Ellie Bamber: ‘It’s time to tell story of the Profumo affair from a woman’s point of view’
Rising star Ellie Bamber has said she was “drawn” to the complex female roles in her new drama about one of the great scandals in British politics.
The Les Miserables actress, 22, finished shooting The Trial Of Christine Keeler, a six-part BBC One drama about the Profumo Affair, this week.
It also stars James Norton, of McMafia and Grantchester fame, Silent Witness star Emilia Fox and Sophie Cookson, best known for her role in the hit Kingsman movies, who plays Keeler, a 19-year-old model who had a brief affair in 1961 with prime minister Harold Macmillan’s secretary of state for war, John Profumo. It sparked a political crisis for the government in 1963.
Bamber plays model and showgirl Mandy Rice-Davies, the friend who introduces Keeler to Profumo’s wealthy set. The actress said: “I don’t think the story of Christine and Mandy has ever been told from a woman’s point of view. This [drama] is definitely from that side. I think it’s really important because they weren’t prostitutes, they weren’t whores, they were just two very, very young women who were totally manipulated and called names that they definitely weren’t.
“I think it’s about time the truth comes out and people actually look at it without judgment.”
Bamber, who gained recognition for her turn in Tom Ford’s Oscar-nominated film Nocturnal Animals, in which her character is brutally raped and murdered, also recently completed filming a “really harrowing” crime movie, The Seven Sorrows Of Mary.
She had to wear a hairpiece for the role in the Keeler drama, meaning she could walk down the street unnoticed. “My hair is a lot shorter and I have my fake fringe on when I’m playing Mandy, so I have to walk around in that sometimes,” she told the Evening Standard shortly before filming ended. “I haven’t really noticed it [fan attention] at all. I’m just really enjoying the work.”
Bamber, whose profile rose on winning an Ian Charleson Award for her 2017 performance as Hilde in Ibsen’s The Lady From The Sea at the Donmar Warehouse, is keen to return to the London stage. She said: “I really, really, really want to get back to the stage soon … I don’t really have one particular role in mind, but I would just like to be stretched and to find a few interesting female characters who go on a real journey throughout the play.”
From this week, Bamber’s portrait will hang alongside stars such as Natalie Dormer, of Game Of Thrones, in J Sheekey, a restaurant in Covent Garden. The exhibit, shot by celebrity photographer Chris Floyd, “recognises the new wave of talent” in the capital. Bamber said she feels “really honoured” to be included.