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Five minutes with actress Gina KcKee

PUBLISHED: 13:17 05 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:13 20 February 2013

Gina McKee

Gina McKee

Gina McKee starred with Daniel Craig in Our Friends in the North and went on to appear in Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. The County Durham born actress, who now lives in Sussex, spoke to Jenny Mark-Bell...

Gina McKee starred with Daniel Craig in Our Friends in the North and went on to appear in Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. The County Durham born actress, who now lives in Sussex, spoke to Jenny Mark-Bell...

How did you get into acting?

When was a teenager I was involved in a youth drama workshop and we put together some ideas for a play which was eventually performed. Some people from the local TV station saw it and recommended me for a TV series which I auditioned for and got. As time passed I got more and more interested and did things like the National Youth Theatre in the summers, so by the time I'd done my A-levels I already had a union card.

What single personal quality has been most important to you as an actress?

I don't think there is a single quality, I think you need to have a number of elements in place. It also depends on what sort of person you are, and what kind of blueprint you have to begin with. Some people have elements in their personality which are suited to the business, while there will be other things they have to work at a bit more. On a simple level you need to be fit, you need to have stamina, you need to have staying power...you need to have the energy and the enthusiasm to keep coming back because you will have setbacks and challenges which constantly make you question yourself. I suppose the overriding this is that you need to have the ability to keep on enjoying it. Then you'll survive quite a lot.

What quality do you wish you had?

That's a really good question. I suppose there are a few but initially, in the early part of my career I would say that I could have been quicker to learn self-promotion. But actually over the years I think the fact that I didn't have that - probably still don't - has been okay. It just means you're on a slow burn, that's all.

If you could go back to any stage of your career and teach yourself a lesson, what would it be?

My instinct has served me incredibly well and I suppose in the beginning I didn't trust that because I wasn't wholly familiar with it. So my advice would be to trust your instinct.

If you had to choose between stage and screen, which would you choose and why?

I wouldn't choose between them, simply because both mediums for me have huge attractions and one of the things that I really enjoy about being an actor is that you have the opportunity to have versatility within your career. Having both mediums gives you that ability. When you're working in TV or film you have a different canvas and different tools to tell the story, whereas in the theatre you are telling the story there and then, beginning, middle to end, as opposed to out of context. Once it is rehearsed and ready to show to people, you own it a bit more. I could never choose between them because there are elements about them both that I absolutely adore.

You've worked with some very big names. Do you ever get starstruck?

I have been, but it's often not in an obvious way. In fact if you're going to be working with a big name, you sort of prepare yourself for it. There is some private negotiation with yourself - "Just cope with it!" The first time I was interviewed by Jenni Murray on live radio I just couldn't say anything for what seemed like minutes! So I had a form of it then and it was really unexpected - it can get you at curious times.

Having said that, it's happened a few times with filmmakers that I had admired - when I met Spike Jonze I was really hopelessly shy.

You've had a remarkably varied career so far, from period dramas to working with Chris Morris and Armando Ianucci. How does one avoid being typecast?

I don't know if I have actively avoided it, I've simply chosen the opportunities that have appealed to me. It's not like I've been thinking "Oh, I've done that before, so I can't do this". It's usually the script that initially attracts me to a project.

Although you have played damaged beauties, you've also had comic roles. Is it harder for an attractive woman to be funny?

I don't think so, actually. I think there is scope for a lot of material there as long as you can let go of your vanity!

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