Interviews

10 minutes with… Pippa Bennett-Warner

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We caught up with the talented, rather well-spoken, 23-year-old theatre and TV acting ingénue to talk about work ethic, inspirations and leveling the playing field for black actors.

Did you always want to be an actress?
I didn’t, the first job I ever thought I wanted to do was to be a doctor. I wanted to go to Cambridge and study medicine.

 
So what changed your mind?
My sister, who is older than me, played Oliver Twist in a production at our prep school. I was sitting in the audience in awe, thinking ‘Oh my God, I really want to do that’. I think most girls want to do what their older sister does and I just thought she was so amazing. So I got thinking that I’d like to have a go.

 
What is your reaction to people who label you as ‘posh’?
In the past, some people have spoken to me on the phone and when they meet me, they’re quite shocked I’m black. Being called Pippa as well, I think they expect me to be blonde wearing a set of pearls. Others have labelled me ‘posh’ but I don’t see myself as particularly posh, it’s just how I speak.

 
So true. Who inspires your work ethic?
My parents are big inspirations. They have always been encouraging and supportive. I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it wasn’t for them always having confidence in me. My acting hero is Sophie Okonedo – she’s just so classy and such a brilliant actor; if I could have a career like hers then I would be a very, very happy bunny.

 
Do you think the film industry is leaning towards more equality for black actors?
I still feel there is a long way to go before it is equal. I think the theatre world is getting there and colour-blind casting is brilliant. I think there should be colour-blind casting in film as well. When people say the world is not ready for it, I don’t understand what that means – we don’t live in an all white country. The UK is so diverse and it would be refreshing to see that reflected on screen.

 
Are there any roles that you would refuse?
It’s all about choices. I remember reading an interview with Naomie Harris and she said she doesn’t take parts that bring us back as people or show negative stereotypes. I think I’d have to agree with that. I think it’s good to keep going for roles and accepting roles that are positive. We’re not just hoodlums and gangsters, we are educated and intelligent.

 
What advice would you give to aspiring actresses?
Go to drama school! I went to drama school and learnt so much about the industry, plus it was a great platform. I left two years ago, really equipped to take on the acting world. Without that box of tools I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.

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