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Sophie Rundle explores her path to 'The Nest'

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British actress Sophie Rundle was clumsy and shy as a kid. She says she didn't shine at anything until she stumbled on a drama class.

"I remember I was 11 and I'd just joined a big school, and there was a drama club and a play, 'Alice in Wonderland.' And I just got the bug," she says.

"I took part in drama class, and I loved it. I was quite an awkward kid and I just wanted to be seen, I think. This was a way to do it; be seen, but not as myself because I was awkward and didn't really think I had anything to offer ... But there's a defense as soon as you go on stage and you've got a costume on. Nothing can touch you because it's not YOU anymore, it's somebody else. And I just loved it, and it snowballed from there. I didn't ever want to do anything else."

She proved doubly fortunate because instead of grinning as the Cheshire cat or issuing decapitation orders as the Queen of Hearts, Rundle was cast as Alice. "You can see why I was hooked," she giggles.

From then on, she was determined to follow that course. Her dad, a business consultant, and her mom, who works for a company distributing books, were flummoxed by her choice, she says.

"I was sort of headstrong about it. I was very committed, so after a while it made sense to them. I think they're still a little bit baffled."

In spite of juicy roles in series like "Peaky Blinders," "Bodyguard" and "Jamestown," Rundle says she wasn't sure she was right for her latest role in the taut Scottish drama, "The Nest," streaming now on Acorn TV.

Rundle plays a woman who desperately longs to be a mother, but after years of trying, can't conceive and enlists a surrogate. The decision proves cataclysmic in this thriller.

"I thought I was too young for the role," admits Rundle, who's 32. "I was quite cross that I had to go in and read. I thought she was supposed to be older. I thought this was the story of a couple going through fertility treatment and read her as being MUCH older. But I went in and started talking to Nicole Taylor, the writer. She said no, she wanted them to be a younger couple. That was the hook."

The "hook" for Rundle herself came when she was 17 and was felled by a serious ailment.

She won't say what it was, but explains, "I was very ill when I was a teenager for a couple of months. And that really changed my perspective on life.

"You've got to go out and do the things you want to do because life can be very short. I think that changed me. I think you've always got to feel a little like you're in above your head. That was a big thing to go through at a formative age. I think anybody who's been ill, it does make you see things differently, and you grow up quicker. And it makes me very appreciative ... I'm OK now."

The experience escalated her resolve to be an actress.

Even so, she was rejected on her first try at entering one of England's prestigious drama schools.

"I got to the final rounds," she sighs, "and they said, 'Go off and live a little and then come back.' So I came back the next year, and they let me in ... I'm grateful that I didn't (attend when I was younger) because it's such an intense experience. You need to live your life a little bit. I was 20 when I went. I was soooo serious. I didn't want to live a life. I just wanted to be an actress. But I did grow up a little bit."

That 'growing up' involved digs with two friends she'd met at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

"We got this little old rickety house together in the deepest, darkest south London because it was all we could afford," she recalls.

"And I lived with them for seven years, so we went through drama school and several years of our career together. And that was the life I hoped I'd live when I moved to London. And they're still my best friends. We went through heartbreak together, our house got robbed, went on holiday together, we did it all."

Right now Rundle is trying to do it all with several do-it-yourself projects to keep busy during quarantine. She and her fiance, actor Matt Stokoe, planned on marrying, but the virus postponed that, she says.

In the meantime, she's trying to paint a cupboard and is learning to sew quilts. "I'm making loads of quilts. I'm not very good at it, just enthusiastic -- it's not a talent I possess. I just like it," she says.

On all her projects she's optimistic. "I just wade in and think I know how to do it. Then I call my dad and ask him the right way to do it. Matt is good at DIY, but I refuse to let him. To prove a point, I have to do it myself."

 

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