Interview: Andrea Riseborough of ‘Shadow Dancer’

Andrea Riseborough is fucking delightful.

She has an immediately familiar face, one that can look both regal and familial, sometimes simultaneously. When some celebrities walk into a room it’s as if the air goes out and nobody can breathe. In Andrea’s case – everyone breathes a sigh of relief. She’s dressed in an outfit that could best be described as Wednesday Adams meets Mad Max – a leather jacket over a black dress. It’s charming. She’s charming. We are all charmed, present-tense.

She’s here to promote “Shadow Dancer” – a slow-burning drama about an IRA informant. It’s not exactly a feel-good summer blockbuster, but the character she plays is played with such intensity as to warrant the word “smoldering” to describe her performance; a far cry from the chipper woman before me today.

I had a conversation with her at the Crosby Hotel. She’s utterly charming; here’s what transpired.

NED HEPBURN: You shot the movie in Belfast, and the movie centers around an IRA informant.

ANDREA RISEBOUROUGH: I find it very tricky to talk about. I don’t want to jeopardize… but I had a great time in Belfast and a good, valuable experience, and I made a lot of emotional connections. The reason I read the script was because of James (Marsh), because I think he’s an extraordinary filmmaker. I sat on the script for like a month because Colette [her character] is more indicative of a situation than a fully formed person.

[Another journalist] So the way in was finding her humanity?

I didn’t feel like when I read the script that she was inhumane, no. I felt that she was human. To be human is one thing but to be a living breathing person is another. The notion of humanity is one thing but an actual person with all their nuances and how specific they are… only when you stand back do you ever realize how much you are yourself and how specific that is only to you. And those are the the things I had to create. You know? She has no idea who she is and what she wants as a person because she’s always come second to the cause [the IRA].

What kind of person did you meet to flesh out the character? Obviously you can’t talk to undercover informants…

I wish I could just transport you all there for a moment. It’s not a question. If you’re born in that area, that’s your life. There are certain housing estates where that is your life. You don’t go past a certain territory because you might get your head kicked in.

I know that you worked in a lot of British comedy before. Did you find that your comedic work helped influence your dramatic work? I remember seeing you in a movie called “Magicians” where…

Yeah that didn’t work.

It didn’t?

No, did you see it? I thought it was funny. It’s such a shame because that script was so fantastic and then it suffered that awful thing where comedy sometimes suffers where it was overwritten. It was wonderful in its purest form and then it was… I think we just got too familiar with the material.

I wasn’t sober when I watched it. It was Christmas at my aunt’s place.


Well, I know your comedic background, though, and you’re playing such a strong silent character in this movie. I’m wondering how you’re able to play the more silent part of Colette against a much broader comedic background.

I don’t know whether that’s my question to answer!

It was a very ‘Meet The Beatles’ question, if you’ll forgive me.

I like it’s leftfield approach!