ELARICA IS A BRITISH ACTOR KNOWN FOR HER ROLES IN P-VALLEY, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, AND A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES. ELARICA OPENS UP TO US ABOUT MAJOR 2020 LIFE LESSONS, HER CREATIVE PROCESS, AND MORE.
Elarica, thank you for being our October Muse, we’re so excited to have you! To start off our interview, let’s do an icebreaker for our community: 2020 has been an eventful year, to say the least. Can you list three life lessons that you’ve learned this year so far?
Life lessons, that’s a difficult one because I feel like I am always learning things. I think during 2020, some of the things that I’ve realized, or learned, have been things I already knew about. The first being, with us in lockdown, it’s important for you to feel comfortable with yourself. We keep ourselves busy but how often do we have time to sit down and take a moment for ourselves and get to know who we really are. That was the biggest life lesson for me. I’m the type of person who likes to always be around people, I like to fill my time and be busy. I didn’t have that choice during lockdown. I had to get to know myself a bit better and I realized a lot of things about me in a fantastic way.
The second again is to do with lockdown, is having an idea of how you would like your life to be. We all got shocked with a lockdown, being told we can’t go to work, we can’t do what we do creatively in order to make money. I think it’s important for us to make sure that we allow everything we’re interested in to have a place in our lives. If you have a passion for art, or you have good knowledge in mathematics, [things] that you haven't been able to use in your career, that's something you have during a time like this. With [the pandemic], something we never thought could come, we can take this time to really dig deep and look at the things we’re able to do.
Third, the BLM movement. I’m half Black, and see myself as a Black woman. This has been an ongoing fight for years and years back. Our parent’s parents, and parents before that, have been fighting and we’re still fighting for the same thing. We’re all humans and we should all be able to live in this world, do the same things, be in places, be comfortable and feel like we’re safe. I think this time with our use of social media, TV, film, we’re able to see more stories and see more information about racism, about murders, and police brutality. At this point, during this past year, I have had the most conversations about race, gender, and sexuality. People don’t believe or still don’t understand that racism exists. That there isn’t a fair world in the sense that Black people get treated differently than White people. I’ve learned it’s okay to have those conversations. That actually instead of being angry with people who don’t see that or, maybe have been ignorant, or been around it enough to understand it – these are the conversations that will educate people, that will let them see that these things exist, and, hopefully, as we’re moving forward, can help change how society works.
A lot of people might know you from P-Valley as Autumn Night and are excited for P-Valley Season 2! There’s truly nothing like it on TV and we can’t wait to see what the new season brings. What was it like becoming Autumn Night for P-Valley? Were there any roadblocks or stand-out moments in the process?
P-valley for me has been a real stand-out moment in my career. I feel very proud of how it was done, very blessed to work with Katori, and to create such an amazing piece of TV. There were some roadblocks along the way … I think for anyone who’s being told they would need to be naked on screen nearly 70% of the time, in some manners, can be very daunting.
For the piece, we were being truthful to the world, which is a strip club but also were very honest with the characters and who they were. That was the main thing. The nudity really stood out for me, it was something that is really scary, and the character, Hailey, who we know as Autumn Night is very complex. She’s traumatized from what happened with her past, what she's lost along the way and now she's in a place where she has to put on a brave face in order to move forward. As an actor that’s challenging because that means most of my time on screen is emotional. I really had to put myself in a place where I could really feel the deepest, darkest depths of what Autumn Night was having to go through.
First, that felt like a worry in my moments of preparing for the role but I had everything that I needed while filming. The rest of the cast was fantastic and, emotionally, I could draw from the right places. I think anyone who’s looking at the show and was wondering what it’s like to spin on a pole … go and do it, it’s great fun!
The media has often portrayed strippers in a narrow narrative – while working on P-Valley and being exposed to the adult entertainment industry more, what were some things that you learned about the industry that you didn’t know before?
People have opinions on things they have no idea on ... what that world is like, about the women that exist in that world, about why they strip, if they like it or if it’s their choice. I’m kind of baffled about people having opinions about these things that they don’t know [about]. I came away from this job having a lot more knowledge about the world than I think I ever would have if I didn’t do this job. I have the utmost respect for these women. They are athletes to me. Strong, incredibly beautiful with the way that they dance and [the way they] hold themselves up. Being able to speak to the girls and go to the clubs – these are the women who are in control, the ones I met, the world that I was exposed to, they’re in control. They feel free. They display this art form and in the process of doing that they get money. So, for me, coming away with a better understanding and having so many people around me who wanted to know what it was like and to understand that world, without their prejudices, and even some who did have [prejudices], being able to speak to them and kind of open their eyes to what this world is actually like was quite incredible. The show is a little keyhole into a whole world that they would never experience ever, and here they are getting a first hand look into what some of the women are like, what the world looks like, what it sounds like, and even, what it tastes like.
