The TDF Interview: Juno Temple

Away has just been released in cinemas and comes to DVD this week. It tells the story of Ria and Joseph – an odd couple who form the unlikeliest of bonds at a time when they both truly need someone to lean on. Joseph (Timothy Spall) is an alcoholic struggling to move past the death of his wife, and the resilient Ria (Temple) is on the run from a troubled past, hoping to start afresh with her sister Kaz (Hayley Squires).

Set in Blackpool, it’s a small independent film, directed by David Blair and written by first time screen-writer, Roger Hadfield. Spall and Temple aren’t the first pairing you would think of putting together onscreen in this sort of dynamic, and the marked differences in their characters make it feel even stranger at first. But, because of their ability to forge a real human connection with each other, the film works because of both of their excellent performances.

Despite feeling under the weather recently, Juno was kind enough to take the time to speak with us about the film and her character, Ria.

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Hi Juno, thanks for taking the time out to speak with us.
No problem, glad I could do it.

’Away’ was made about three years ago, so it’s taken a little while to be released. Can you let our readers know a little bit more about the film and what attracted you to the role of Ria?
Well, it’s about two people who are lost souls who end up really liking each other. It proves that it doesn’t have to be sexual or anything like that. When you say the words ‘love affair’ it makes me think of intimacy, marriage and babies and happily ever after, but I think you can have real love affairs with somebody who changes your life for the better and you love them for eternity for doing that. I think Ria and Joseph are an unlikely pair because when you meet these two characters, you wonder, are they going to end up helping each other out? And they really do. When I read the script, the perseverance of Ria was so interesting and she does ultimately end up helping Joseph’s heart. I think that comes from her following him around and believing in him, believing that he is a guardian angel for her. When I think, really, she is a guardian angel for him.

Despite her troubled past, Ria has real energy and positivity about her. How do you get yourself prepared for a character like Ria?
Well I definitely had to work on my accent, that didn’t come naturally!

You’ve become something a specialist with accents over the years.
Thank you, well I definitely needed help with it. Once I’m taught how to do it, I do try to stay in the accent for as long as possible. It’s almost like training your mouth to feel comfortable with the accent. The really interesting thing about learning a new accent is it’s all about where the voice sits in your mouth and how differently your mouth moves and where your tongue will hit the roof of your mouth at different times. Training your mouth to learn a new accent is like training your brain to learn a different language.

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Acting is a learning experience. Be it new skills you have to learn. or the characters you absorb. What did you take away from playing Ria, or being part of this story?
Ria has got such perseverance. It’s an example of when life throws such absolute bullshit at you and you have to keep fighting, but you feel you can’t fight anymore. But I loved how she was such a little fighter, always making sure her sister Kaz was ok, and being so protective because of the things she’s seen in her past. I also think that what matters is that sometimes you’ve got to follow your heart with someone you care about, who can help you, and return the affection you give to them. Sometimes, you might have to fight a little harder for it, but if you really believe in your gut that person is someone you are supposed to marry, and love and care about it, then it’s exciting.

I asked Timothy Spall recently what was it like working with a legend like John Hurt for the first time on set. Likewise for yourself, what was it like working with one of our great British actors, Timothy Spall?
Yes, I don’t think there’s any doubt he is one of the great British actors. Well, it was nerve racking before I got there. I was just thinking 'Oh my God, it’s just going to be me and him for most of the movie!' Then I got on set and that man made me laugh almost more than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. He’s got such a fantastic sense of humour. He’s an incredibly giving and nurturing actor. I think life’s about respecting people, especially in this line of work, where some people who have so many problems when they become famous and well known, that people don’t respect them anymore, and everyone thinks they know them and they can talk to them whenever they want to. You don’t hear anything like that with him at all. So you respect someone you’re working with who has that sort of calibre going on around them. He was really kind to me and it was a really special experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Where do you see this film in the arc of your career so far?
It’s good to play an English girl again, I don’t do that too much anymore. It was great to work with Timothy Spall of course. And Ria’s a little bit more grown up than the last English girl I played - I’m not at boarding school anymore!

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You’ve become known for playing quirky, troubled characters, which is down to how directors want to cast you, more than anything else. Are there any types of films or roles you’d like to tackle in the next five to ten years of your career?
I think it’s less about the characters and more about the scripts and believing in the story and the characters. I’m a big fan of comedy. Although I’d be terrified that I wouldn’t be funny! I think I want to try anything once, even if I fall flat on my face, I can look back and just think ‘whoops, well that was a bad idea!’ I just really want to connect with the script and the characters.

You've already worked with some great directors - Scorsese, Nolan, Rodriguez, Friedkin, Baumbach - quite a list already. Are there any others you’d really like to work with?
Quentin Tarantino, Coen Brothers, Jeff Nichols…

I feel like I’ve put you on the spot a bit here!
There are a few females that really stand out to me, like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who wrote and starred in Fleabag. That woman is an absolute genius. I also read this beautiful script recently written by a young female director that I would absolutely kill to work with. But I’m also very happy that I connected with her because I think we’re going to be great friends. Working with female directors is really important. The more of them that get the money to make their scripts, the more that people will be adding their names to their list of directors like Tarantino, the Coens etc.

Away is out now in UK cinemas and is available on DVD and on demand.