Lily James has replaced Keira Knightley as the go-to period drama girl, but now she’s hoping to move in a more modern direction.
The British actress shot to fame in Downton Abbey and has since appeared in several period shows and films including the BBC’s War & Peace, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and most recently appeared in the romantic-comedy drama The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
The film, directed by Four Wedding and a Funeral’s Mike Newell, has a more contemporary narrative than most period dramas; James plays Juliet Ashton, a writer who has become independently wealthy off the back of her wartime novel series.
Now hoping to find her next inspiration in post-WWII Britain, a correspondence leads Juliet to Guernsey and a book club who have their own mysterious story to after living for four years under Nazi Occupation.
The actress spoke to Yahoo Movies about the movie and how she’s hoping to branch out from the period dramas that established her career.
“I think as an actor you’re always worried about being typecast,” James explained. “I think it’s inevitable that people start seeing you in a certain way but I always try and remind myself that I have a very long career, and I have a lot of time to sort of reinvent and show myself in a different light.
“I am keen… and the next film I’m doing is modern!”
One of the hardest parts is finding good scripts for women. James said she often had “to sort of sift through a lot of rubbish,” but recently she has found some brilliant screenplays sent through.
“I’ve been really amazed by the stuff that I’ve been getting, especially recently,” the actress explained. “I’ve just done a film, Little Woods, which was written and directed by a woman my age, produced by a woman and it’s a story about sisters. I think there is a lot, thank god, of stories that are finally stories that I want to tell and relate to.”
James wants to do more than be an actress in these type of stories, she wants to produce them too and follow in the footsteps of some successful famous actors-turned-producers who have done the same.
“One of the things you see people, like Reese Witherspoon, so brilliantly are doing, and the likes of Gemma Arterton and Alicia Vikander that are producing their own work, is that you can take control of the stories you want to tell,” she said. “If there aren’t the scripts that are catering for the roles you want to play, you can own that.”
“My agents are really encouraging me to – because I read a lot – if there’s ever a story I come across that we can ask for rights,” James continued. “I think through books, like this, where hopefully you can find your story.
“I think later down the line I would want to direct but not yet.”
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is out on Friday, April 20