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Interview: Pippa Bennett-Warner


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Since appearing on the West-End stage as one of the Lyceum Theatre’s original Young Nala’s in The Lion King, Pippa Bennett-Warner’s career has been impressively diverse.

From hopping on board the Tardis alongside Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman in 2014, to her current role opposite Rupert Grint in upcoming comedy drama, Sick Note, Pippa has not only been seen in a variety of roles, but has also stretched herself across almost every medium imaginable.

With such an impressive list of credits, I was excited to discover more about Pippa’s career, as surely one of the fastest-rising British actresses today.

So, wow Pippa (seems an accurate place to start). You’ve done pretty much everything, from horror to historical drama; feature films to narrating audio books! Plus you’ve pretty much tackled every platform an actress can go into! Where were you aiming for when you first started out?

I remember coming out of drama school [Pippa graduated from RADA in 2010] certain that I wanted to start in the theatre. To me it just felt like the obvious place to start. Theatre is such a beautiful medium; it’s exciting and thrilling and the fact that it’s different every night is just really cool.

I think you really earn your stripes on stage and you get a really good foundation for a career in all areas of acting. But no, that said, I think I did always want to do little bits of everything. Gradually though. I always said to myself that it wasn’t a sprint it was a marathon. So, I just wanted to just gradually build. 

That’s a really good philosophy to have in any capacity I should think. Not to get ahead of yourself, but to take everything in your stride. 

Yes, Exactly.

And, genre-wise. Would you say that you have a favourite genre to work in?

I think my heart will always be with Drama, just because I just love going on that emotional roller coaster with the characters. However, doing Sick Note, which is the first comedy I’ve done, was so much fun because it’s just such a different way of working. Like, by the end of it, I felt my performance had been, you know, quite big… But then taking a step back, I think that in Comedy, that’s fine. It almost has to be.

Was it a challenge, switching to comedy?

Yes, it was quite a challenge. But it was really fun. And then to work with people like the director Matt Lipsey, who is like the comedy god, and then Nick Frost who just has funny bones!

It’s definitely more about silence and placement. So I had to learn all of that. Learn to find the funny in the silences and the speech and the way that you play the lines off of each other. It was a brilliant challenge, but also just really, really good fun.

In Sick Note, Rupert Grint plays a college teen who, upon discovering his supposed terminal illness has been misdiagnosed, chooses to string the story along. Can you tell us a little more about your character, Becca?

I like the fact that she’s quite feisty. She certainly gives Rupert’s character, Daniel, a real run for his money! Daniel is a bit of a layabout. He isn’t really doing much with his life and Becca just doesn’t put up with it which is really fun. I loved the weird chemistry between Becca and Daniel. It was – I wouldn’t really call it banter, their relationship was quite strange - but just really funny in the way they interact.

I don’t know if we’d be friends… she’s quite full on. Intense I think is the world I’d use, and bit of a…. well I don’t want to say bitch! I wouldn’t ever speak ill of one of my characters, I think it’s important that you find the third dimension within the character, even if you don’t necessarily like them. But, I don’t know possibly... She might be quite good fun to out with.

Are you in a position now where you get more of a say in what roles you audition for?

I am actually quite picky when choosing parts. I think that me and my agent are quite good at picking roles out which would suit me.

And yet you keep it so insanely diverse!

Well, yes and that! But then I think that’s what I love. That I get to be someone different every day. It’s awesome.

You said that when you started out, you were going for the marathon over the sprint, so what would say you’re aiming for now? What’s over the finish line? 

I don’t think there is a finish line. I would just like the opportunity to carry on working. And working across all the mediums, that would be the dream.

I mean I love telly. Most of what I do now is telly, even though it’s quite tough - getting up for those early mornings will always be tough! But I still just love working in that medium and on that schedule. You get to do things twice, three times, four times, or as many times as you want. So you can experiment and adapt the whole time.

What would you say has been the high point of your career so far?

I’ve enjoyed every job, but I did this little independent film (Wakefield) with Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner about two years ago and just had the best time ever!

I played this mentally handicapped teenager, and working with Bryan was just like a real pinch me moment because he’s such a wonderful actor and a wonderful man.

You’ve worked with some incredibly well-established actors and directors. Matt Smith, Jackie Chan! Is there anyone else you’ve been particularly star-struck by?

I think that both of those guys were just really normal! Really open and friendly. I mean with Jackie Chan to be fair, I was a little bit like 'oh my god it’s Jackie Chan' because I grew up watching Rush Hour so I had a little moment with him. But no, I think that everyone else has just been so normal and nice.

Though, actually, I had a bit of a thing with Derek Jacobi because he’s just genius. It was one of my first jobs coming out of Drama school, and to me it was just like working with Shakespeare because he’s so good.

Is there someone you haven’t worked with that you would really love the opportunity to work with?

I think Sarah Lancashire is just amazing, I am just obsessed with her role in Happy Valley. I think she’s incredible.

What’s up next then? What are you working on at the moment?

Right now, I’m doing season two of Harlots. So back to historical drama!

Are the costumes for that really insanely heavy? They look it!

Oh my, yes. They are so heavy. And the corsets are so tight, it’s unbearable. But then, they definitely help you get into character! 

I bet! Okay, so just to finish off then, what’s your favourite costume you’ve ever worn?

Doctor Who. Has to be. I felt like Grace Jones in that costume, it was just so cool!

Sick Note premieres on Sky One at 10pm on Tuesday 7th November.

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