Where has Agyness Deyn been recently? The Noughties fashion scene was dominated by her peroxide pixie crop, distinctively loud style and her rabble of painfully cool friends (Henry Holland and Alexa Chung, to name a few). Following a 2006 move to New York, the model took herself out of the media glare, and it all went quiet.
In the light of the release of her new film, Electricity, which sees Deyn take the helm as leading lady (and brilliantly so), it’s evident that the actress has not been wasting her time. Natural yet nuanced, Deyn’s sensitive portrayal of a young girl suffering from epilepsy begs the question: ‘What happened to the London it-girl in Doc Martens?’
ELLE talks to the actress about crying fans, strong female characters and evolving.
ELLE: What drew you to the role of Lily?
Agyness Deyn: I read the script and I just loved her; she’s inspiring, and a fighter. She has epilepsy and it affects her life, but she doesn’t let it define her.
ELLE: What research did you do prior to taking on the role?
Agyness Deyn: I watched documentaries and interviews. I even camped out in the doctor’s office, getting him to explain and walk me through epilepsy on an emotional and physical level.
ELLE: What’s the most interesting thing anyone’s said about the film?
Agyness Deyn: At the London Film Festival, I had a girl with epilepsy tell me that when she watched the film, she burst into tears. She told me that the portrayal of epilepsy and how it affects lives was spot on. That was great.
ELLE: What kind of role would you like to take on next?
Agyness Deyn: It very much relies on the character. I definitely have to connect with them and I have to love them.
ELLE: Who would you love to work with?
Agyness Deyn: Meryl [Streep], Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet. I love Michelle Williams too; I feel like she has such an effusive, emotional truth to her work. And also, Anne Hathaway is amazing. She’s all woman, isn’t she?
ELLE: Are you fully finished with modelling now?
Agyness Deyn: It’s funny because there is such a crossover between fashion and acting. I look back and I had such an amazing time, and I would never want to shut the door in an official way. I was so inspired by the people that I worked with [Steven Meisel, Katie Grand, Tim Walker, Edward Enninful, to name a few].
ELLE: What was the moment when you realised you wanted to act?
Agyness Deyn: I’d always loved film, but then I did a short film when I was modelling with these artists in New York, and that’s when I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do.’
ELLE: It felt like you took yourself out of the public eye to concentrate on acting; was this a conscious decision?
Agyness Deyn: Yes.
ELLE: Was the drastic change in your look a part of this? [Deyn is almost unrecognizable; all mouse-brown low-ponytail and black overcoat.]
Agyness Deyn: I modelled all throughout my twenties and at the time, I was really into clothes; I still am, but now in a different way. It’s evolved. I think with acting, as I have to morph into different people, it’s better if I’m a bit more of a blank canvas. I also have a film coming out next year, Sunset Song, set in the early 1900s, so appearing very natural is part of that role. I’m putting myself in a place where I can move easily, but also be myself and feel good about it all at the same time.
ELLE: Do you miss London? [Deyn is based in LA with husband and Friends actor, Giovanni Ribisi.]
Agyness Deyn: I do. But I lived in New York for six years, and I’ve now lived in LA for four and a half years – so I’ve been in America for over 10 years, which is crazy. But yes, I definitely do still miss London.
Electricity is out now.