My Titanic career move
Perdita Weeks has landed her first major role in Julian Fellowes' new blockbuster, even though she never went to drama school… but then nor did her big sister Honeysuckle
22:31 GMT, 16 March 2012
She’s about to become a major star with a leading role in Julian Fellowes’s keenly anticipated TV take on the sinking of the Titanic. In fact, you could say everything is going rather swimmingly for Perdita Rose Annunziata Weeks.
The young actress, who came to prominence as Mary Boleyn in The Tudors, recently appeared in the BBC’s adaptation of Great Expectations. And she’s just returned from South Africa, where she was filming a two-part TV drama, Flight Of The Storks, opposite Harry Treadaway.
All this success, and Perdy, as she’s known, didn’t even go to drama school. Nor did her equally talented (and equally flamboyantly named) elder sister, Foyle’s War star Honeysuckle Hero Susan Weeks or their younger brother Rollo James Percival Loring Weeks, also an actor.
'Georgiana was instantly likeable to me. I responded to her spunkiness,' says Perdy on her character in Titanic
‘I don’t think acting’s difficult,’ she
says. ‘It’s not like learning to walk on your hands. You’ve got to have
confidence but then Rollo and I spent time on film sets from a young
Perdy, 26, and Rollo, 24, were introduced to acting when Honeysuckle, 32 landed her first role, in Goggle Eyes, the TV version of Anne Fine’s children’s classic. ‘We were protesters chanting, “We don’t want a bypass.” We must have been six or seven. We had no great ambition to follow Honey into acting. But we were cute, so our mother agreed to our names being put on the books of Sylvia Young who ran an acting school and agency.’ (Perdy is the only person allowed to call her sister Honey. ‘She calls me Pork. I was a very fat baby.’)
Even though she and Rollo were sent to boarding school, if an audition came up their mother would scoop them up and drive them to London. It had little impact on her education at Roedean in Brighton – one of the UK’s most expensive schools, or ‘the prison on the hill’ as she calls it.
Calm before the storm: Perdita (left) with Linus Roache and Geraldine Somerville in Titanic
We meet at ITV’s studios where a
lithe, lightly tanned Perdy, fresh from a holiday in Thailand, is in
fine form. She is, you’ll have gathered, rather posh. ‘I like my name,’
she confides, ‘but I do share it with a lot of dogs and cats.’
way, she’s perfect casting for the high-born, headstrong Lady Georgiana
Grex, suffragette daughter of the Earl and Countess of Manton (played by
Linus Roache and Geraldine Somerville) in Titanic, due to begin its
four-part run on ITV1 at the end of March.
was instantly likeable to me,’ says Perdy. ‘I responded to her
spunkiness.’ The saga was filmed in Budapest last summer – ‘and it was
boiling which made it jolly difficult to appear freezing as the ship
New Jack and Rose: Perdita as Georgina with Noah Reid as Harry Widener, romance blossoms for the pair on the doomed ship
We first see Georgiana in jail, having
been arrested at a demonstration. Her release is sprung by her father,
who decides a cruise to America would keep her out of trouble.
Initially, she’s indignant but then she meets Harry Widener, a handsome
young American. ‘The first scene I filmed on deck was with Noah Reid who
plays Harry. It was terribly romantic. It’s easy to imagine falling in
love in such a setting.’
She has nothing but praise for Julian
Fellowes. ‘I can’t imagine how someone could create so multi-layered a
story.’ The two met at the original read-through and again when Fellowes
visited the set. ‘He’s charismatic, intelligent and funny. Makes one
feel something of an under-achiever.’ Would she like a part in Downton
‘Oh, do you think it’s too late’
Fighting for survival: The TV series on the historic disaster is written by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes
Perdy’s parents met at St Andrew’s
University, where Honeysuckle was born when both were still students.
‘Dad used to wheel her around in a cardboard box on the front of his
bike. She’s so brainy – she read English at Oxford – we often joke that
she’s been to university twice.’
Successful siblings: Perdita's sister Honeysuckle stars in Foyle's War
The family home was in Sussex
surrounded by rolling countryside and ponies in the paddock. Her father,
Robin, is in advertising and her mother, Susan, is a freelance
copywriter. The couple parted in 1993. Perdita claims she’s very like
‘We’re both hyper-sensitive, vivacious, charming,’ she laughs.
‘And we look similar. But then I also look like Honeysuckle. We’ve all
got the same wide mouth. It’s good for an actor to have, well, a big
Last August, Honeysuckle and her husband Lorne made Perdita a first-time aunt with the arrival of a baby boy called Wade Stormonth-Darling.
‘Sounds like a cowboy, doesn’t it’ But Honeysuckle won’t be a stay-at-home mother.
The good news for fans of Foyle’s War is that three new episodes will begin filming in September.
For Perdy, too, everything is looking rosy. Alongside her professional success is personal happiness. For six years now, she’s been going out with an unnamed Swedish physiotherapist. She and Rollo live in Vauxhall, the boyfriend comes to stay but lives elsewhere. She also has a half-share in an events company called Gumption Productions but her first love remains acting. ‘People ask if I want to continue with it as though I might grow out of it. This is what I do,’ she says firmly. ‘My bow has one string.’
Titanic, Sunday 25 March, 9pm, ITV1
First Honey, then Perdy… now there's another Weeks waiting in the wings
Acting in the blood: Perdita and Honeysuckle's brother Rollo starred in The Little Vampire
Rollo Weeks, the younger brother of Honey and Perdita is best known for his part in 2000 film The Little Vampire and was the young George, Duke of Kent in Stephen Poliakoff’s 2003 TV film of The Lost Prince.
He also appeared in 2003’s Girl With A Pearl Earring, and had a small role in Stephen
Frears’s 2009 movie, Chri. ‘I played a sleazeball prince,’ he says, ‘who had to slobber all over Michelle Pfeiffer’s hand in our first scene together.’ Rollo, who’ll be 25 on Tuesday, can be
seen next in the soon-to-be-released Booked Out with Sylvia Syms, which sister Perdy says is ‘terribly sweet’.
And what of the future ‘I’m determined to be a success,’ says Rollo. ‘I don’t want to be worrying about paying bills. But I’d rather have quiet spells between roles than work in an office.’
A former pupil of Stowe public school in Buckinghamshire, he says, ‘I had a blast there but I left early by mutual agreement. I hadn’t behaved badly but I did oversleep – and then there were the auditions and acting jobs.’
But he would never consider changing that distinctive first name. ‘It’s very handy for an actor.’ And yes, he’s used to people asking if they can have his last Rolo. ‘That happens all the time. As you can imagine,’ he deadpans. ‘It’s a joke that just gets funnier and funnier.’