Out of all the characters you’ve played in your career so far - who have you most related to? Who was the hardest to play?
I think the hardest character I’ve ever had to play isn't a specific character per say but [a character] that’s really close to who you are, which means that I might fight to keep my emotions and their emotions separate because they're so similar. I believe that in this job, taking emotion and life experience and putting it into a character is very resourceful but it depends on how you do that. If you dig really deep and you're using your experience at every point that's where it becomes difficult. It’s about knowing what that experience felt like and putting it in the world of that character, so you’re keeping a barrier between you and them. When it’s so similar, it’s difficult to do that and keep that barrier up. If I pull it all the way back to probably one of my first movies called The Forgotten, I remember a moment while filming, where my character, Carmen, helped a little boy out with some noise next door, knocking on the walls. Carmen had all these huge issues within her family life, was adopted, and was trying to figure out who she was. If you’ve had trouble as a child, and you get a role like that, you can slowly unpick yourself to remember what it felt like. I remember doing that scene where I had to be super emotional in a situation that was very similar to both Carmen and myself. I almost got stuck, and the director shouted cut, but I was running and crying and couldn’t stop. So I do find those moments very difficult. I think that stands out but definitely P-Valley with the enormity of the show and the hugely in-depth characters, and the want to do it justice – I think those things can be really scary also.
When you’re getting into character - what does the process look like for you? Do you have a routine you follow or does it vary from each character?
Process is different for every actor – some people do the same thing every time, some people change it up. I probably have three main things that I do every time, depending on the kind of job or role, there are little things in between that might change. One major thing for me, is the journey. [I ask myself] where have I been, why am I here, and what has got me to this point. That usually starts with breakfast, that sounds weird, but I love to eat, and so I start off my [character’s] day with what [they] eat. I’m their habits when it comes to food. I can start a kind of narrative in my head which then takes me to a great point of getting to know my character better. I think the closer you can get, the better your portrayal, and also you want to feel comfortable at every moment. So little things like their daily routines, what they eat, what time they get up in the morning, how they deal with certain situations - is all a part of piecing your character together and it’s very helpful for me.
What’s your favourite part about acting? Was there a moment or moments when you knew acting was for you?
My favourite part of acting is the story telling element. I loved stories when I was younger. I read so many fairytale books, watched so many movies – I just thought it was fantastic. I had one of those imaginations where I can create something on the spot. [If] you’d ask me how my day was I would make up stories – “Oh, it was great! I’ve been to New York and Paris, the flight was really long and I was very high in the sky!” That element of storytelling is hugely important to me. I feel like if you can do that with film and TV, then you're giving a visual of something wonderful, something imaginative or something very close to people that will affect them in some kind of way. To be able to tell a story and reach an audience in some kind of emotional way is incredible.
The entertainment industry is known for being heavily focused on appearance - especially in terms of maintaining an image, and with criticism often feeling personal (at least for many of us). Is this something you’ve experienced in your career or personal life? How do you navigate the unrealistic beauty ideals and those situations?
The industry is an interesting place. It’s full of rules and regulations and all of it means nothing really. A lot of people feel like they have to abide by it. We’re told by people who are supposed to be taking care of us; agents, managers, whatever it is. I don't believe it’s hugely important to do half of that stuff. Ultimately what you produce at the end is more important.
I was a model from the age of 14 years old and, man, that was tough. [It can be hard] for anyone who didn’t have my resilience in hearing the word no, “you’re not thin enough”, “you’re not pretty enough”, “your hair isn’t straight enough”, or whatever it was. A lot of girls had their confidence knocked from a young age [because of that] and it left a lot of issues in their adult life. It didn’t happen to me. But I think it was because my upbringing was something I had to work on myself, you shouldn’t have to do that as a child. But, I did and I took [the criticism] with a pinch of salt. I knew that whatever I had was what I had and what did [they] want me to do about it? [Unrealistic beauty ideals] is there, in all parts of the industry, whether it’s music, film, fashion, it really is there and it’s a shame. There are people working on it and we are – with the roles that we choose, [what we] choose to write about, and the people we choose to work with. It’s important we have a stand when it comes to that. Slowly, slowly but surely hopefully the industry can change. I don’t know how much faith I have in that. For anyone, in this unrealistic world, it’s hugely important for people to be who they are and keep with their beliefs. People talk about playing the game well – what kind of game are we playing? Is this just not life and are we not just who we are and is this not enough?
What are some other struggles that you’ve faced while working in the public eye?
To be honest, I don’t feel like my career has hit a point where it’s become an issue. I’ve seen it happen to friends and a lot of people I look up to in the industry, whose personal lives are thrown around like they belong to other people and just living a daily life is very difficult. Certain jobs I do, after it airs, I’ll need to leave my house early if I go somewhere because I may have to stop to take pictures and sign more autographs. I’m more wary about where I go. There can be moments where I feel unsafe – when the audience feels like they know who you are, especially when they’ve seen you naked or in vulnerable circumstances. [They think] that they can speak to you in a certain way and [even feel that it’s okay to] touch you. I’m the type of person who’s very touchy feely with people I know but if it’s a stranger - it’s creepy. I tend to make sure I’m prepared for something like that – I’m trying to prepare myself for my next trip to America. But, I think a lot of people have it really bad. So, mine is minuscule compared to everybody else’s.
