The past few months haven’t been easy for Silent Witness star Emilia Fox, who recently split up from her partner Jeremy Gilley, the father of her beloved daughter Rose. But, she tells Catherine O’Brien, being forced to leave her ‘comfort zone’ has resulted in a radical change of direction career-wise
'I am a single mother now - that is the reality. But there is no sadness.' Emilia Fox photographed for YOU in Vivienne Westwood
The stylist’s rail at any YOU photo shoot invariably acts as a magnet, but even so, there
is something about the way Emilia Fox is busy saying ‘Yes, yes, YES!’ to every outfit that suggests a heartfelt yearning for a designer fix.
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‘I love dressing up, but then I have spent a lot of the past year living in my pyjamas,’ she confesses as her fingers flutter longingly over an exquisite floral frock by Valentino. ‘I’ve even been known to walk the streets in them.’ Her state of deshabille is quickly explained by the arrival of her 18-month-old daughter Rose. ‘You know those moments when your baby just won’t settle? Well, I throw a coat over my pyjamas, put Rose in the baby carrier and we go for a walk. Is that really awful? My neighbours are very nice. I honestly don’t think they would mind.’
The look in Emilia’s hazel eyes is playful and mischievous – totally unlike the aloof, dispassionate gaze of her best known character, the pathologist Dr Nikki Alexander from the long-running BBC crime drama Silent Witness. You would never know, from her dazzling smile, that she has been up since Rose woke her at 5am. And you would never know either, that as well as being one of the most joyful years of Emilia’s life, the past 12 months have been complicated and painful. After three years together, she and Rose’s father, the actor and charity campaigner Jeremy Gilley, 43, have separated. ‘It happened several months ago. I am a single mother – that is the reality. But our priority is our love for Rose and her wellbeing. I want her to have the best in life that we can provide, and I am sure her dad does as well. So there is no sadness,’ she says determinedly. ‘How can I be sad when I have Rose? She has changed my life.’
'I downed half a bottle of Jack Daniels so I'd know how it feels to be out of your head. I don't recommend it!'
Emilia Fox with Jeremy Gilley, the father of her daughter Rose
Although Emilia, 37, lives alone with Rose at her West London home, she insists she never for a moment feels lonely. Jeremy is nearby, as are several members of her dynastic family – she is the daughter of actors Edward Fox and Joanna David, niece of actor James Fox and producer Robert Fox, and cousin to Lewis star Laurence Fox (who is married to Billie Piper). Her parents in particular have enabled her to juggle work commitments while keeping childcare in the family. ‘I am incredibly lucky. I have the most amazing support and Rose is very well looked after.’
I am too much of a control freak to be a drinker. And until I played Doris, I had never played a hard drunk before. To get into the character, I had to know what it felt like to be out of my head, so one night I got a bottle of Jack Daniels and downed about half of it, very fast. I don’t recommend it. But I did learn one thing – even when I am drunk, my natural instinct is to act sober.
Less is always more in sex scenes. The first scene I had to shoot for A Thousand Kisses Deep was a rampant kitchen encounter with Dougray. People ask if it is difficult, embarrassing, funny – actually, it’s technical. I had to hang on to my glass of wine and cigarette while he seduced me. Dougray and I have worked together before and that makes it easier – you have this shorthand between you. ‘Yes, you can touch me like this…’ I didn’t feel too exposed. I even managed to keep most of my clothes on. A lot of it is about what you place in the audience’s imagination. The Artist is one of the most beautifully sensual films ever, and yet there is no sex in it at all.
I filmed my first ever lesbian kiss this year. I was playing Portia, the novelist lover of Alex Kingston’s character Blanche Mottershead in Upstairs Downstairs. In the story, we had been lovers before and I came back into her life. The kiss wasn’t in the script, but Alex and I discussed it and decided we were going to go for it. It was a full-on kiss, because there was no point being half-hearted about it, and it worked in terms of taking the scene to another level.
Changing your hair colour is one of the quickest ways of creating a new adventure for yourself. I am a natural, albeit highlighted, blonde, but to play Portia I had to become a redhead and I’m loving it. It takes you out of your comfort zone because once you change your hair, you need to change your make-up and rethink your clothes. But the best bit is the reaction you get from people who might have a preconception of you. I’m loving walking into meetings and seeing people doing a double-take. It demonstrates that I am versatile and stops them pigeonholing me. As an actress, that is very useful.
Growing up, I wanted to be anything but an actress. It seemed too predictable and foolhardy to follow in the footsteps of everyone else in my family. My brother Freddie and I are opposites in that respect. He is 15 years younger than me and always knew absolutely that acting is what he would do. He has unbelievable confidence, though not in a big-headed way. I know I am capable, but I still have my moments of self-doubt when I think I’ll never get another job again. How mad is that?
