An Interview with Kate Magowan
Kate Magowan is an actor and producer known for her work on Stardust, 24 Hour Party People, Spotless, A Lonely Place To Die, and Dream Team. She recently starred in the short comedy series Fame Disease, which she also co-produced. I spoke with Kate about landing her first role, her early inspirations, working on 24 Hour Party People and Stardust, and her upcoming projects.
Did you always want to pursue a career in acting, and how did you land your first role?
Yes, I did. I always wanted to be an actress. My background was in dancing, so I was always performing and doing dance shows. I was just obsessed with films really. I had pictures of Marilyn Monroe and people like that on my wall as a young girl. I came to acting via dance as I was auditioning for commercials and small parts in things. I did a year at drama school and got a part in a series called Dream Team, which was Sky’s first scripted drama. I did a year on Dream Team - it was great, weird and wonderful and that is what kicked off my acting career.
Is there anyone in the industry who has really inspired you?
There’s probably too many to name in one place. I would say I’ve always loved Meryl Streep and Dame Judi Dench. I think Julianne Moore, is the most exquisite actress. All of the greats really, Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, Gary Oldman. I was kind of obsessed with films. The glory days of filmmaking back in the golden age of Hollywood, there was a bit of magic back then which we really don’t have anymore. I loved all of that. I would just watch all of those classic films over and over again.
You played a role in 24 Hour Party People. What drew you to the role of Yvette?
I was asked to audition because I looked a little bit similar to Yvette which is a huge compliment. They were trying to find somebody who really looked like her. I really wanted to be part of the film because it was such a fun script, the way it was written was brilliant and hadn’t really been done before. Steve Coogan’s a genius, as we know, and I just wanted to be part of it. It was a relatively small role, but she was quite significant, as she was his long-term love; there at the beginning of Factory Records and The Hacienda and involved in the building of it, to an extent. Recreating all of that on screen, with equal parts of chaos and wonder. There were some brilliant people involved with it. Michael Winterbottom has become a friend of mine since then and he’s a great filmmaker.
You also played a role in Stardust. Could you tell me about your experience working on the film?
It was a six-month shoot. They were looking for my character, Princess Una. I think I had three auditions and suddenly I landed the film. It was really exciting! You go for big and small parts all the time as an actor and to be part of a massive studio picture like that was just really incredible. And when you look at that cast who were involved; Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, list after list of people. I love Jane Goldman who wrote the screenplay and obviously the book by Neil Gaiman. Matthew Vaughn put together this incredible team and directed us. We filmed across the UK and it was all on location and a stint at Pinewood Studios at the end. It was just great. You’re part of a juggernaut I would say, with something of that scale. I’d never done anything before where there was magic and fantasy involved, with lots of green screen stuff. That was new to me at the time. I had to learn to drive a carriage. All while wearing a corset and a big skirt. It was really fun. The people I met on that film were all great actors and wonderful people.
You’ve worked on a number of series, as well as feature films. Do you prefer working in film to television, and what’s the biggest difference between the two?
From a character perspective, I think with television you get more time to tell you character’s story. For example, Spotless on Netflix where I played Sonny Clay. I loved that part. She was complex and a bit scheming, and they are always the more interesting roles. You have more time. With Ten one-hour episodes, you have more time to tell the story of the character. From that perspective there is a little bit more time to layer things to sort of seek complexities within a character.
I would say with film you tend to get more time on a shooting day. TV you shoot maybe five or six pages on a high-end drama, whereas film you might only shoot two pages of the actual script. It takes a long time to set things up. I’m thinking of something massive like Stardust, it takes time to set stuff up and rehearse. There is just a bit more time on a shooting day in that respect, but on a TV show the turnover is quicker in terms of what you’re actually getting shot each day. There are benefits to both. I think I like to just get stuff shot. Films are really special because they are films, and I was always really obsessed with films, but we’re in a golden age of TV at the moment and there’s loads of amazing drama being made. They both have positives to them.
Is television more demanding as an actor, in the sense that you have less time?
Yes, it is if you have less time. It’s pretty much your job anyway to be on top of your lines obviously, number one! If there’s a quick turnaround, then there’s not really any rehearsal time. You have to just be absolutely moving from one scene to the next, with or without a costume change, bang you’re in. So, it is more demanding. That requires a certain level of skill. With big films there is an awful lot of waiting around for lighting and rehearsing. I like to be busy, so for me it works to just get on with it, even though it can be more demanding.
I’d like to ask about your role in Winter. How did you prepare?
I just really wanted to work with Heidi Greensmith again. I think she’s the most incredible filmmaker, she has wonderful vision and she wrote Winter as well. I loved it and I wept when I read it. I couldn’t wait to work with her again. I’d done a short film with her and she asked if I would like to play the part of Laura. I spoke to her about the role of Laura, a youth worker. I couldn’t really talk to anyone else as these kinds of places are secure, but Heidi and I had a few conversations about the character and her role within this boy’s life. He had a very tragic time of it - his father was an alcoholic and his Mum had died. I just prepared with Heidi really. It’s a tender and beautiful film with some incredible performances.
Do you prefer working with directors you’ve worked with before?
I think it’s always nice and I’ve been really lucky to work with a few directors’ multiple times. It’s an honour because they like what you do, and they ask you back. It normally happens because you have a good working relationship, which usually means you have some sort of a shorthand, or a way of communicating that makes work easier, more symbiotic. You understand each other so there doesn’t necessarily need to be a lot of discussion or explanation, or intellectualisation. The people that I’ve worked with multiple times - it’s because we understand each other. Whilst it’s great to work with people you know, it’s also wonderful when you collaborate with new people. Having produced her debut short Early Days, I have been directed by and am currently writing with writer/director Nessa Wrafter. We have a great working relationship.
Have you been working on any new projects?
It has been interesting during lockdown, but as I said, I’ve worked with Nessa. She and Simon Killick wrote and directed a couple of comedy shorts as part of a series called Fame Disease, that I am in and one of them has been selected for the British Comedy Guide Pro Awards, you can watch the first episode on https://www.klickproductions.com/web-series
Early Days is a short film that Nessa and I worked on which I executive produced. It came out a while ago and it’s still on the circuit and winning things which is wonderful. Nessa and I are also in the process of writing a TV project together.
I produced a short film called Joey last year, which was has entered the festival circuit this year, with the current situation everything has been postponed or happening digitally. However, Joey has been selected for Warsaw Film Festival (which is Oscar Qualifying) and Aesthetica Film Festival so far. We’ll see where that goes. There’s been little bits and pieces until we get going again properly. It has been an interesting time.
I suppose it is a good time to write…
It gives you time to focus for sure because there’s not all the distractions of meetings and film schedules, so it has been a great time to really focus on that.