Sunday, October 13, 2013

'When Downton calls, you jump!': Actress MyAnna Buring is on the fast track to fame

PUBLISHED: 18:01 EST, 12 October 2013 | UPDATED: 19:52 EST, 12 October 2013

Quirky Scandinavian prettiness, a Kylie-sized frame and pale blue eyes that flash with mischief – there’s something pixie-like about MyAnna Buring, star of Ripper Street and Downton Abbey. And it’s not just her looks that are impish. ‘OK, I should just admit it,’ she grins. ‘I follow Matthew Macfadyen around – I’m his stalker. I thought about it for years, wondering what was the best way to get close to him and decided to become an actor myself to try to work with him…’

She has played alongside Macfadyen three times: in 2010 Bafta-winning Channel 4 drama Any Human Heart; in BBC1’s Ripper Street, in which he plays a Victorian detective to her brothel owner; and in forthcoming comedy flick Epic, a yarn about a UK filmmaker attempting to make a movie in a fictional post-Soviet country he’s never heard of. ‘Matthew is such good fun – we’re always laughing. It’s nice to work with him a lot because you develop a rapport. Because it’s an intense working environment, it’s important to be surrounded by people who add to the enjoyment of the job.’

At 34, MyAnna (pronounced Mee-Anna, her first and middle names joined together) is thoroughly enjoying her job right now – and who could blame her? A big hit, Ripper Street is back for a second series. She had a role in last year’s Downton Abbey Christmas special, and her character has now been brought back for series four. She’s been part of an era-defining teen franchise, appearing as vampire Tanya Denali in the last two Twilight movies, but also has indie cred, playing the female lead in Ben Wheatley’s acclaimed British horror film Kill List. And you might also recognise her from recent TV shows including White Heat, Blackout and The Poison Tree… No prizes for guessing who hasn’t had time to go on holiday for three years.

‘I’ve just come out of an incredibly busy time,’ she says. ‘Work started to get really interesting when I hit 30. When people say, “Oh God, I’m 30”, I say, “What are you worrying about? It’s the BEST time.”’ Her joie de vivre comes through loud and clear; MyAnna is fantastic company, fizzing with energy and ideas. She speaks eloquently about her job, without – as many of her peers are prone to – making pompous pronouncements on her ‘craft’. And she may look like a wide-eyed ingĂ©nue, but she brims with a decidedly grown-up confidence that starts to make sense when she talks about her formative years.

She was born in Sweden to a surgeon father and an economist mother but spent her childhood in the Middle East, where her father worked. This meant travelling between continents from the age of five, so the nomadic, unpredictable life of an actor suits her well. ‘The idea of getting on a plane and going away for six months at a moment’s notice is very exciting.’ She credits her time in the Middle East with giving her a fresh perspective on life. ‘I learned to be less judgmental. I think when we grow up in the West, we have this idea that our way is the way, and it’s not – that point of view isn’t the only one you can have.’

Returning to Europe in her mid-teens, while her parents remained in Oman, she went to boarding school in Oxford and has lived in the UK since. She identifies herself as a Brit – when I dither between calling her a British actress or a Swedish one, she swiftly plumps for the former, saying, ‘Britain is where I’ve lived most of my life, where I’ve worked all my life, where my home is.’ And she certainly sounds entirely Home Counties (bar the occasional Scandinavian ‘for sure’).

It was at school in Oxford that she began pondering a career in front of the camera. ‘I was always a bit of a performing monkey and involved in putting on plays at school, but I had no idea how to go about being an actor. No one in my family did that. Drama school was an alien concept.’

Nevertheless, she went on to study drama at Bristol University, setting up a theatre company with classmates and taking their shows to Edinburgh in the summers, before applying to Lamda and winning a three-year scholarship. On graduating, she had bit-parts in TV shows such as Casualty before getting her break – a lead role in the well-received British horror movie The Descent, in which a group of young women go caving (what could possibly go wrong?).

MyAnna Buring

Now hitting her career stride, MyAnna can handle herself – and anything that her burgeoning celebrity throws at her – with aplomb. I note that, although she’s all over our screens, she manages to fly under the radar as a celebrity. ‘I don’t stumble out of clubs at two in the morning, snogging five people at once,’ she grins. ‘It’s a conscious thing.’ While filming the Twilight movies Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2 (playing the head of a coven of ‘vegetarian’ vampires), she observed the media hoopla around her co-stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s relationship. ‘I wouldn’t wish that invasion of privacy on anyone. It becomes hard to leave your hotel or house and you have to develop this incredibly thick skin,’ she says. ‘The heads of our banks and the people running our country – the people who make decisions that affect us all – deserve that kind of scrutiny. You don’t deserve it for being an actor.’

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