Florence Pugh has quickly become one of the most desirable actors in Hollywood. The star has found fame with her roles in Little Women and, more recently, The Wonder, which are both now available on Netflix. The two movies showcase Pugh as a powerhouse performer but it was her first role that gave the actor her first taste of acting’s intoxicating cocktail.
Pugh’s interest in acting had actually come from one of the parents of a child at her school, who had been an amateur costume designer. Pugh said: “It wasn’t her job, but it was something she was amazing at. The most exciting thing when we did plays was to go into her warehouse to find your character’s costume. It was the best. I think her passion was infectious. It was like it rubbed off on everyone.”
Her first ever acting role was in her school’s performance of the Nativity, where she played Mary, Mother of Christ. “I love the power of how everybody was silent, waiting for my next line,” Pugh said of her early experience in acting. “And whatever age I was, I loved being on stage and having everybody looking at me. That ability to keep everybody on the edge of their seat was something that was addictive to me. I loved it.”
The early experience on stage put her in good stead for the future. Pugh got her big break in the industry at 17 in Carol Morley’s The Falling. Pugh said of Morley, “Carol insisted there were no monitors near the set, so we couldn’t see ourselves. She did that because she didn’t want us acting out of vanity. In my first experience with film, I never really saw myself, which was amazing. What she did in that simple action was saving us from falling into the trap of ‘girls need to be beautiful, or anxious about how they look’. It was a wonderful gift she gave us.”
Eventually, Pugh would star alongside some of the acting greats. She performed in King Lear with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, although she admitted “it was absolutely terrifying,” she said, before adding: “I constantly thought that at some point someone was going to be like, ‘oh goodness, we should have gone for someone with a theatre background.’ It’s very easy to suddenly feel like you’re not supposed to be there.”
However, Pugh used those early terrifying experiences to her advantage, and she has quickly become one of the most sought-after actors of her generation. She said: “Every single job at the beginning of my career, [I was] working with unbelievable actors and directors. I was constantly learning.”
The nerves of performing never really go away, although, like any performer, those nerves are imperative to a successful act. Pugh concluded, “I’ll instantly become nervous. Not scared about the character, but nervous about how I’m going to pull it off. The moment I have those nerves because I’m excited, I know I’m going to end up doing it. In every single film I’ve done, there’s been a scene within the first 20 pages where I’m instantly nervous.”
Watch The Wonder on Netflix now.