With roles in Cinderella, My Cousin Rachel and Bonnie & Clyde, Holliday Grainger, 29, adds another “period-piece” role in Tulip Fever, in theaters September 1. She plays Maria, the maid to a woman (Alicia Vikander) who begins a passionate affair with a poor artist (Dane DeHaan) during the tulip mania of 17th-century Amsterdam, when prices of tulip bulbs reached extraordinarily high levels and then collapsed.

What impressed you about the story?

There were so many different levels of society, from the rich guy all the way down to the fishmonger and the struggling artist. In that respect, Amsterdam felt like a contemporary, cosmopolitan city.

What about Maria did you relate to?

She is unswaying in her morals. I think Maria is one of the only characters with solidity and earthiness that feels a bit of a grounding in the midst of this mad story.

This movie is a demonstration of how actions have consequences. One small thing, like Sophia borrowing Maria’s clock, sets off a whole chain reaction that changes everyone’s life.

I think sometimes we forget that how we treat people has an effect on them, and the way that we treat the world has an ongoing effect. I also think that there is an element to the story that is slightly magical in the way that the tulip trade has this heightened emotion, so that every action in the movie feels like it has a heightened consequence. I think that is what elevates it from feeling like mundane reality.

Did you know that the tulip fever in Tulip Fever was a real thing?

I knew Holland had the tulip trade but I didn’t know how mental it was, how it almost was like gambling. It’s like the London housing market at the moment—completely insane prices.

 It reminded me a bit of a Shakespeare story.

Absolutely. It’s like Shakespeare but like Dickens, as well, with its different levels of society and consequences playing out. Absolutely, I agree with that.

 How much research did you do for this role?

Reading about the tulip trade was interesting, but not necessarily that important for Maria. It is always nice to have an understanding of the world that you are in. For Maria herself, [director] Justin Chadwick was very interested in her feeling like a real working maid, so I learned how to scale and gut a fish and how to pluck a chicken. I watched videos on how you would actually wring a chicken’s neck. We didn’t end up shooting all of it but there was a sense that every scene she was in, she was doing something real and something that was very much for the home, so I was learning all the skills she would know. Part of the research, also, was getting into the mindset of her being so practical.

This is just one of many costume dramas you’ve done. What is the appeal?

Maybe I am drawn to different periods because I find it very interesting to enter a different world in my work, entering something that you know has been a reality. I am interested in the historical context. You feel like you are learning a bit when you enter into another world through the essence of who your character is, how their emotions are and how that is reflected in a different culture in a different time.

You play the maid in this, you play a maiden in My Cousin Rachel, you played one of the stepsisters in Cinderella, Bonnie Parker in Bonnie & Clyde and Lucrezia Borgia in The Borgias. No two were alike. How do you make similar roles so different?

Even if the characters have similarities, because the times are so different, you enter a different world. There are characters, like Lucrezia in The Borgias, Estella in Great Expectations and Suzanne in Bel Ami, that have similarities, but you put that character in a completely different context and it draws different things out. Maybe the etiquette is slightly different at the time and that is something you can always draw from, so the character has a different background because they are in a completely different world.

Which of your roles have you enjoyed the most?

I just loved Bonnie Parker in Bonnie & Clyde [2013], because she was such good fun and she was so sassy. Playing Bonnie, I felt like I had such confidence.

You’re going to co-star as Robin in Strike, the BBC series based on detective novels by J.K. Rowling. Were you a Rowling fan?

I grew up reading Harry Potter; I am such a massive fan. She creates such strong, believable worlds.

You fell into acting at age 6; how did you know you would have the talent to continue as an adult?

I absolutely didn’t. It was just something I did and something I enjoyed. It was not something I thought would be my eventual career. I was just trying all this stuff, and it happened, so I have been incredibly lucky.

What does your downtime look like?

I am actually walking across the cliffs in Devon in a field full of sheep, so this is what my downtime looks like.

What is your biggest challenge right now?

Making decisions at the moment seems to be my biggest challenge, like decisions on what job to do next and decisions on where to live.

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Welcome to Holliday Grainger Fan, your best source for everything on Holliday Grainger. You may know her best for her role as Lucrezia Borgia on the Showtime show 'The Borgias', even though you may have seen her in corsets a lot her most recent projects have left that out! This site aims to update you with all the latest news on Holly's career. Enjoy your stay and hopefully came back! For any question or doubt e-mail us here


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