After years of great roles in comedies such as The Thick of It and Moving On, the actor is now being feted for her devastating dramatic performance in After Love. She talks about ‘serious’ acting, a breakdown in her 20s and learning to fight for herself
When Joanna Scanlan arrives, she is hidden beneath a yellow raincoat, glasses steamed up, blown through the door as if the gathering storm outside has washed her ashore. “I am so sorry for dragging you out here,” she says, laughing slightly hysterically, as she sheds the layers. Scanlan is filming in rural Wales – she, her husband and their dog are renting a cottage nearby – and this cafe, also in the middle of nowhere, was her suggestion. Even the women who work in the cafe were surprised to be called in. We are the only customers, but there are pots of tea and welsh cakes, and Scanlan is great company, so all is well.
She grew up in Wales, so this job – filming The Light in the Hall, a psychological thriller, for which she has had to learn some Welsh – is something of a homecoming. Being here is also a detachment from London, and everything that goes with her job outside of being on set or stage – the bit, you sense, she could take or leave. And so she’s a bit distanced from the buzz around her Bafta nomination for best actress for her role in the extraordinary film After Love. “When you sit here in Tywi Valley, just learning your lines for tomorrow, it’s hard to take that in,” she says. “I feel very long in the tooth to be coming to this sort of prominence.”