Interview with Tilda Cobham-Hervey ('52 Tuesdays')

Reporter Holly Ilbury interviews Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Billie in 52 Tuesdays, the daughter struggling to come to terms with her mother's transition to the male gender. The film has had a theatrical release during August 2015 in the UK, and will be released on DVD later this year by Peccadillo Films.

Ultimate Planet showed 52 Tuesdays at LFest this year to a full house and the feedback was amazing.

Tilda: Amazing!

I wanted to ask you firstly about continuity during filming of the movie. What kind of challenges did you face having to stay in character over such a long period of time?

Tilda: It was funny, I’d never worked as an actor in a film before and I think that was really fantastic for this because there was no expectation of what I thought it was going to be like. In that way, you’re only responding to what happens and it felt very much like making a devised theatre piece and it didn’t necessarily feel like I was an actor. It felt very much like it was just a collaboration between people.

I think we were all so passionate about the story and about the characters. At the time it was just very exciting and invigorating, and also I think the fact that they kept the script from us, we only got the script one week at a time, it was like living in a choose your own adventure novel. You just had no idea what was going to happen to you, so it was very exciting at the end of each shoot, to figure out what would happen next.

As your first acting role in a movie, it’s quite a heavy character to take on.

Tilda: Well they didn’t obviously have the script to read, and I went to the audition because my friends were going to the audition. I love Sophie and Bryan’s work and I love devised theatre and the style of the film. The challenge in the process was really exciting to me. I read the character description, which was like “Fifteen; really sexually aware; bold and fierce” and I thought, I can’t do that! I’m a sixteen year old girl who wants to be Amelie! That’s not me!  It was quite a shock that they cast me and it wasn’t something I was expecting.

What was really amazing was being around people who were so excited by collaboration, telling stories in a way that I don’t think you see very often. So yes, it was terrifying but I think because I’d never worked on a film before I had no concept of what it would be like, it just felt very intimate when we were making it.

And of course Billie’s image changes quite a bit during the film, did you having to cut your hair help you to stay in character?

Tilda: Your life changes, it is a weird thing, sort of the ultimate feeling of life imitating art. I was sixteen, turning seventeen and that year is a formative year no matter what. It was a weird thing to grow up as Billie and as Tilly at the same time. It was like, oh my god, who’s who? It was very challenging at times.

52 Tuesdays posterSo you’ve been here the UK promoting the film this week?

Tilda: I’ve actually only just arrived! This is only my second day in England.

What do you think so far?

Tilda: It’s great. I’ve been to London before but it’s been such a joy to explore it in a different way and meet lots of people. And it’s so exciting to talk about the film again because it’s been a little while. The great thing is that each time I come back to talk about it I have a different experience. Each visit I’m a little bit older so it’s always slightly different.

What has the reception been like, overall?

Tilda: The thing that I love when we show this film is that everyone comes out and tells us it’s about something else. And I think that it’s one of those films that, depending on the way you want to look at it, whether it’s from a process angle, or which character you understand, or how you feel in that time you watch it. I think it’s a very personal film so I think people are very up for sharing their own experiences, what they think it’s about, and how they connected with it, with us. And that’s really exiting.

The great thing about, and the thing that I’m most proud of, is that it’s a film that really starts discussion. It’s something that you have to chat about because it is an experiment at its core. It’s the surprising nature of how people respond to the film each time that’s always exciting.

What’s your favourite scene?

Tilda: It’s funny, I actually haven’t watched it. Well, I watched it only once or twice! It is weird to have a product of your year that wasn’t actually your year. It’s very bizarre to watch it. There’s a lot of favourite moments of working on it, but it was such a fantastic experience that it’s hard to pull out certain themes.

There were quite a few highly sexualised scenes, as a sixteen year old who wanted to be Amelie, did you find them difficult?

Tilda: Weirdly, I thought they were going to be so much more challenging than they were. I think playing tennis was the hardest thing I had to do! I’m so uncoordinated! Sam and Imogen are two very close friends of mine so we all talked about everything so much and we felt so comfortable. Often the actual moments when you’re doing those scenes, you think it’s going to be a really big deal and that having to be sexy is going to be full on and hard, but it’s very technical in the end. And we were all so comfortable with each other that it wasn’t terrifying like I thought it was going to be. And because we did talk about it, if we weren’t comfortable with something, it was ok to say that. We were never doing anything outside of our comfort zone.

So the farthest you got outside your comfort zone was playing tennis.

Tilda: Yes, that was really hard because we got the script a week before so I couldn’t practice!

 

So in the work you’ve done since then, how has it been having the script in advance and knowing what to expect?

Tilda: It’s weird! I’ll always admire this process, I loved working like this because I felt very much like a collaborator and a part of telling the whole story. I recently worked on a TV show and it is a very different thing, it went so quick. And there are great things about it, like I guess you only have one very particular job.

But I found it very weird to be waiting around all day and then come in and say a few words, and there are so many people around! Each process feels like a different art-form every time I’ve been a part of it. The way things are run and the way each is directed, each process has been unique.

And you were part of a very unique process for your first film.

Tilda: Yes, I feel completely crazy lucky!