“Suffragette” Interview with Carey Mulligan

In the week leading up to the theatrical wide-release of Suffragette, Carey Mulligan was ready for the world to see her represent “the women who gave up everything to fight for their rights.” 

This film tells the tale of women in early 20th century England taking matters into their own for their right to vote. The story and characters were based on the accounts of real women of the time and was shot in many historic locations in this period. The film also boasts a strong ensemble cast of incredible female actors including Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, and Carey Mulligan as the lead role of Maud Watts. These actresses were lead by director Sarah Gavron who known for films such as Village at the End of the World and Brick Lake. 

I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call interview with Carey Mulligan prior to the films wide-release. I was joined in the call by other college and web blog writers and will indicate their publications and names down below:

Allison Mifaset (from Lynn University):It takes a lot of courage for (Maude) to become so invested in the suffragette movement considering she goes from a housewife to, essentially, a kind of rebel. What was it like betraying that part for her?

Carey Mulligan: That was the sort of challenge of the film to me, and the thing I was most excitedabout in taking the role on because she starts the film as such an ordinary woman. And it’s through this journey, through meting these women that she becomes extraordinary. I really wanted to try and make that feel real and believable. And it’s a really big shift that she makes in a lot of her personality. That was sort of the hardest thing about it. But it was based on accounts of lots of women at that time. And I think it was something that happened to a lot of working class women especially. They have the most to lose, and they made the biggest sacrifices. And I think people reached a breaking point in their lives and it was at this time that a lot of these women realized that they needed to fight for this cause and they didn’t have a choice anymore in their lives. I read a lot really. And I read a lot of accounts of women who were like (Maude) and they all, kind of, (fed) into the character.

Robert Lira (University of Houston): Thank you. I just wanted to ask you, it’s such a strong ensemble of women in this film. And you have Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter and yourself, what kind of discussions did you guys maybe on set or previous to doing the film about how you were going to convey that to the audience?

Carey Mulligan: Well, we were lucky in that we all got on brilliantly. We had (a helpful) time. So we had a couple of weeks before we started the filming of being together and spending time. And I think it was most important for my character and Helena’s character and (Anne Marie’s) character to really have that camaraderie on screen.And we just got on so well. And loved working together and loved researching the film together and learning.And it was interesting because it was the first time, really, in history in England that the classes –we’re a very class-based society in England –and this was the first time that the classes really mixed. And upper class women started talking to the middle class and lower class women and sharing ideas. And it really brought women together in a great way. And I think that was something that Sarah certainly wanted to show in the film with Helena’s character is educated and has money and she is spending time with Maude who is not really educated and is from a very different class than her and to show what those things happening was. That was a big part of the movement. So I’m really happy that it came across well in the film.

Sophia Walman (from Vanderbilt University): My question is there are obviously a lot of extremely harrowing scenes in the film, especially for your character. And I wanted to ask which scene was the most challenging for you to film personally?

Carey Mulligan: I think probably the adoption scene where my son is taken away because it’s one of the –it was a sort of big, difficult scene in the script that I knew was going to be hard to shoot. And there were multiple people in the (inaudible). And also we were filming with a little boy. He was a really amazing little kid. And he was really, really invested emotionally. And even in the round table when we read the script before we started filming, we found that scene really emotional. And we’re crying. So we knew that when we came to filming it we didn’t want to make him do it 100 times. And so we shot him first and then shot him for the last of it and I did most of the scene with his stand-in.So it was challenging from that respect because it was sort of (stretching out) my son with a different –and having to shoot it over and over and over again. It was something quite emotionally challenging. You kind of worry that at a certain point the tears are going to run out and you’re going to have to start faking it, so it was one of those days that was quite intense. And everyone has to stay quite focused for the whole thing and try to stay in the scene. But, yes; I think that was probably the most tricky

Jacqueline Merico (from American University):Last week I had the honor of meeting with the director and discussing the movie with her when she came to my school. I’m wondering how you feel the film would have been different had the director been a man?

Carey Mulligan: Oh, that’s a good question. No one’s asked me that.Well, I can’t really say that the experience was one way or another because it was directed by a woman. I do feel that as a group of women, we felt very excited to be the ones who are finally going to get to tell the story because it’s such a huge part of our history that’s been so completely neglected. And so to get to be the ones to it, I think as a group of women we felt very excited and inspired by that.And, honestly, I don’t think it would have been made by a man. I don’t think the film was going to get made by a group of men. I think it was always going to take this group of really tenacious women to get it made. And so it’s impossible to imagine I think. And the experience is so unique; and it shouldn’t be a unique experience for a large group of women, but it was. And Sarah just led it all in the most brilliant, thoughtful way. It was such a wonderful experience. But I can’t say that it was better or worse for being directed by a woman; but it was definitely one of my most enjoyable experiences, and one of the most exciting films I’ve been a part of.

Brandon Wagner (from Emory University): A lot of this is about telling the history of these women and especially a movement that maybe hasn’t been well represented. So I think my question is what did you in your performance feel that you owed to the legacy of these women? What did you want –what did you want your performance to say about them?

Carey Mulligan: I think that it is sort of salute to them and a tribute to them. And obviously we want their story to be told because there is something that has been written out of our history books in England. I think we wanted to show that courage and that conviction. This is largely a lot of women who had everything to lose. And I think there was a huge amount of sacrifice made. At that time to make that choice to be a suffragette was incredibly dangerous and risky and could ruin you. And they stood behind it and endured everything that you see in the film and more because they felt so strongly that they needed to do this and not really for themselves but for their future, for the future generations. And I think that kind of conviction for their beliefs and doing things for the betterment of society, I think that (inaudible) was completely, in a way, really unselfish what they did because the change that would be affected wasn’t really going to affect their lives. But they knew that it would affect the lives of future generations.So there’s something very unselfish about that.

Suffragette is out now in select theaters! Find the one nearest you here.

Thank you to Moroch and Coog Radio for the opportunity to interview Ms. Mulligan.


By Trent Lira

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