Aimee Lou Wooden: ‘I’m a wrecking ball of emotion’ | Cabaret

Lessons in life: Aimee Lou Wood is currently shooting the fourth season of Sex Education.

‘Be right here, Aimee!’ Aimee Lou Wooden mentioned to herself, “Soak it in!” She was sitting along with her hero Invoice Nighy late final yr, consuming penne all’arrabbiata, and he or she was attempting, actually attempting to be within the second. She’d simply received a Bafta, she was nearing the tip of a life-changing challenge, performing in her first lead movie position reverse Nighy within the Oscar-nominated Dwelling, and her profession was exploding, and he or she was 28, and he or she ought to have been high-fiving everyone she met, alive with gratitude and appreciation and champagne. However Nighy knew her by then, and knew what she was like. “And Invoice mentioned, ‘Don’t go into the hostile parallel world.’”

This, she explains, is the place all of your trauma is saved, and once you’re there – when she’s there – she reacts in ways in which have helped her survive prior to now, like, dissociating. “And I’m attempting! However the current may be scary. I’m a wrecking ball of feeling.” She says all this – how she is coaching herself now to breathe, to “be current” – with the identical grinning brightness one would possibly count on from an individual explaining what that they had for tea, and I realise with a thrill that that is how our assembly will go. It’s this openness, partly, that makes her so luminous on display, this grand vulnerability. And immediately she is going to dive straight into the darkish meat of a dialog, our solely small discuss being her insistence that I learn German non secular instructor Eckhart Tolle and calculate my astrological Saturn return.

Wooden grew up in Stockport, Manchester, with a car-dealer dad and a mum works for ChildLine. After graduating from Rada, she turned well-known as Aimee Gibbs within the smash Netflix present, Intercourse Schooling. Plotlines revolved round her character discovering liberation by way of masturbation, being sexually assaulted after which, in season three, coping with the emotional fallout. She’s at present filming season 4 in Wales, whereas additionally rehearsing Cabaret in London, a lot of her time is spent in movement, bustling between stations and cities for a 5am name time, smiling.

Lessons in life: Aimee Lou Wood is currently shooting the fourth season of Sex Education.
Classes in life: Aimee Lou Wooden is at present capturing the fourth season of Intercourse Schooling. {Photograph}: Alamy/Netflix

She’ll play Sally Bowles within the radical West Finish revival, which is ideal, not simply because she very a lot has the air of Liza Minnelli, her dizzy, enthusiastic magnificence, however as a result of this has lengthy been her dream position. “I relate to Sally a lot,” she says over toast at a south London diner. “I’m an Aquarius, I don’t set targets in my life. I simply go together with it. However the one two issues I’ve ever mentioned I wished have been to be a visitor decide on RuPaul’s Drag Race and play Sally Bowles in Cabaret.” Rehearsals are going properly – the performing, nice, the singing, fabulous, however – the dancing took a bit of longer to click on. “I used to be so embarrassed. At drama college I used to be being informed persistently that I used to be transferring my physique within the improper means. So once I walked right into a rehearsal, the place I’ve to specific myself by way of my physique, I felt like I used to be going to burst into tears. I hate feeling awkward in my very own physique,” she says.

It’s not a brand new feeling. “It’s undoubtedly tied into having had consuming issues. Your physique turns into like an enemy. I used to be so indifferent from my physique once I was within the consuming issues, it was like I used to be exterior it, scrutinising it. I’m very steadily getting over that. Sorry, I’m getting upset.” Wooden cries as if the tears are simply punctuation, commas; there’s a complicated inevitability to it. “It’s the remedy lastly truly sinking in,” she explains. “For years, I might perceive the issues I used to be speaking about to my therapist. However I didn’t truly really feel it. And the opposite day – I did! I began laughing as a result of I used to be occupied with all of the awkward moments I’d had that day. You understand, the place like, I’d waved at somebody they usually hadn’t seen me. And as a substitute of cringing on the reminiscence, I used to be like, “Ah, bless you, you’re attempting!” She laughs once more.

“There are issues across the performing,” she says slowly, “that I’ve discovered prior to now fairly laborious. And I’m discovering them simpler the extra loving I’m to myself.” On set, she’s been bruised by feedback that crew members have made about her physique, which triggered bulimic impulses. “I’d thought it was the feedback that have been making me have these relapses. However now I realise it wasn’t the feedback – it was as a result of I used to be laughing them off. I wasn’t telling individuals to cease speaking to me like that. I used to be saying it later, by way of the sideways expression of the consuming dysfunction. I wished to be favored. I wished them to assume I used to be a legend!”

