English breakfast tea.JJ: So you’re not having tea and crumpets all the time?
EB: No we don’t (laughs)!JJ: I don’t even know what a crumpet is.
EB: Oh, it’s so good. I had one this morning. I found them in Trader Joe’s. It’s amazing because when you put butter or jam on, it seeps through the holes. It’s like an English muffin. When you put butter on, if you put a big bit on, you feel like you don’t have a lot on so you keep putting more on.JJ: What’s the most frequent question you get asked about being a redhead?
EB: Well I’m not naturally red so let’s just say… you know (laughs).JJ: What’s your guilty pleasure?
EB: On my days off, I like to just sit in front of the TV for hours. I don’t get to do that a lot so when I have some time off, I love to just sit and watch TV.JJ: What are you watching?
EB: I watched this new show, The Night Of; it’s this new HBO program. It’s quite good. I’ve seen one episode and it seems really good. And then I love to binge watch loads of films. I like old movies. I’m about to watch this film called Victoria. It’s all shot in one take. I’m really excited to watch it!JJ: If you had to eat one meal every day for a year, what would it be?
EB: This one is something to get really serious over! It would either have to be Chinese food or spaghetti bolognese. Pasta. Any pasta. Any Thai food. Any Chinese food. Anything with a noodle. Anything with a carb!JJ: Who is your style icon?
EB: Tom Ford.JJ: Current relationship status?
EB: I’m just going to laugh at that one. I’ll say that I’m just having a bit of fun. Just keeping it casual and having fun.
EB: A sense of humor. The ability to have a bit of fun. I don’t want someone who takes themselves too seriously. I want somebody who is light hearted.JJ: What would your ideal date be?
EB: Just something really chilled out. Just have some food. Go out for dinner and have a drink. I’m not really picky. Just a drink and dinner is nice. After a few dates, we can go do shit like jumping out of a plane or something. That’s like date number two. I like the adrenaline.JJ: Do you play any sports?
EB: I was quite good at netball and hockey when I was younger. You don’t have netball here. I was trying to teach people on set the other day. Netball is like basketball but you have to stand still with the ball. I’ve been horse riding since I was three. I’ve been doing that and skiing. I love horse riding.JJ: Do you jump?
EB: Yeah. Show jump. I used to show jump all the time! And cross-country.JJ: Have you ever fallen off a horse?
EB: Yeah. I have a few times. And a horse has rolled with me on its back so I had to jump off. I was about 10. I didn’t know what was happening but it was getting down to roll and everyone was shouting at me, “Get off! Get off!” So I had to jump off.JJ: What’s your secret to staying in good shape?
EB: I like to do this 7-minute workout app on my phone. And it’s good because you can do 21 minutes and then be like, “Hey I’m done.” So that’s what I do. I just do a few. If I am lazy, I’ll do three or four but if I want to do something proper, I’ll do something a few times. And they have all different kinds so it means that you don’t get bored. So I’ll do that in my house with a yoga mat.JJ: What’s the coolest skill that you’ve acquired from a film that you can use in everyday life?
EB: Definitely martial arts. I don’t use it in everyday life but it’s a great skill to have. It’s good for exercise as well. I do this thing back at home called One Rebel and they do this rumble class, which is boxing so that’s quite fun.JJ: What was your favorite stunt that you’ve ever gotten to do?
EB: I got to kick someone and then also I had these two swords and I got to kill a zombie with them at the same time.