Jessica Brown Findlay: 'My poor mum was in bits when she watched me die on screen'

Jessica Brown Findlay, 23, is an actress. 'Labyrinth' will be broadcast on Saturday and Sunday on Channel 4, and will be released on DVD on 1 April

Until I was 18, ballet was my life I loved it; I even danced at the Royal Opera House with the Kirov. Then I injured my ankle, had three operations on it, and the last one went wrong. I was told I would never dance again. The disappointment was huge, but I was lucky: I had a great group of friends outside that world who encouraged me to discover who I was without the label "ballet dancer".

Becoming a student helped me I went to St Martins, got a student loan and spent loads of time going to the theatre. I realised there were similarities between acting and ballet, and that what I missed most about ballet was the performance aspect. So I decided to try to be an actress instead.

Actors are dramatic people Am I dramatic? I'm a nightmare! Well, no, not really. I do love the madness of a film set, the dynamic, but I also love to be able to step back from it, go home and close my door.

'Downton Abbey' changed my life It was all so unexpected, a mad roller coaster. Stepping away [Findlay's character, Lady Sybil, died at the end of series three] immediately brought a calm back to my life. But I had such a fantastic time, and worked with such a great group of people – not a bad egg among them.

Dying on screen is fun I'd done a lot of research into Lady Sybil's demise from eclampsia, and I didn't want my death scene to look pretty, or covered up, or made Downton-friendly. I wanted it to be honest. Watching it back on TV was a very strange experience, though. My poor mum was in bits.

I chose to leave 'Downton' I had no idea what the future was going to hold, but ever since I had my operation on my ankle, I've always felt it best to trust my gut, and to try new things. I have so much more to learn in this industry. The unknown excites me.

Filming 'Labyrinth' is the most fun I've had on set It's a mini-series [set to air this week] based on Kate Mosse's bestselling book. I'd not read the book when I took the part, but I have now, and Kate came to watch the film. She was wonderful, free and giving, and she really does write such strong women!

It's so important to avoid typecasting When it comes to looks, it's all so fleeting; external beauty is merely a passing style. As an actor, you want to show there is more fire in your belly than just the way you look. It's exciting to transform, to play characters unlike yourself, to put yourself in different situations and try to understand them, gain empathy even.

I write poetry It sounds incredibly poncey, I know, but I really like it. It's just for myself, and I love being able to have something to do without relying on an agent to call me up first. If I want, I can get up and write poetry all day. All I need is a pen and paper.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits