holliday grainger fan
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Actress Holliday Grainger is only 25 years old, but some might say that she’s something of a veteran in the industry, having been on our screens since the age of six. Cutting her teeth in a score of angst- ridden teenage roles in acting prerequisites such as Casualty and Waterloo Road, the Manchester native reached new heights in 2011 when she was cast as the ingénue-turned-cruel-manipulator Lucrezia Borgia in the historical drama series The Borgias.

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Photoshoots & Portraits > 2014 > 010. Hunger Magazine

And the film world has certainly sat up and taken notice. Having portrayed a string of complex characters in period dramas, Holliday is becoming a poster girl for the genre. First there was Suzanne Rousset, who got her claws into Robert Pattinson’s Georges Duroy in Bel Ami, then there was Baroness Shilton in Anna Karenina, Estella in Great Expectations, and most recently, Bonnie Parker in Bonnie & Clyde.

But don’t get too used to seeing Holliday in a corset just yet. “People always ask me if I worry about being typecast, but I think you only get typecast if people can’t imagine you outside of that role,” she says.

And with her next role, as feisty Northerner Lauren in the film adaptation of Posh, just around the corner, it looks like we won’t be waiting long for Holliday’s next move. “Lauren is the character who reflects my own personality most accurately. So it’ll probably be my worst role yet,” she laughs. Somehow we doubt that.

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Labels: Interview

Why would an English rose portray a Texas thistle?

“She was just so” tough, Holliday Grainger said. “And I’m not. That’s why I needed to play Bonnie.”

In Bruce Beresford’s new mini-series, “Bonnie & Clyde,” to be simulcast Sunday and Monday on Lifetime, A&E and History, she sashays into the role of the 1930s gangster Bonnie Parker, most famously played by Faye Dunaway in Arthur Penn’s 1967 classic film of the same name, with Emile Hirsch in for Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow.

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Photoshoots & Portraits > 2013 > 002. NY Times

Ms. Grainger, 25, started acting as a child but said that she accepted her fate only recently. Now, after seductive turns as Lucrezia Borgia in the Showtime series “The Borgias” and Estella in Mike Newell’s recent film version of “Great Expectations,” she is willing to pit her angelic Cupid’s bow against Ms. Dunaway’s cheekbones.

In a phone interview from Manchester, England, where she was painting her new house just down the road from her mother’s, a bubbly Ms. Grainger spoke with Kathryn Shattuck about playing the woman behind the legend and sharing the screen with some big guns.

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I knock up a fancy brunch with eggs and chorizo and Holli arrives right on time to my new address in North West London. We eat and she makes enquiries about things and the girl I’m living with. She tells me about The Borgias, the Baftas and boys. Our catch up has been prompted by Holli’s recent appearance on my television, handing out an award for Best Short Film.

Despite not hanging out for six months or so, within days of my “Presenting a Bafta!?” text message, Holli is in my living room and it’s non-stop talk the same as ever, except these days we have more adventures to share. We met in our early teens and bonded over shared love for the Wizard of Oz sequel, Return To Oz. Now, Holli is the rosy-cheeked girl adventuring in a strange world.

We make arrangements for an interview in the future and I get all of the Bafta afterparty gossip off the record. In our brief meeting, I get some tales from a red rope dancefloor and get told that I absolutely must propose to my girlfriend properly, as simply agreeing to getting married is not enough.

A few weeks later…

Holli may well be lost and it may well be down to my poor direction; I’m a little lost Mancunian in East London. I decided the interview should be at this place because there’s a happy hour, and they tend never to be accused of false advertising. Liam and I are fresh from checking out an event venue and everything seems well so we wade into a two-Stellas-for-a-fiver deal.

A text soon tells me all is well with Holli. I presume she’s being nice because I know my directions were vague as balls. Either way, the booze is cheap and the place is pretty much empty, which is helpful. We scan the food menu and wait. I consider writing some actual questions for the interview but get no further than some shit about fear of being typecast.

Soon enough we have our interviewee and we put aside snack-thoughts. Welcomes and introductions ensue and I head to the bar as Holli takes a seat.

