April 18 2014
EXCLUSIVE: Jemima West talks about her role as Alice in the mini-TV series that has once again reignited interest in The British Raj…
BY Chayya Syal and Sailesh Ram
VERY occasionally there’s an actor who takes your breath away with a look, a faint gesture, or a smile.
While many female viewers have noticed Nikesh Patel who plays Aafrin in the Channel 4 colonial mini-series drama, “Indian Summers”, in that way, Jemima West, who plays Alice, his clandestine lover, probably has an appeal for both sexes.
That look of vulnerability and horror when Aafrin disavows her, was touching and powerful – and then their later reconciliation and her clear affection for brother Ralph (Henry Lloyd-Hughes pictured above left) who also has his legion of female fans, was equally affecting, even to the casual viewer.
The final episode of the 10-part series airs this Sunday (April 19). Shooting for series 2 begins shortly and the £14m Channel 4 drama – its most ambitious in recent times – is not expected to be back on our screens in the UK until early next year.
West is bilingual and grew up in Paris, France. She began her acting career at the age of 12.
Since then, West has gone on to star in a variety of international TV shows including the film adaptation “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” (as Isabelle Lightwood) and “The Borgias” (season 2 as Vittoria) and more.
Between 2010 – 2013, West starred in “Maison Close”, a French TV series set in the brothels of 19th century Paris where she played the part of Rose – a young girl who is coerced into the world of prostitution.
We spoke to West about how she gets into character, her thoughts behind Alice and Aafrin’s relationship as well as getting the lowdown on why Ralph and Alice are so close!
www.asianculturevulture.com (ACV) How different was playing Alice Whelan to your previous role in Maison Close?
Jemima West (JW): Well there is indeed a big gap between the world of a French brothel in the 19th century and the colonies of India in 1932!
It has certainly been a difference for me playing Alice, not only because of who she is, but also because of the entire historical context she evolves in. It’s always great to be a part of a project that makes you learn so much, and for ‘Indian Summers’ it was fascinating learning more about the historical context, religions and all.
ACV: As an actor, do you have any processes or methods that help you get into the mindset of your character?
JW: I read a few books about the historical context and the situation of women at the time, but what I like to do is dive into a musical world and picture world – that helps me a lot. Then another huge part of the preparation is all the work on costume and hair/make up which helps me bring the character to life. And finally the interaction with other characters/actors – which always brings out something surprising and new.
ACV: Were you able to relate to Alice in any way?
JW: Absolutely! She has made a decision to live her own life and to make herself as happy as she possibly can. In that sense, she is a woman I much admire.
ACV: We’re really rooting for Alice and Aafrin to be together! How do you think the other characters will react if they were to find out?
JW: I am too! Well, as one could suspect, I don’t think their relationship would be very welcome… But who knows, maybe some of our characters are full of surprises…?
ACV: The relationship between Alice and Ralph, her brother, is very intense and some have noted, a bit unusual, can you offer us any deeper insight into why they look out for each other in the way that they do?
JW: I think Ralph and Alice have a bond that goes beyond any limit of time or distance spent apart from each other. And because they have lost so much, they only have each other really. So when they are reunited there is a strong sense of love, possession and fraternity. They have something quite animal about them, instinctive. They are constantly trying to tame each other.
You can ask Jemima West a question through us on twitter using @asianculturevul and the hash tag #ACVASKALICE, submit your question to us by 8pm Monday, April 20 and we will get an answer from her – it will be published only on the site…