Grantchester's Kacey Ainsworth on developing characters to break down stereotypes of women

'EastEnders' star Kacey Ainsworth: 'Strictly can wreck an actor's career'
'EastEnders' star Kacey Ainsworth speaks about stereotypes of women on screen

EastEnders and Grantchester actor Kacey Ainsworth has spoken about the importance of breaking down stereotypes around women characters on television.

Speaking to Kate Thornton on White Wine Question Time the actor who won awards for her portrayal of Little Mo in EastEnders talked about her early acting career, including jobs at the Royal Court and with Mike Leigh, and how she used various acting techniques to build the characters she has played.

She said she had had doubts on taking a role on a soap when it came around, because she worried it was 'a bit obvious'.

She said: "I'd always said I didn't want to do it, because I'd always gone: 'It's just a bit obvious, you're a London girl, this is the only trajectory that we have, you know, posh people can play us, but we're not allowed to play them!

WATCH: Kacey Ainsworth on smashing stereotypes on EastEnders, Grantchester and neurodiversity

"[There were] no opportunities for people from my background, particularly, other than that. But then when I went along to the workshop for it, there's over 100 of us, and then we got whittled down to 30. And then in the end there was about 12 of us and it went backwards and forwards with various different people.

"Zoe was a boy, first of all, and then mum was still alive. And then mum was dead. And lots of different things went on. And it was a good three month process of finding us really. But by the time I got close to the end of it, I really wanted it by then because I could see how brilliant it was going to be!"

LISTEN to the full episode to hear more about working with Robson Green and her early acting career

She explained how she used her drama school techniques, including the Laban technique to develop the character, which involves exploring a character through various emotions.

She said: "People don't realise how much work goes into doing a soap. Some people are very similar to their characters and some people are very different.

"It just depends. It's all about your process. And they always used to take the mickey out of me because I had a character book, I had loads of different things that I would do, that I would think about with her. I used to use Laban technique for certain scenes.

The Eastenders cast at the National Television Awards 2005. Getty Images.
The Eastenders cast at the National Television Awards 2005. Getty Images.

"I also used to have little external things that I that I kind of did over time, and she would always hold her sleeves because you know when you're young and you kind of pull your sleeves down because you you don't really feel awkward and don't know what to do. I would hold my sleeves. Her clothes would be slightly too big for her.

"There's little things people would never pick up on, but that you do as an actor to try to make you feel like your character. With the pitch of my voice, all of those things they came over time. And I love that I've got books and books and books on her.

Read more: Kacey Ainsworth: 'Strictly can wreck an actor's career'

"And that's really what I like to do, I like to create characters really kind of inhabit them, and then put them to bed and move on to the next one.

"It was brilliant to play and it was so well written and crafted and all of those. And all of those great things that you have with something, something like that that's been allowed to develop over a period of time.

LONDON - MAY 10:  Television soap stars Kasey Ainsworth and Shane Richie in the press room at BBC Television Centre in West London on May 10, 2003 after the 5th Annual British TV Soap Awards. Ainsworth won the Best Actress award for her part as Little Mo in Eastenders, Richie won Sexiest Male. (Photo by Steve Finn/Getty Images)
Kasey Ainsworth and Shane Richie after the 5th Annual British TV Soap Awards. Ainsworth won the Best Actress award for her part as Little Mo in Eastenders. (Photo by Steve Finn/Getty Images)

"But it is something that they've done with Cathy in Grantchester, they've allowed me to invest. And they've allowed me to talk about her as a character. And because sometimes the wives of the detectives in a series tend to be thankless tasks, you know, generally they're sitting in the kitchen going: 'Oh, why aren't you home?'

"So what we did was, you know, we talked a lot about women in the 50s. If you have an image in your head of a woman in the 50s, you'd probably think big skirt, baking. And we've been sold this idea.

"And I think this happens in lots of different ways. We've been sold an idea of what women were like, and what they did."

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She had conversations with two of the women executives on Grantchester which cemented in all their minds that the should not continue to portray stereotypes of women from the time in the show.

Ainsworth said: "We had a conversation about the fact that all of our grandmothers, and we all come from different backgrounds, and we're all different ages, all of our grandmothers worked all of our grandmothers had a job.

Kacey Ainsworth as Cathy Keating in Grantchester (ITV)
Kacey Ainsworth as Cathy Keating in Grantchester (ITV)

"And we said: 'Why is it that we only ever see in period pieces a lot of women are domestic. And that's the only way you see them. And it was really important to us that we looked at the misrepresentation. And went: 'No, we're going to give Kathy a job.'

"And that became a very important thing. And so we that's what we've done. We've done that with Kathy and she has developed over the time, which is just brilliant. And again, like this is what I say is what I love to I love to find.

"And I'm very lucky because Robson isn't the kind of actor who insists on having a wife who's 20 years younger than him, he's quite happy with me!"

WATCH: Grantchester's Kacey Ainsworth says Robson Green "isn't the kind of actor who insists on having a wife who's 20 years younger than him, he's quite happy with me"