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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border