“I think we live in a world where there is a lot of selfishness, it would be great if people can see past that and want a better world and a better life for the people around them.”
Do you have a self-care ritual or an act of self-love that you do when you need time to rest or reset?
Self-care, self-love is hugely important. I’ve only learnt that in the past few years. I think in my 20’s I thought: “Ya! Just have a great time, have a fun time!”. I wasn’t wild or anything – I just never really took time for myself. I think as I’ve gotten older, [I know to say]: “I think I’m just gonna chill out today.” I know it’s okay to say: “No, actually I’m not going to [that] dinner” or, “no, I’m not going to go out.” I think those little things are acts of kindness for yourself to re-center and live in your space which I know is very important – resetting, taking time, relaxing. It is all a part of making sure that you’re the best version of you.
At this point in your life, what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment? What would you like to accomplish in the future?
I’m quite hard on myself in some ways because I have goals, not particular set ones, but in my mind what I want to achieve, how, and where. Life doesn’t work like that but so far, I’m not doing too bad, and I am very proud of myself. I still have a lot of work to do, I’m still very far from my final goal but I still have time. It’s important for me to set the goals aside loosely in order to enjoy the time and the process. But having them there so I [know that] this is what I want to achieve. Being too tough on myself and saying I need to hit this at a certain point, man, that’s no good. So, knowing they’re there, knowing the things I want to accomplish, knowing that I have accomplished things and being proud of myself – I think I’m proud of myself just for that.
What are some changes you want to see most in the world and/or in the entertainment industry?
I hope everybody has an idea about changing the world in their everyday life and that they are doing little things that could help with that. I, at the very front and foremost, I need the need for equality and the world to be fair. It’s hugely important to me. It’s important for me now, it was important before me, it’s important for my children and other people’s children and what the world looks like when we’re not here. That needs to change and we are making steps. I don't know if that will continue on when I’m gone, I pray that it will.
Being environmentally friendly, I am aware that the world is in a state, and I should leave it as that: a state. When it comes to people who are looking after countries and making very important decisions, it comes down to equality in the world but also how we treat this world. This one Earth that we live on. We hope later our children will live a good life and will live in a world with equality. They can be happy and feel safe but they need an Earth that is functioning – where they can breathe and [have things to] eat. The environment is hugely important. All together, they all kind of mush into one, [including] poverty.
The poverty in the world is devastating. I try to keep educated on different countries and try to contribute. [I] hope that later in my career I can contribute in a much bigger way -- try to change poverty, to eradicate it, and put it in history books, [about how poverty] once existed. I hope actors, storytellers, people [in the future], will be portraying what poverty looked like because they no longer have it. These are my three world changing situations that I would love to see change in my lifetime. We live in a world where there is a lot of selfishness, it would be great if people can see past that and want a better world and a better life for the people around them.
When do you feel the most empowered?
I feel most empowered… [when I’m] at home. In my comfortable space, as me, surrounded by the people who love and care about me. In my favourite pair of pajamas or clothing. Sometimes when I feel a little bit sad I put on my favourite heels and have a little walk around the house. I don’t wear shoes around the house but usually the heels I have are really high and I never get to wear them so they’re pretty much clean. Feeling empowered in my space is very important. It has taken a long time to make sure I have the best people around me. Being around them, being able to be who I am is very very important. My job is spent being someone else, so to have the space and the comfortability to be me one hundred percent – say how I feel, look how I feel, and be comfortable – that’s amazing. I’m proud of the space I’ve created with these wonderful people that allow me to be who I am. That’s a testament to how I can be in certain situations. [It] keeps me grounded, that’s really very empowering for me.
Which physical attributes about yourself do you love the most? Which personality traits do you love the most?
I love my hair. I struggled as a kid with my hair. Trying to figure out why mine was big and poofy and everyone else’s was silky and straight. [I went] through a period of hating it and then learning to love it, learning it’s bloody cool. Hair doesn’t define you but it’s a huge part of who I am, I say that because I’m a Leo. I feel like a lioness on certain days when I have it and kind of look like I can grab somebody and throw them around because it can look intimidating. But the curls can be soft and bouncy and that can definitely point to my personality. I do not take myself seriously, I look like I do, I have this face that sets in a serious look, but I’m just not that. I love that I don’t really take myself that seriously, I like to have fun. It’s also important to me to make sure everyone around me is having a good time. I keep everything light, cool, and calm.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity from audio to text. Photos were taken by Elarica, herself.