Watch: Oliver Jackson-Cohen talks to Yahoo about his dark role in Emily
"It’s that delicious stuff that we all love," the 35-year-old explains, "going off to those darker places is so much more fun than playing a friendly neighbour!”
The actor, whose breakthrough came as the abusive boyfriend in The Invisible Man (2020), is in cinemas this week in Emily, the story of 19th century author Emily Brontë. And, once again, he’s at the centre of a turbulent relationship.
He plays William Weightman, the curate at Howarth in Yorkshire who, after a hesitant start, embarks on an intense and secret affair with Emily (Sex Education’s Emma Mackey).
Although he calls an abrupt halt to their relationship, Jackson-Cohen was amused by the idea that his character 'ghosts' the aspiring writer. And when he spoke to Yahoo about the film, the actor described how he believes Weightman’s motives aren’t malicious, unlike those of Adrian in The Invisible Man. Perhaps his mum needn’t worry after all.
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“Maybe it is selfish, but it’s governed by his faith and what he truly believes is right, and also by society at the time,” he explains.
“Frances [O’Connor, the film’s director] does an incredible job shining a light on religion and how controlling it was of society and, specifically, a woman’s place within it. Everybody had to conform because stepping outside of it was too scary. I think there’s something not very brave about him, because he ends up having to conform because he’s terrified.”
Watch the UK trailer for Emily
Jackson-Cohen also reiterated that the film “isn’t a biopic”, but an imagining by Frances O’Connor of Emily Bronte’s later years, as she struggles with her romantic and creative impulses as well as her own reclusive nature, which means she’s regarded by society as something of a misfit.
The second of the Bronte sisters (older sister, Charlotte, went on to write Jane Eyre, while the youngest, Anne, was best known for The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall), Emily only published one novel, Wuthering Heights, which has since become a classic of romantic English literature.
“Frances has such respect for Emily Bronte and Wuthering Heights that she just wanted to explore them,” he added. “She’s so fascinated – and we all are – that this one person wrote this one book that is still, to this day, one of the greatest pieces of literature. She wanted to get inside her creativity and imagination and let that run wild.”
Emily also stars Fionn Whitehead, Adrian Dunbar and Gemma Jones, with Alexandra Dowling and Amelia Gething respectively as Charlotte and Anne Bronte.
A familiar face from TV’s The Haunting of Hill House (2018) and The Haunting Of Bly Manor (2020), Oliver Jackson-Cohen was seen earlier this year turning his hand to a lighter role in Regency rom-com, Mr Malcolm’s List.
He’s now set to star alongside Jenna Coleman in new series, Wilderness, which centres on another twisted relationship. Emma Mackey, who appeared in Death On The Nile at the start of the year, is currently filming series four of Sex Education for Netflix.
2023 will see her co-starring with Margot Robbie in one of the most anticipated films of the year, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, which is due in cinemas on 21 July.
Emily is released in UK cinemas on Friday, 14 October. Watch a trailer below.