‘Sorry if this seems odd…but is that Holliday Grainger?’ The barman is clearly excited as fuck.

‘Yeah, we’re doing an interview. But she’s also a friend from school.’ He’s really excited. Apparently he’s seen every episode of The Borgias. I’ve never watched it at all. Love Holli, hate historical drama. Hate drama in general. Anyway, the barman wants to make Holli a cocktail. I’m almost not sure he should be allowed to do it unsupervised. I get more beer and rejoin the guys to await whatever creation this superfan comes up with.

We start off the record and get no real answers about Jeremy Irons’ cock. Holli warns that she may be interrupted at some point by a phone interview she has booked in with InStyle. We’re fully flexible and continue talk everything, taking in a discussion of wanking monkeys. Apparently, if the monkey is cute enough, the wanking is legit.

The cocktail arrives.

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When Holliday Grainger first read Great Expectations, she was quite young, she says, and didn’t really ”get” Estella, the beautiful, aloof young woman with whom the narrator has been in love since childhood. A second reading gave her a greater sense of how the character had come to be who she was.

Holliday Grainger plays 'the emotional version of Frankenstein's monster' in Great Expectations.

And by playing her, in the new screen version directed by Mike Newell, she came to see Estella very clearly. In some ways, Grainger says, ”She’s the emotional version of Frankenstein’s monster”.

Estella is the subject of a kind of experiment by Miss Havisham, the wealthy recluse who adopted her and shaped her from her earliest years, ”and she is very damaged, a victim of emotional abuse – even though I don’t think that was Miss Havisham’s intention”.

Costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor created clothes for Estella that mirror who she is, Grainger says: ”A shell that you can never quite crack. Elaborate, composed. I love the fact that she has quite hard lines.”

For Grainger, Estella ”has a lot of anger and resentment inside her, I think, but she is also passive, and probably has very little confidence in herself, which is why she always reverts to the facade.” In a scene in which she is offered the chance to leave Miss Havisham, ”It’s a lot easier for her to stay. If she left she would have to unlearn all the self-restraint she has spent her whole life developing.”

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As Pope Alexander VI’s daughter, Lucrezia Borgia enjoyed riches, money and, it turns out, a considerable amount of power for a woman in 15th century Italy.

That was one of the reasons British actress Holliday Grainger was excited about Season 2 of Showtime’s “The Borgias,” in which her Lucrezia quickly grows from innocent girl to a fierce mother and shrewd politician.

Holliday Grainger

“Stray Dogs,” the April 29 episode, Alexander (Jeremy Irons) puts Lucrezia in charge of the cardinals when he leaves Rome to check on the progress of the war against the French.

“I was so excited when Neil [Jordan] had written that into the script. I’ve read quite a few biographies on Lucrezia Borgia and I was fascinated by the fact that she was the acting pope many times. There’s a famous portrait of Lucrezia on the papal throne and, yeah, you think that back then maybe women didn’t have too much power, but she did,” Grainger said during a phone interview at the beginning of the season. “There was no one else that [her father] trusted.”

Lucrezia not only sits in the chair of St. Peter in the episode, she and her mother, Vanozza (Joanne Whalley), and her father’s lover, Giulia Farnese (Lotte Verbeek), team up to help Rome’s poor and to clean up the city, an effort that will pit them against many of the cardinals.

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It’s the crack of dawn, but Holliday Grainger is hardly fazed by the early start. Sat in the lounge of a decadent West London home, she is bright and bubbly, already enthralling the photo-shoot crew with her recent endeavors on set with The Borgias including that of the recent addition of a panther as a pet for her character Lucrezia Borgia.


Though perhaps currently best known for this role in the cult TV series – Holliday’s most recent selection of roles shall no doubt propel her into a whole new Hollywood league. This year, marking Dickens’ bicentenary, shall see the release of the hotly anticipated big screen adaptation of Great Expectations, with Holliday taking on the iconic role of Estella.  In Bel Ami, she’s playing the eventual bride to Robert Pattinson’s scoundrel protagonist; while in Anna Karenina, Holliday is placed alongside a cast of veritable who’s who in British talent with an appearance as Baroness Shilton.

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Labels: Interview