A world of friendship

Nichola Burley and Roxanne Scrimshaw talk about living the dream and creating characters in Lynn + Lucy

by Amber Wilkinson

Nichola Burley and Roxanne Scrimshaw as Lucy and Lynn. Scrimshaw: 'I'm just living my wildest dreams right now'
Nichola Burley and Roxanne Scrimshaw as Lucy and Lynn. Scrimshaw: 'I'm just living my wildest dreams right now' Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival
Sometimes interviewing stars of films can be a bit of grinding process as they - now five films along the line - trot out rehearsed spiel about what the can remember from the shoot. It was a breath of fresh air, then to catch up with the stars of Fyzal Boulifa's Lynn + Lucy in San Sebastian. As Boulifa explained to me, the film has quite an austere feel, but the emotions emanating from actors Nichola Burley and Roxanne Scrimshaw reflected the sunshine outside, full of upbeat passion and excitement.

The pair play the lifelong friends of the title, in a drama that sees that closeness begin to crumble as a result of circumstances and community pressure. For Scrimshaw, the entire project has been one of discovery, as she was 'street cast' after applying to an advert for actresses, even though she feared it might be a hoax. Burley, it turns out, was the perfect person to play opposite her - not just because of their chemistry in the film - but because she knew what Scrimshaw was going through as she began her own career by being street cast for Dominic Savage's Love + Hate. We talked about the new experience for Scrimshaw - and about the lengths Burley went to in order to capture the character of Lucy. We do touch on a scene towards the end of the film that takes place in the hair and beauty salon where Lynn (Scrimshaw) works. If you're spoiler-phobic, you may want to see the film before reading on.

Roxanne Scrimshaw: I'm just living my wildest dreams right now.

Amber Wilkinson: Of course, you're used to it now Nichola, but you must be able to relate to what Roxanne's feeling?

Roxanne Scrimshaw: 'I don't know if I would have been able to do it as comfortably and easily if it wasn't for people like Nichola'
Roxanne Scrimshaw: 'I don't know if I would have been able to do it as comfortably and easily if it wasn't for people like Nichola' Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival
Nichola Burley: I think I've cried at Roxanne two or three times today, because how she describes it - I know exactly what she means. I know that it's very real and she's not making it up. I think I see what's ahead for her - you're going to start me off now!

AW: It must have been such a shock to you to even find yourself in the film, I'm guessing? And I suppose you just go on having shocking experiences, in a nice way.

RS: It was so crazy because. From when I first applied to the film - and initially I thought it was a scam - and somebody called me in, it never crossed my mind that it was like a real film in the film world. If anything, I thought it was that someone might just want a snippet for an advert or something.

NB: Why would you?

RS: So, I went there and thought, 'Don't do anything stupid'. But, from the very beginning, when I had no idea what I was going in for, up until meeting the rest of the cast and crew and starting filming, I still didn't quite have a concept of what I was doing. Even now...

NB: It's so surreal, isn't it? It's a whirlwind. You're picked up out of normality, what you know and what you always expect to be living and you're thrown into something that's completely extravagant and really extreme in a way.

RS: It is and it's so overwhelming, but not in a bad way. I'm literally just getting so many different experiences and meeting so many types of people that I've never met.

AW: It must be quite hard just to process it all because these things seem to happen so fast. Especially when you're doing the festival thing - it's a bubble but a really intense one. Presumably it was a real help having you there, Nichola, because you've been through that sort of experience yourself?

NB: In real life, Roxanne is very strong and very driven. The one thing that keeps coming back to me that you said is, "There has to be more to life than this" so you're just going to go for any opportunity that's given. You can just see her passion for anything that excites her - she just goes for it. There were little things we'd talk about or that I'd be able to help her with along the way, but she's got this amazing attitude to take everything on, as though she's always done it and not too think too deeply into it and over-analyse it. She'd just be, "Okay, this is what you want, right, let's do it".

Nichola Burley: 'I don't think it's often you read a script and you're really physically moved by it'
Nichola Burley: 'I don't think it's often you read a script and you're really physically moved by it' Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival
RS: Their opinion of me during the filming was totally different than what I thought it would be. I don't know if I would have been able to do it as comfortably and easily if it wasn't for people like Nichola. The first time I met her, she was so friendly and helpful and she told me, 'I've been here and I've done this, just relax'. They made me feel like this is normal, like, I can relax here and do what I'm being asked to do.

