It's not the work of a magician but Phoebe Fox is about to step into Daniel Radcliffe's shoes. The 27-year-old is the lead in The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, the sequel to the hugely successful 2012 adaptation of Susan Hill's horror novella.
"It was the reaction of my friends that kind of freaked me out," Fox says. "You're doing Woman in Black. Is Daniel Radcliffe in it? When I said no, he's not, they were so disappointed! But what worried me more was the pressure of doing a second film, because the first one was so successful. When you are the lead, you feel that if you mess it up the whole film can fall around you."
She's been wowing audiences on stage, where there is less focus on the box office. In 2011 she won an Evening Standard outstanding newcomer award for her appearances in As You Like It at the Rose Theatre, The Acid Test at Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court and There is War at the National Theatre. The Royal Court felt like her big break: "It was the first job that I really wanted. I got to hang out with Denis Lawson and two wicked girls and there is nothing quite like making people laugh, it's good for your ego."
Horror is something of a departure for the actress. She scares easily and jumps at loud noises. But having starred in the sequel, she's started to have a taste for blood and gore: "I went to see The Babadook at the cinema. Even as I was walking there, I was thinking, 'What the hell am I doing here?' Before I would never have seen something that had a poster proclaiming it was shockingly scary or 'You won't sleep at night'. But I paid money and really enjoyed it."
When she won the Evening Standard award, one of the nominees she was up against was her husband, the American Kyle Soller, whom she met at Rada. No one tried to tell her that marrying in her early 20s was too young: "I think there is a new wave of people getting married when they're young. I've got quite a few friends from school who are married. You know – get it out the way and worry about other things."
It's the sort of quip that's typical of the Londoner. Her parents, Stuart Fox and Prue Clarke, are actors but she's quick to point out that they are not related to the Fox dynasty, then adds, "We are not a dynasty yet, because there are only three of us. Give us another couple of generations and we'll be challenging the other Fox dynasty for the throne." Although there is one problem they would have to surmount: "If I could encourage my husband to take my name, and all our kids take our name then maybe I could."
The early marriage is not a sign that she's traditional: "Even if I wasn't an actor, I wouldn't have taken his name. He doesn't own me, so why should I? It's an archaic and stupid tradition."
She is a spiky mix of being thoroughly modern, and endearingly old-fashioned. She says, for example, "People just need to go back to the ancient crafts. We should teach people to do whittling at school, or knitting. Get people to know something else. Although I'm more interested in doing woodwork than knitting, much to my mother's dismay, she's constantly trying to get me to knit, but I'd rather actually get dad to teach me how to make a table."
She's already made one – a laptop table that she decided to make because of the increasing amount of time she seems to spend watching television series. The base is copper piping with a wooden top, that she admits is a bit wobbly, but does the job sufficiently well that she's proud of herself.
One of the series she has been watching is Breaking Bad in which Aaron Paul – her costar, along with Helen Mirren, in the upcoming military drama Eye in the Sky – plays Jesse. But despite her interest in TV dramas and working with an actor who made his name because of a hit television show, she currently has no interest in appearing in an American series herself: "I wouldn't want to take a job that I got tied into for six years – that just doesn't interest me. I don't need financial security, I don't have a mortgage and I don't have children."
Having said that, the next thing we will see her in is the West End transfer of the hugely successful Young Vic Arthur Miller adaptation A View From the Bridge. About the first run she says: "Catherine is a really interesting character. You get to do this transformation from young girl to woman. The cast was brilliant. Mark Strong is a dream to act against, so easy to approach, especially when you are playing quite an intimate relationship and on the first day we were encouraged to touch each other quite a lot!"
It's been quite a year for the actress, who had to fight for a place at drama school, only getting in on her third attempt. In the interim she took jobs sweeping floors and washing hair in a beauty salon and direct marketing to passers-by in the street. Her parents, too, have had to take odd jobs to support their love of acting, so it's no wonder that she gets annoyed at those who seemed to be fast-tracked into acting because of who they are. "What I find depressing is not just YouTube stars, I'd never heard of Zoella before her book came out, but people who you hear have been taking acting lessons and want to do a movie. Oh fuck, some of us spend our whole life trying to go to drama school and then we do three years' training. We are grafting away to try to make it. You can't just say 'hey I'm Kim Kardashian, put me in a movie'."
'The Woman in Black: Angel of Death' is released on 1 January. 'A View from the Bridge' , Wyndham's Theatre, London WC2 (0844 482 5120) 10 February to 11 AprilReuse content