Interview: Jessie Buckley Talks ‘Wild Rose’ & Country Music

Film Review: 'Wild Rose'
Tom Harper's excellent 'Wild Rose' is a Scottish musical with a country twist.

Every now and then, an actor embodies a role so fully that you can’t imagine anyone else playing it. That’s the feat Jessie Buckley pulls off in Wild Rose, which opens in select theaters on June 21. She brings the titular character to life with a fire and humanity that is transcendant. In her hands, Rose-Lynn is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary dream. Namely, to escape the humdrum of Glasgow (and the rigors of adulthood) and find country music stardom in Nashville. Jessie makes her journey seem not only plausible but probable.

I recently spoke with the Irish actress about her star-turn in Wild Rose and mastery of country music. The 29-year-old revealed that she was completely unfamiliar with the genre before signing on for the film and picked up the necessary twang by listening to the classics. Jessie also theorized about what happens to Rose-Lynn after the film ends and ruminated on the prospect of releasing an album. Other topics of conversation included the Scottish country music scene and her role in HBO’s Chernobyl. Get to know the rising star a little better in our Q&A below.

I know you have a musical background, but had you ever dabbled in country before signing on for Wild Rose?

No, never. I had absolutely no relationship to it whatsoever. To be honest, I judged it before and I thought it was a bit hick. I didn’t really understand it and I hadn’t really listened to the good stuff, basically. Then when I found the good stuff… for me, the most amazing thing about country is the lyrics. You get lyrics by John Prine, Randy Newman, Townes Van Zandt and Gram Parsons. It’s just incredible. Incredible stories that are very human, really. I have completely converted now to country.

How did you get down that country twang?

It was more just listening to as much as I could. The minute I came on board, I just drowned my ears in listening to Emmylou Harris and Iris DeMent and Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt. Then, I was filming in Belfast at the time, every second weekend I came over to London and started working with the musicians who are in the film. They have become a band. I suppose learned by singing the songs.

The thing I realized is when the stories are so good, you just have to take yourself out of it and let the characters and the sound and everything else come out. The music is actually quite simple, but the story has such simple emotion behind it. It’s incredibly powerful. They don’t flower it really with anything. It’s very direct.

Is there really a country scene in Scotland or was that invented for the movie?

That’s a real thing. The Grand Ole Opry in Glasgow is a real thing. It’s quite an underground movement. It’s something which, when you go into the underworld of it, you respect it. The Grand Ole Opry in Glasgow is right in the middle of the docklands. You walk into this building, which on the outside looks like a derelict old place. You walk in and there’s these amazing murals of the wild west, and it’s full of Glaswegian dock loaders, and bakers, women in full cowboy outfits with spangles and sparkles.

Every Friday night they have a live blank shootout and bring out the American flag. There’s line dancing from 9:00 till 12:00 at night and country bands usually on Friday and Saturday night. It’s a really big thing but it’s quite an underground secret sorority sort of place.

It sounds incredible.

My God. It’s the coolest place in the world, honestly. It’s so cool.

What drew you to Rose? Could you see a little bit of yourself in her?

When I read a script, I never really go, “Oh, brilliant, that’s me.” I think, if anything, I get excited by being able to look at the world in a way that I hadn’t done before. For me, Rose-Lynn had such an incredible tenacious courage to break down the four walls around her reality and want something more for her life. Even when everybody else around her told her that she wasn’t allowed to dream outside of her kind of prison existence. What I really love about her, and what I’ve loved about her since I first read the script, is that she’s raw and very real woman.

There’s no sheen. It’s all roughed up and she’s flawed and she makes mistakes, but she’s passionate and she’s loved and she learns to love in a bigger way as the film goes on. She felt like somebody that I’d known in my life, but also somebody that I’d never met in my life. You rarely get women like that in a script. Nicole Taylor, the writer, is just so fearless to go that deep and dirty and riveting in a female character.

I know this is hypothetical, but do you think Rose would ever go back to Nashville and try her luck?

Yes, I think she would. Well, I don’t know is the answer. The illusion of what Nashville was going to mean for her and what it was going to be for her when she got there, was kind of shattered, because actually, she wanted something more than just the illusion. She wanted the reality and her reality is also being a mom. Then telling her truth and telling the story of who she is and where she’s from. That’s Rose-Lynn’s story. I don’t see why she wouldn’t go back later on. I don’t know.

You’ll have to ask Nicole Taylor if she writes a sequel. Maybe she will shack up with Willie Nelson or something like that. Rose’s daughter will end up being a flyaway rebellious teenager. Rose will be running around after these women that she’s injected her rebellion in.

I would watch that! What did you make of Nashville? For me, it was like landing on a different planet.

Oh my God, yes. It definitely is. I was there two weeks ago and I was like, “Oh, my God. I feel like such a black sheep.” I even had a kind of half-cowboy hat on. I was like, “Hello,” in my Irish brogue. It’s amazing because you travel around and see places, which have such a concentrated obsession and passion. To get to sing in the Ryman, it’s such a privilege to stand on the spot where Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris and Townes Van Zandt and all these legends of music, let alone country, stood and left memories, and left legend and myth. I loved it.

Will you look for another musical role in the future?

No. I don’t want anybody to feel comfortable with me for too long. [laughs]. Especially not myself. I don’t know. I like going somewhere I haven’t, somewhere completely different to where I’ve just been. With music, for me at the moment, I feel I just need to take a step back from it. I suppose if I come to it again, I have to come wanting to say something. Whether that’s in film or stage or even making an album. I don’t want to just do it because I can. I want to do it because I want to say something.

If you did release an album, what genre would it be?

I don’t know. I’ve no idea.

You’re such a jack-of-all-trades.

Well, it definitely won’t be hip-hop or rap, I can tell you that. If I did that, I’d probably be quite worried about myself. I don’t think people would take me seriously, but it might be funny.

How you leave Rose-Lynn behind to go to Chernobyl?

People always ask how do you let go of big scenes or characters? I don’t really want to. It’s the truth. I feel each woman that I’ve been lucky enough to have a relationship with, with the characters, and these chats that you have together, I feel they’ve changed me as a person and they still live in me somewhere. With Chernobyl, I just got into that mindset and started reading as much as I could. Ludmilla was an incredible woman in her own right, and had an amazing story. I don’t know. They’re all swimming around in there somewhere.

Thank you for your time. I really loved the movie.

Thank you!

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