‘As an actor, you get looked at a lot. But you don’t get seen’: Aimee Lou Wood wears red silk dress by
‘As an actor, you get checked out so much. However you don’t
get seen’: Aimee Lou Wooden wears crimson silk gown by
{Photograph}: Simon Emmett/The Observer

In Dwelling, working with Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell, she all of a sudden felt, she says, “empowered. She had agreed costumes for my character, Margaret. After which I walked in and didn’t swimsuit them, so she simply scrapped them, as a result of I wasn’t an concept, or a sketch any extra – I used to be an actual individual. Whereas prior to now, I’ve been made to really feel such as you needed to change to suit into these roles and garments. And for those who didn’t, it was some sort of failing.” At present, she tells the crew: she doesn’t need any feedback made about her physique, and he or she asks them to put in writing her measurements down silently, moderately than name numbers throughout the room. “Generally an individual is so desensitised to individuals’s our bodies that they overlook that the actor is standing there, within the fingers of a stranger. You grow to be an object, you grow to be a model.”

That’s one of many changes she’s realized to make within the 4 years she’s been engaged on display. One other is easy methods to be her personal intimacy coordinator. A big a part of Intercourse Schooling concerned navigating intercourse scenes; in Cabaret “I realized, you possibly can truly do this stuff your self. It’s nearly being courageous sufficient to go, ‘Are we going to really kiss on this rehearsal?’ You’ve gotten the dialog. ‘We’re going to agree contact? We’re agreeing contact now.’” We practise over our little coffees. “We’re agreeing contact now.”

When Cabaret was first carried out in 1966, it was designed to shock: its authentic director described it as “a parable of up to date morality”. This manufacturing leans into its darkness – Weimar decadence, sexuality, Jewish ache and the rise of Nazism. “I used to assume historical past was linear,” Wooden says. “I used to assume issues simply bought progressively higher. That’s what we have been taught, proper? However actually, I can see now, it goes up and down.” To study extra about Sally Bowles, she’s been studying about sin. “Folks actually fucked up that phrase. In its authentic sense, it means ‘to overlook the purpose of human existence’. Such as you’ve forgotten what life is about, like empathy, compassion, love. However egos took the phrase over and used it as a option to disgrace individuals, so that they’re robbed of their energy, like: ‘It’s a sin to be homosexual.’ They only make it fucking up!” She shakes her head, a bit of camply.

“And Bill said, ‘Don’t go into the hostile parallel world’”: with Bill Nighy with whom she starred in Living.
“And Invoice mentioned, ‘Don’t go into the hostile parallel world’”: with Invoice Nighy with whom she starred in Dwelling. {Photograph}: Tristan Fewings/Getty Photos/IMDb

The opposite evening she missed her prepare. It was a type of grim late-night commutes between Newport and London, and Wooden was caught, and “drained, and frazzled”. Whereas she was ready close to the station in an empty restaurant, a waiter sorted her in a means that, she realised later, she felt was profound. It wasn’t what he did, a lot, “although he did replenish my water bottle and cost my cellphone. And lit a bit of candle on my desk,” as the way in which he did it, as if he’d “seen me”. “Generally it’s simply being current with somebody, isn’t it? Issues don’t have to be mentioned.” She mentions this as a result of, “As an actor, you get checked out so much. However you don’t truly get seen so much. And that’s high-quality: a stranger who watches you on TV goes to challenge what they want on to you. They’re going to see what they should see.” However that relationship has been a difficult one for Wooden to navigate.

For some time, she wouldn’t depart her home. “In the event you’ve been bullied as a child, like I used to be at college, the sensation of being observed wherever you go… it was not wholesome for me.” Generally followers would need selfies, different occasions they’d secretly report her on the tube, after which after season two of Intercourse Schooling (which Netflix reported was watched by greater than 40m a month), some would wish to discuss, actually discuss, about their experiences of sexual assault. “Whenever you’re in fight-or-flight mode, you possibly can’t actually differentiate. So I stayed at dwelling for a very long time. A lengthy time.”

