Alexandra Roach is best-known for her roles in One Chance, The Iron Lady, and TV series No Offence and Hunderby but this week she steps into the big budget blockbuster for the first time with The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
Roach takes on the role of dwarf Doreena as she stars alongside Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and works with director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan for the first time.
We caught up with the actress to chat about her role, tackling the blockbuster and CGI elements for the first time, and what lies ahead.
– You are about to return to the big screen with The Huntsman: Winter’s War, so can you tell me a bit about the new film?
I play Doreena, one of the female dwarves in The Huntsman: Winter’s War and you meet my character when we capture the Huntsman in one of our traps. He tells us that he is looking for this magical mirror and we know where it is. So we take him on this adventure to find the mirror.
– You take on the role of Doreena in the film, so what was it about this character and the script that was the initial appeal?
She is such a lovely character to play. She is a sweet and kind dwarf and that really appealed to me because there is not a bad bone in her body. Also, the scale of the film was a huge drawn for me because I had not been involved with a film project that was as big as this before.
I was interested to see how that world works. The script is also full of powerful and strong female characters; as soon as I read it, I knew that it just felt different and I wanted to be part of it.
– You have slightly touched on my next question. While you are no stranger to the big screen, this is the biggest film of your career and the first time that we have seen you in a blockbuster. How have you found the whole experience?
Yeah. It has been a whirlwind from the first day of shooting. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is completely different to anything that I have done from the rehearsals, how things are on set, even the catering (laughs), and the makeup and the prosthetics. Everything is just so detailed that it really makes you up your game as an actor because everything is so thought about and detailed that you can’t just wing it (laughs).
– Doreena is a dwarf in the film so what was it like adjusting to the physicality of the role. I believe that you worked with Peter Elliott before you started filming?
Yes, we worked with Peter quite intensely actually for about four weeks before we started shooting. It was really full on. We had to change out physicality completely to look smaller on screen and to create this character – Peter really helped us all find this character.
We had weeks and weeks of rehearsals and we worked on how they would walk, how they would pick up things, how they would jump over things. By the time that we got on set, we had done that much work that the physicality was something that we just didn’t think about.
– What about the 4am make-up call?
Yes, every day was 4am. Gosh, that was hard sometimes I have got to be honest. Because the make-up was so… when I watch it, it doesn’t look like me at all and it is so different to any look that I have done before (laughs). That took about three hours and then an hour in hair to achieve. It was different and I listened to a lot of podcasts and classical music in order to relax.
– How did you find the CGI side of working on this movie? How much CGI work had you done in the past?
I hadn’t done any work with CGI before. When the green screen was wheeled on set, they just expected me to know what I was doing and I had to pull the director aside and say, ‘can you give me a hand because I have never done this before.’ It was a learning on the job sort of process. Nick had done it all before – all of my scenes were with him – so he showed me how to do everything.
– Your character has a very lovely relationship with Nick’s character in this middle of this huge film.
The story itself is quite dark and action-packed and then that is contrasted with my journey throughout the film, which is a very sweet and touching story of falling in love with Nick’s character. They have a very lovely, cute and rather naive relationship that does really contrast with what is going on in the other aspect of the film.
– Nick Frost, Sheridan Smith, and Rob Brydon play dwarves alongside you and you are very much the comic relief in the film. How did you find working with them – there looks like there is a real camaraderie between you all?
There really was. From the first day that we were all at this dwarf school together, we really hit it off. They are so funny and that didn’t stop throughout the whole of the filming. We would arrive in make-up at 4am and Rob would be doing his impressions, cracking jokes, and taking the mickey out of Sheridan and myself; he would take the mick out anyone. That was the dynamic that we had as a group really and that really does come across on screen.
– Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is in the director’s chair for the film – in which he makes his feature film directorial debut. How did you find working with him? And what kind of director was he?
He is a very visual, calm and freeing director. He is French. He just lives in the moment and if we were not feeling something… he was very approachable and lovely to work with. He was very visual and the first time that I went to the studio, he took me into his room, which was filled with pictures that he had imagined and drawn out. He had every detail in his mind. It really did up my game being directed by him. It was a huge learning curve.
– As I mentioned earlier, yourself, Nick, Sheridan, and Rob provide much of the comedy, so how much did the director allow improv during the shoot?
He was really into that, which was great. You can’t veer away from the main story too much. So we would shoot the first take as was written in the script and as we had learnt it, and then the second take would be more improvised and ad-lib. He would take some bits from that and some moments have made the final cut. He really did give us the freedom to do that in, which is great.
– How much do you like improvising as an actor?
Yeah, I love it. It scares some people but I really do like being that scared sometimes. I like the idea of not really knowing what is going to happen. I love it but I know that some actors are not that keen (laughs).
– This is your first blockbuster and the first time you have tackled CGI, so what did you think of the film when you saw it for the first time?
I watched it a few weeks back and I was so impressed. I felt quite removed from watching it because I don’t look at all like me in the film. The first time I didn’t mind watching it. I just got lost in the story because there is so much going on and I think it is a really exciting film. I am just really proud to have been a part of it.
– Finally, what’s next for you going through the rest of this year?
I am going up to Manchester now to shoot the second series of No Offence for Channel 4. So that is the project that I am concentrating on at the minute.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is out now.