Edinburgh actress Freya Mavor talks of work on Not Another Happy Ending

Freya Mavor.  Picture: Robert Perry
Freya Mavor. Picture: Robert Perry
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You might imagine actress Freya Mavor shouldn’t have far to travel to get to the glittering world premiere of her very first feature film.

Along the road from the family home in Canonmills, a quick sashay up the red carpet and straight through the doors of the cinema. Watch the film, go to the inevitable post-screening knees-up, back home for supper in no time at all.

Freya Mavor in Skins.

Freya Mavor in Skins.

No booking flights, no suitcases to pack, no troublesome journey to worry about.

Of course as it’s Freya, expect the unexpected. For as we’re coming to assume from the Queen Bee bitch of E4’s Skins, starlet Freya Mavor doesn’t always follow the most 
conventional route.

Just look at how she fell into acting, screeching head first, like some kind of human cannonball, one day pottering around doing bits and pieces like school plays and youth theatre shows, next launched onto the nation’s television screens, all short skirts and surly attitude as feisty Mini McGuinness in the sex, drugs and booze fuelled “yoof” cult series.

Still just 16 years old and dazzlingly pretty with flowing blonde hair, freckles, angelic looks and a mean line in put-downs, she bypassed the bother of minor roles in Casualty and endless auditions for a starring role as an instant pin-up girl. Her nomination as Best Actress in the TV Choice Awards capped off a phenomenal leap from a few months earlier when she nervously auditioned for a part as an entirely different Skins character, convinced she was probably not what they were looking for.

Barely time to catch her breath before she carved herself a modelling niche and parachuted straight in as the face of wool brand Pringle’s 2011 spring and summer campaign. Some plug away for years desperately trying to earn some fashionista points, not so for Freya, who then took the fast lane straight into being named Fashion Icon of the Year by the 
Scottish fashion industry.

No wonder then that rather than sit around waiting for the next big thing, Freya’s already moved on. She’s quit the UK altogether and hot-tailed it to live in France.

It means that as the countdown begins to the final day of the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June, when Not Another Happy Ending – the film she’s just made with Dr Who’s Amy Pond, Karen Gillan, gets its first global screening right here in her home town – Freya will be in Paris. Of course.

Quitting home is one thing, quitting the UK when your fledgling television career is on a high to live in a city where the phenomenon of Skins and Freya Mavor is totally unheard of, perhaps quite another. But as we now know, Freya is not the kind to do things gently or, indeed, by halves.

“It’s mainly fulfilling a childhood dream to live in Paris,” she shrugs.

“It’s that old cliché, that everyone says it is beautiful and romantic, everyone sits around drinking strong coffee, smoking and looks like a struggling artist. In many ways, it’s partly for that.

“I have lots of friends who live there. I’d love to get involved with doing some French work – French theatre or cinema.

“It doesn’t close any doors for me really,” she insists, “because Paris is so close to London. And Edinburgh is further from London than Paris is. Most job opportunities happen in London. It’s crazy to think that it’ll be a problem.”

It’s that kind of “go for it” spirit that saw her through her first major audition, when she braved an X Factor style open battle for a role on the hit E4 series, emerging victorious as one of Skins’ most striking characters.

She recalls the auditions as a kind of “mass hysteria”, up against other actors who had brought along their whole family for support, dressed to the nines – or should that be “undressed” – in the hope of snaring the part of superbitch sex kitten Mini. Freya played it a bit cooler, originally trying for another role only to overtake everyone and steal the part of the show’s key female character, the overbearing Mini, whose loud mouth and attitude is largely a front for the vulnerable girl within.

“It was amazing for a first job,” nods Freya, still just 19 and whose latest role as an awkward young 
author in Not Another Happy Ending could hardly be further removed from that of the trashy Mini.

“Mad, but very educational.”

Skins was done and dusted when the film role came along, starring 
beside Gillan, one of the hottest young actresses of the moment, shot in Glasgow by a Scottish film company and directed by John McKay, whose work includes hit television show Life on Mars and Lip Service.

Set around a book publisher and his most successful author, played by Gillan, the story kicks off when she suffers crippling writers’ block just as her hard-up publisher Tom (French actor Stanley Weber) desperately needs another bestseller. As he tries to inspire her to write once more by causing chaos in her far too comfortable and happy life – the reason for her sudden block – he falls in love.

