“This must die,” 36-year-old British actress Andrea Riseborough declares, letting a pink gown slip through her hands. Out of the question. No doubt about it. The same fate awaits other garments brought for this shoot. Methodic and ritualistic, when her make-up artist begins working on her look, she fetches her phone and plays Cosmic Dancer by T.Rex. She hums over the music and requests some privacy in the room until she is ready for her close-up. Riseborough knows what she wants, that much is clear. But she doesn’t see anything particularly radical about her words or actions— to her, it’s just open communication. “As everyone does, I have views. I think it’s unhealthy not to talk about things. Communication is so important,” she tells me as we catch up in a Mexico City hotel. She is here for less than a week to work on a TV series that she is not at much liberty to discuss. No diva airs here, no ornate riders. She takes not but a light soda from the catering corner before sitting down to talk. Obstacles have been surmounted. She is a bit sick, at odds with the altitude here. No booze, no toast to celebrate the wrap. The work rhythm has been intense, but even if she admits it can be tiring, she’s delighted to be in action. Among her meager demands for the shoot was a request to wear her own hoodie with the message “EQUAL PAY” prominently plastered. Female empowerment is something that she is unapologetically passionate about. Her decisions for the wardrobe mirror her stance. Nothing is deliberately feminine. Nothing incites the objectification of women. Formality is not something she enjoys.
It has been a banner year for Riseborough. She’s become a go-to for roles that require total immersion and transformation, and in a suite of Sundance stunners—the Midnight selection Mandy, the lauded historical comedy The Death of Stalin, and U.S. Dramatic Competition titles Nancy and Burden—she demonstrates not only her tireless work ethic but her seemingly limitless ability to embody a diverse range of characters.
Her latest project is Nancy, written and directed by Christina Choe. It’s a layered, complex portrait of a woman who creates elaborate alternate identities on the internet to fulfill her desire for human connection. Fiction and reality are blurred when she becomes convinced that she is the lost daughter of two parents whose child went missing thirty years earlier. Risebourough plays Nancy with sensitivity and total commitment. She’s thrilled about the project, and for good reason—this time around she not only stars, but she has also joined the production ranks.