Romola Garai: 'Some days it's hard not to just sit in my garden with a book and a sausage roll'

The minute you try to respond to an audience you are screwed It's something the French director François Ozon told me once: the work you are doing has to be to please yourself. Otherwise your work starts to become more conservative, as you're only ever chasing praise, and you only get praise if you make people feel comfortable. It comes down to having a sense of who you are and only worrying about the effect you have on the people you know.

We've taken huge steps back in the past 10 years with the portrayal of women in film and television It's why I've been disproportionately attracted to projects set in the past. The public are still loath to see shows with women in positions of power; female characters are expected to express more traditional, caring attitudes. We need to battle for the public's hearts and minds and create an environment where they don't think it's threatening or negative to see a woman playing a drunk cop or a female surgeon.

I'm a massive bullshitter There's always a point after I've met people a few times and they've got to know me, and they say, "Wow, you're kind of a liar." Every story anyone has ever told me will be exaggerated by at least 10 times the next time I tell it. If I've fallen over, say, I tell someone about how I almost broke my leg. Why would you miss the opportunity to make a story funnier even if you're basically telling a lie?

There's nothing like a recession to create a more politically engaged society which will be more interested in going to see less traditional works [of performance art]. I get grumpy about the innate conservatism of our tastes; I love bold theatre and I get annoyed when a heritage piece is really successful. Right now I am a crazy fan of the work of Katie Mitchell and I loved her last production at the National, Pains of Youth. I find her work deeply challenging and beautiful and leave feeling discomfited in the best possible way.

I'm unusual in my profession in that I'm not nomadic I'm a real home lover. I live close to my family and spend a lot of time with them, and having nephews has tightened those bonds further. Going away for work for several years is not something I could do; all those close human connections make me feel happy.

There's a paradox about living in the UK We don't do very well in quality of life indices, despite having a high standard of living. I've been really interested in the whole Equality Trust movement and how it's connected to happiness. Our willingness to separate work and family by huge distances means we lack a sense of community, we're time-poor and we spend a lot of our money on material things.

My book club is really an excuse to invite people around and get them to each bring a bottle We talk about the book a bit, but it's mostly "I thought it was rubbish... so what did you do last weekend?" We're not really the most incisive of critics; I'm the only one who tries to go a bit deeper, but then I get told to shut up. Right now we're doing Memento Mori, by Muriel Spark. Ben Whishaw, who's also in The Hour [an upcoming BBC drama in which Garai stars], recommended it to me, and said it was really dark.

Sausage rolls from [london butcher] Ginger Pig are like crack to me They are simply the most delicious thing and I've found ways to incorporate them into breakfast, lunch and dinner, often in the same day. I've even offered them as a dessert. Some days it's hard not to just sit in my garden with a good book and a sausage roll.

Romola Garai, 28, is a film and TV actress. 'Daniel Deronda' (Second Sight Films, £19.99), in which she plays Gwendolen Harweth, is out on DVD on Monday