Mates would come spherical generally within the evenings, and early within the mornings she’d go to work, however she would really feel anxious about going to the retailers, or strolling down the road. “I felt like I used to be failing. Always letting these individuals down, like I didn’t give them sufficient. However,” she gestures in the direction of the ghost of remedy, hovering above her shoulder, “in fact I didn’t, as a result of I used to be simply attempting to go about my day! And I’m not a guru – I’m only a regular individual.” She grins, apologetically. “It’s humorous, individuals like me get into performing as a result of it helps them not directly. It helps you categorical your self, or provides you a protect from ‘unhealthy issues’.” When she was a toddler, her father struggled with drug and alcohol habit. Her mother and father cut up up, and her stepfather paid for her to start out at a non-public college, the place she was bullied, and crushingly sad. Then, “I can keep in mind the day the place I made the strategic selection, in yr seven, to vary.” In a drama class, whereas she was enjoying freeze tag, a instructor nodded at her, “Do it.” “And I keep in mind pondering, I’m at a crossroads. I can both keep it up how I’m and be actually depressing or I can rise up and do a humorous character which may make individuals snicker.” It labored. It labored very well, possibly too properly.

I let myself cry whenever I need to’: Aimee Lou Wood wears pink suit by Raey at
I let myself cry each time I must’: Aimee Lou Wooden wears pink swimsuit by Raey at {Photograph}: Simon Emmett/The Observer

In her 20s, as she began to seek out success, odd issues began occurring. She describes it as if the paper display between her two selves began ripping. She went into an audition, “Doing this fairly unhappy scene. However… I used to be inconsolable, to the purpose the place the casting director turned off the digital camera, and was like, ‘Aimee, what’s going on?’ I couldn’t get by way of the scene. I used to be simply sobbing.” It occurred once more, when she sat down with a director she was excited to work with: she cried by way of all the assembly. “The dissonance… all day I used to be presenting a personality that was joyful, simple, breezy and I’d solely let myself present disappointment once I was ‘performing’. Which is why, now,” she sighs, as if on the finish of a movie, “I let myself cry each time I must.”

It all the time appears like a clumsy privilege, assembly somebody at this cracked open second of their lives, when they are going to cry freely and discuss love. “It’s useful to determine your story, however then,” she says, “the following factor is studying easy methods to let it go. I’ve realised, in my childhood there have been nice issues, among the many shit. When my mum and pop have been getting divorced it was very turbulent. However I bought to stay with my nana and grandad for a yr, and it was the perfect time. And even with my dad, there are moments that have been sort of stunning in what was fairly an excessive state of affairs. Like, it was chaos when he was residing at his pal’s home, however we’d keep up watching good films till 4am. All this stuff that possibly pushed me into unfavourable behaviours, I’m now trying again at with much more… softness.”

For all of the trickiness that fame has dropped at her life, the work itself continues to thrill and form her. She takes her characters dwelling and nurses them like little birds and by the point the job is completed she’s all the time modified by them. “I like them. And by loving issues about them, you begin being like, ‘Oh, possibly I can get permission to like that about myself, too.’” Her character in Intercourse Schooling allowed Wooden to snicker at herself. Her character in Dwelling helped her “seize the day”. “And enjoying Sally Bowles is sweet for me as a result of her relationships are, properly, the judgmental option to see it’s dysfunctional, however they’re additionally fucking stunning. It’s made me wish to take a step again and now I see my household as individuals, as a substitute of like, ‘Mum and Dad’, that are phrases which have a lot weight to them.”

‘I’m like: let’s make new stories’: silk satin dress by and white sandals by
‘I’m like: let’s make new tales’: silk satin gown by and white sandals by {Photograph}: Aimee Lou Reed/Simon Emmett

In previous interviews she’s prevented speaking about “household stuff”. I’m wondering how she’s felt speaking about it immediately. She winces. “I remorse speaking about it prior to now, as a result of I didn’t have a filter. However,” she’s realised not too long ago, “simply because one thing’s sophisticated doesn’t imply it’s unhealthy.” She takes an extended breath. We’ve been sitting on this diner by way of two lunch providers: {couples} have come and gone, behind her I used to be dimly conscious of a Hollywood actor ending a burger, after which it was simply us, and two waiters politely cleansing. “A variety of my ache was applicable. However I can’t spend my entire life feeling prefer it wasn’t truthful, as a result of then I received’t have a relationship with individuals who I like. If we’re fastened in that story, then we’re simply caught. So for the time being I’m like: let’s make new tales.”

Cabaret on the Equipment Kat Membership is on the Playhouse Theatre, London. For tickets, go to

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