Admired on the screens across the world, and in particular, the US, where Maisie’s career is highlighted by the roles on the CW series The Originals, the ABC Biblical series Of Kings and Prophets, and most recently, on The CW superhero series Legends of Tomorrow. For her latest role of Vixen in the Legends of Tomorrow, Maisie received wide critical acclaim, after all, she is playing one of the first African-American female superheroes, and is doing a great job.
You were born in London in a family of actors, could you tell us a bit more about your background and upbringing?
Both of my parents were actors, and I grew up on tour with them, in rehearsal rooms and backstage. I just fell in love with acting at very young age. This world always fascinated me as a way of sort of communicating and moving people. I have watched audience’s reaction from behind the stage, and I think it made me sort of come to live. I always knew I wanted to act, and then I went to university also because I love people and I am fascinated by people. I went to study anthropology at archeology at Oxford, which again some people think crosses over, and for me, it’s all about culture, which is all about what acting is.
Did you want to play more in film or theatre while you were in university?
I always thought it would be theatre. I wanted to make theatre, be in theatre, direct theatre. I always liked the fact that from moment to moment it is never the same, that each journey with each performance only can be encapsulated in one way. But then again with film, I loved the fact that you could be transported to another world in terms of the background, the people, the setting. Each have their beauty but I have always seen myself doing theatre. Then, what I am learning about film now, I also love that. Definitely, I love to play in both in my life.
What were your first steps in acting?
I always did some theatre on the side. I did some directing and improvising. Then, it took off professionally, and my first professional gig was in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, my first time on the screen. That was fantastic, I could just jump right in, learning the screen. While theatre was always my passion, with the screen I had to learn as we were going along.
The role of Vixen (Amaya Jiwe) in Legends of Tomorrow has been very important to your career. Could you tell us more about the show?
It is incredible, it is such an amazing opportunity and I am so grateful for it. But actually I auditioned for a nameless policewoman role and it was only after they offered me a part that they said: “By the way, you are going to be Vixen”. I was very happy, and it is such an incredible cast and the crew. Being a superhero is a great fun as well, flying around dressed in leather, it is always fun. I think what Legends are great at is its very human, the characters are just as flawed as they are fantastic. They are very textured characters even if you are saving the world every day you also see that they know the real human pain, the problems, and I love that. I love also the community, the fans, which is a wonderful group of people. Getting to know them and interacting with them has been a real blessing.
What is it like to play one of the first African-American female superheroes?
In terms of being one of the first African-American superheroes, it is fantastic. I think diversifying our screen is the only way forward, it is so important. I want the screen to represent our society and officially to be able to be part of that group is such a pleasure. We have a long way to go still, but I love moving in that direction and the growing interest among the people who are watching these shows is very important to have more diversity screen.
How did the character change since the first appearance on the show and how was it like to experience that change through your acting?
It is interesting because, when we meet her, she is very serious, pragmatic, ordered, being much more crystal clear about what is right or wrong. With the legends, she realises she has a massive grey area that involves being good all the time. She trusts her heart and her instinct, she takes the risk. She makes sense, and I think for me it is very important. I have learned things like trusting yourself and believing what you think is right, which is not always what everyone else thinks. Doing what is best and for those we love is a beautiful sentiment. I think in the next season she is going to have a whole different journey, which I am really excited to explore, and my journey with her will be very exciting.
What was your experience moving to the US? Do you miss London?
I miss London so much. There is nowhere quite like London in terms of diversity of art: you have galleries, film and theatre, really mixed with the history and the culture. But then again, I lived in South Africa, in Cape Town for about 7 months filming Of Kings and Prophets, which was incredible. I met wonderful people and travelled around: I lived in Atlanta, Vancouver, LA, so I love the fact that my journey is quite travelled. I meet people and immerse myself in different cultures, which is really a priceless thing, and it helped me grow as a human and also as a performer.
You are performing in a new play, 3 Women at the Trafalgar Studios. How did you get involved in this project?
This show is a brand new script by the comedian Katy Brand. I read it over in LA and fell in love with. It follows a mother, a daughter and a grandmother, one family in one night, when all of their dreams and angers come out at the eve of the mother’s wedding. I think it is really interesting to look at different generations of what it means to be a woman. So often we do not have conversations between generations but also within our own generation. The play looks at the importance of being able to confront and to learn from each other, and it explores the power of communication and healing. Three generations of women in one family, it shows how different they are yet how they are surrounded by love and trust. So it is a very funny, heartbreaking script.
This play is really focused of telling what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, does it have a connection with your personal project Shethority?
Shethority is essentially an online connector group that started to in order to be an empowerment space. We realised that so often we have conversations with our phone but not with a wider community. In Shethority, women learn from each other, they share their experiences and learn from each other’s experiences. Listening to each other stories and also sharing resources online, books, art courses or film; there are individuals who might be interesting who other people might want to learn from. In a way it is very similar, both are celebrations of female. The good thing about Shethority is that it goes beyond the support that we are: it attracts other people to share their experiences, not just for us to talk about our personal experiences. We are going to launch a website soon, we are doing panels and charity fundraisers. It is still early days but I think it will be very exciting moving forward.
Where do you see yourself going from this project, would you like to do more theatre now?
I am in love with theatre, but I want to do everything, I would love to do as many diverse characters as possible. I would love to do tiny little budget indie films as much as I would like to do bigger movies and theatre. The pleasure of acting is living as many different lives as possible and representing many different stories, telling these stories. I would also like to do writing and directing myself, so there are many things I want to do. Again, providing the space to tell other people’s stories is so powerful, and be that a performance in film, performance theatre or television, for me it is more about the story more so than the medium.
by Olga Kuznietsova
3 Women is playing at Trafalgar Studios, 4 Whitehall, Westminster, London SW1A 2DY until June 9, 2018.
Tel: 0844 871 7632
Photographer – Liam Bundy
Stylist – Thea Lewis-Yates
Fashion assistant – Ashley Conor
Makeup – Ana Fry
Hair – Sky Cripps-Jackson
Marques’ Almeida Dress
Maria Black Necklace
Ellery Top and Jeans
Celine Top and Skirt