Freya, who is also about to star in the BBC’s blockbuster summer drama The White Queen, plays one of his less successful authors, desperate to be noticed for her own talents.

“I don’t think she even knows Karen’s character,” explains Freya.

“She’s not as successful, she is more awkward and kind of weedy.

“One of the lines of her description was ‘pale and wispy’. She is shy and reserved, kind of quiet but on the inside she is screaming for someone to notice her.

“It’s completely different to Skins.

“The roles are as diverse as you can get as an actor – it’s nice not to be working in shorts and massive heels and crop tops, feeling like a blow-up doll. It’s nice to have a slightly more reserved character.”

Indeed, while starring as Mini brought her attention, Freya confesses that not all of it was that 

“I was terrified at the start,” she recalls.

“I was 16 and my character was being so provocative and extreme. I was terrified about how people would react. It is just a job, but some people believe you are that character.

“I suppose on one hand that’s fine because it means you have done a convincing job.

“Then you get people who walk past you and say ‘Skins is sh***’. I look at that as just like if I went to a restaurant and didn’t like the food, I’d say to the chef, I didn’t like the chicken or the lamb was a bit under-cooked, it’s a job.

“I’m open to criticism, some like it and some don’t, as long as you’re happy and I don’t let it gnaw away at my soul.”

On the other hand comes the unexpected praise, and the moment when she was the last person in the room to imagine she’d be named a Scottish fashion icon.

“I was literally stuffing my face with popcorn as they announced the winner,” she giggles, recalling the moment her name was called out at the 2011 Scottish Fashion Awards.

“I had to hobble up on stage wearing shoes I couldn’t actually walk in.

“I was walking up there on my toes.

“It was so undeserved. They asked afterwards ‘Who’s your favourite 
designer?’ and I had no idea.

“I usually get all my clothes from my godmother who’s a fashion freak, she goes through charity shops and finds weird busy, designer outlets, picks bits and bobs up there and puts on sales.

“She will find wedding dresses, Chanel suits. I felt so unworthy among so many glam people.”

She has the looks and the credentials to cut it in modelling, but it would be an unlikely career move: “Modelling is fantastic if the opportunity arises but not something I’d look at as a career,” she insists.

“You’re just a coat 

“You get to wear fantastic clothes and meet fantastic people but it’s less about you as a person and less about being creative.

“It’s not as stimulating intellectually, no research required to do it, it’s just about moving in the right way and anyone can do that, it’s not necessarily a talent or skill.”

So she’s focussing on acting.

Having snared a role in the BBC adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s story based around the War of the Roses – the lavish trailers for The White Queen are already creating a stir – she’s now in Paris focussing on a bit of theatre work, some messing around making short films with friends and just soaking up the atmosphere. She might even consider getting some additional training under her belt – incredibly, she’s picking up all these key roles without actually having bothered with the typical three years of study for a drama 

She’s even too busy for romance – hints a few months ago that she was romantically entangled with One Direction’s Niall Horan are, she insists, nonsense. “I’ve not even met the boy,” she scoffs. “At the moment I’m doing so much moving around, even in Paris, it’s hard to be in the one place for anything to really happen.”

Come the end of June, however, it’s likely she’ll be back home to savour the moment when her first film is unveiled. Being recognised by fans here, on home territory, will be just part of the thrill.

“It’s fantastic to meet people who appreciate your work and know what I have done – I love that recognition. It’s not just a dream any more, it’s not just an ambition, it’s 
something that’s feasible.”

Drama in the blood with playwright father and theatre critic grandfather

Freya Mavor was in her final year at Mary Erskine’s when she was chosen from 8000 hopefuls for the high profile role of Mini in E4’s cult series Skins.

Drama, however, was already in her blood – her father James Mavor, 51, below, is an award-winning playwright who heads the MA screenwriting course at Napier University.

Among his most recent work was an adaptation of Ian Rankin’s best-selling novel Doors Open which was screened last December on television with Stephen Fry in the lead role.

Her grandfather was Ronald Bingo Mavor, The Scotsman’s theatre critic in the early 1960s before he became the director of the Scottish Arts Council.

He was instrumental in encouraging Jim Haynes and Richard Demarco to develop the fledgling Traverse Theatre.

And her great-grandfather, the playwright, Oswald Henry Mavor, helped to set up Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre.

Her mother, Judith, 53, used to be an opera singer and is an artist.

The family live in Canonmills.

Freya’s brother, Zander, is currently studying at Bristol University.