With her acting dynasty family, parents Edward Fox and Joanna David and younger brother Freddie
As a teenager, I put myself under a crazy amount of pressure. It was all entirely self-induced. My parents never pushed me, but they did provide me with an amazing education [she attended Bryanston, a leading boarding school in Dorset] and I wanted to prove myself to them to say thank you. I made it to Oxford, but it is not that I am particularly clever, much more that I am a worker bee.
The important thing about being a parent is allowing your children to be who they want to be. My mum and dad were brilliant at that. I was in my first year at Oxford reading English literature when I got my acting break in Pride and Prejudice (she played Darcy’s younger sister opposite Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation) during the summer holidays. I could have been swept along by that, but my parents said, ‘Stay at university and enjoy yourself because you’ll never get that time again.’ Those were wise words – they gave me the luxury of time to work out what it was I really wanted.
My mum’s breakdown was a bonding force. When I was in my early 20s, she had to have a brain operation for a skull condition called Chiari 1 malformation, and afterwards she suffered from postoperative depression. She had always been such a pillar of strength and, by God, when I saw her so helpless, it made me pull my socks up. More recently she has suffered from Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that affects your balance and can be crippling. Thankfully, she is much better now, but looking after her has made us much tighter as a family.
Dad is a rare Fox and a true gentleman. He doesn’t get talked about so much because he is rock solid. But he is also very funny and can make us all laugh, even during the difficult times. We made a film together a few years ago in Toronto and that experience brought a whole new dimension to our relationship. It was good to go out to supper with him after a day of shooting
and talk as colleagues rather than father and daughter. And now I love watching him as a doting grandparent. He has this wonderful way of letting children feel their way to him rather than diving in and scaring them away.
Sometimes it is only when you lose things that you finally grow up and start to value what is important. I had a miscarriage when I was 31, which was a massive wake-up call. I was ten weeks’ pregnant and at the time I thought my world had ended. I’d spent my 20s focusing on my career, but like a lot of women, I had assumed that having a child would be my rite of passage. Losing my baby made me reassess everything [the father was her then husband, actor Jared Harris, son of Richard
Harris and star of Mad Men – they subsequently, amicably, divorced]. I realised I was far from alone – thousands of women have miscarriages and recover from them. I also realised that I really wanted to be a mum, which ultimately was a good thing.
Emilia, left, plays an alcoholic mother in the movie A Thousand Kisses Deep
Like every mother, I am trying to find the balance. My mother sacrificed her work for our family life. Her priority was always stability for Fred and me and she turned work down if it meant being away from us. I have to work, but I’m definitely more choosy now about how long and how far I am prepared to be away from home. Luckily, the Silent Witness studio is five minutes from my house, so I go back and forth all the time.
I’ve always had an enormous sense of independence. But I know that sometimes I can
be too independent. It is important to be able to share your life – so that is a work in progress for me. And now that I have Rose, I have a dependant, so everything is shifting.
I’m not thinking about a relationship right now. I used to plan everything, but I can’t know what my future holds and I can’t begin to get my thoughts around that. I have to accept what life is for me at the moment, and that is no bad thing because children live in the present, so Rose and I are in the same place.
The virtue I value above all others is kindness. Several people have returned to my life recently and been so kind and thoughtful. There is a flower seller at Borough Market in London who is like my fairy godfather – he always knows how to cheer me up. And the other day my dear friend the jeweller Alex Monroe asked me to pop round because he had something for me. It was a gold necklace with two tiny pendants – a rose and a fox – for my Rose Fox. How kind is that? I haven’t taken it off.
The older I get, the more I find imperfection attractive. At work, people do my hair and
make-up and I have a part to play and it is a lovely, brief escape. But in real life, putting on a front is
just too tiring. I find the more I open I am about my vulnerabilities, the more honest people are
There is no such thing as an idyllic life, but one can find idyllic moments in the everyday. Everything I do with Rose is idyllic, and it doesn’t matter whether she is crying or I am changing my sixth nappy of the morning. My only struggle is in capturing the moments because she is walking and talking and changing so fast that already I am looking over my shoulder to see where those
baby days have gone. Once you have a child, it is as if your life moves on to fast-forward. I could play with her 24 hours a day and never get bored. I lay in bed with her this morning and thought,
‘This is bliss.’
A Thousand Kisses Deep will be released on 15 June
Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2132616/Emilia-Fox-Sharing-life-work-progress.html