NB: If anything, the one thing I wanted you to know is what you brought to it was important and that's why you got cast. So even when things become really big and the idea of things becomes bigger - like when you start to process [gasps] 'Oh, I'm in a film'. And the workload becomes exhausting, which it's going to be because you're in 12 hours a day, six days a week. When that starts to happen and you get a bit blurry eyed with it, you say, 'I'm here because of my choices' and it's you that they wanted in be confident in any decision you make.

RS: If it wasn't for the people around me, I don't think I'd be sitting here now. You don't understand how much you've helped bring me to where I am right now, sitting in this chair, it's crazy. You're going to start me crying!

AW: It's quite a difficult role for you too, Nichola, she's such a character - although the film is about your character Lynn, Roxanne, and it's beautifully acted. But Nichola's having to do a lot - a completely different accent to your own northern one, plus a character who is quite out there, so how was it for you preparing it for the role?

NB: I don't think it's often you read a script and you're really physically moved by it. You can read the dramatic points and feel the pinnacles but you don't necessarily feel everything until you start acting it - it doesn't necessarily have a physical effect. But that happened when I read Lynn + Lucy. When I went to the audition and met Fyzal and he was completely unapologetic and honest about what he wanted and expected. So, the second audition, when I met Roxanne, I turned up with a bottle of wine and got completely drunk in the audition - that wasn't intentional, I thought I'd take it in for effect but got completely drunk.Then Roxanne said: "Does this happen all the time?" It's the first time I ever did it.

RS: She offered me some wine and I thought, "Is this a trick?"

Nichola Burley: 'I knew Lucy took commitment. I couldn't dip in and out of Lucy, so it was really dark at times'
Nichola Burley: 'I knew Lucy took commitment. I couldn't dip in and out of Lucy, so it was really dark at times' Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival
NB: By the end, I was spilling it all over the floor - I'd love to see those tapes, actually! - and I remember getting in the train station in London and trying to work the ticket machine to get home and I couldn't and the man had to help me with it. I phoned my partner and said: "I'm so f***ing rock and roll." He said: "No, you're a mess, get home." And then I got a call two days later to meet Fyzal and he said, "I want you to do this but I want you to know what I want of you. I want you to eat shit food, I want you to start smoking and your hair's going to get cut off. I said, "I am getting piercings." and he said: "All right. Perfect." And I found out that afternoon I got it. I knew Lucy took commitment. I couldn't dip in and out of Lucy, so it was really dark at times, it was uncomfortable and I didn't like the place I was in mentally. Not that I'm necessarily method or try to be but I just knew she took a greater mental commitment than perhaps I'd ever given completely before. That was scary and it felt really dangerous. When it got really dark, it got to the point where I was making myself videos to keep me sane.

AW: You mention hair, which is very interesting because we do define ourselves so much by hair.

NB: Femininity, I think. Roxanne made this point earlier and I think it was so true, on set, we kind of felt all of those things for real. I remember Rox cutting my hair.

AW: How was that for you?

RS: It was very exciting for me, purely for the fact that I get to do this crazy thing - I'm chopping someone's hair off to the scalp. But then, when it came to actually doing it, I got taken over by the emotion of this is a real person. I felt really bad about doing it. At first, I was having fun, but then when it started getting shorter and shorter, I started thinking, 'This is going to end and this person has to recover' But it went well but we both, at the end of it, just embraced it because it wasn't us standing there as Nichola and Roxanne, I was Lynn and she was Lucy.

NB: We experienced it together, I think. Everything that she felt as Lynn, I felt as Lucy because Lucy knew what she was going in to ask for. I think she's asking for confirmation. It was only afterwards when we got back to the hotel that I was [gestures hair, now fully grown back and immaculately coiffed] like: "Oh shit, what is this?"

AW: So, Roxanne, do you think you're going to do more roles?

RS: Any opportunity to act again - I'd absolutely love it. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I'd love to do it again a million times over.

AW: Well, it sounds as though you've made a good friendship out of it.

RS: Everyone has been amazing and they ain't getting rid of me - I'm going to pop up every Christmas.

  • Read what Fyzal Boulifa told us about making Lynn + Lucy

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