Fault meets actress Lily Loveless

First gracing our screens with the tough but tender Naomi in the award winning Skins series, Lily Loveless has gone on to work on everything from smaller television series, award winning independent films like Fear of Water and a well-received theatre run of The Collector (with Game of Thrones darling Daniel Portman). Now promoting the gloriously sinister dark comedy “Set the Thames on Fire”, we caught up with her to have a chat about life as Lily Loveless.

Dress – Orla Keily / Earrings – Carolina Bucci


So you were introduced to the sort of “mainstream” audience as Naomi in Skins, and you’ve since moved on to do everything from TV shows, theatre and film – Where are you most comfortable, do you prefer a certain ‘genre’ of acting or are you just versatile enough to pull it off?

I find acting I’m just more comfortable at it, so I wanted to go in to theatre as well because it’s completely different, it’s so challenging and so hard. But the rewards are completely different and great as well. All I’m interested in is the characters and the writing. So, whether that’s in a play or a tv show or film, all that really matters to me is that the writing is good and that the character is a good character.


I suppose it’s terrifying with theatre because you only have the one take to get it right.

Yeah, it’s so scary, it’s my first play that we finished a couple of weeks ago! The first night I actually cut my finger open by accident and had to just finish the play with my finger bleeding all down my arm, and I could see the first two rows were going “Oh my god!” I didn’t know what to do! It was awful, but you get through it.

Dress – For Love and Lemons / Earrings – Dinny Hall / Ring – Alexia Jordan


I’ve heard that you have an interest in doing some directing as well – is that something you’d still like to do?

[Nervous laughter] Yeah it is, definitely – I mean I might try it and be awful at it, so I don’t know, but I am trying to write my own stuff. It’s taking a hell of a long time… I think I would enjoy directing more than writing. Writing is great but it’s so hard, you have to be so self-motivated to get it done. But I don’t want to be handed a job in directing because I’ve acted, I want to work my way into it, because directors have worked extremely hard to get where they are and I don’t want to be handed anything or given a leg up. So I’d like to start by writing stuff and then sort of maybe start by helping someone co-direct and learning the “secrets” before going out and trying it on my own. It’ll take a long time, but that’s fine, because we’ve got time.


How was working on The Musketeers? Was it a bit of nostalgic fun being back on set with [former Skins castmate] Luke Pasqualino?

It was so much fun that I think I was annoying everyone else who was on set! That being because me and Luke get on so well… he is the funniest person I have ever met in my entire life! I think that when people see me laughing with him they think that I must be putting it on because it’s so ridiculous. I remember the first day on set – we were in the middle of nowhere, just outside of Prague, it was freezing cold and everyone was really grumpy – I spotted Luke coming out of his trailer and he spotted me and we just screamed, to the delight of everyone else, hah. Honestly though, it was the most fun I’ve ever had, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to use a bow and arrow because I’m a bit of a Lord of the Rings geek. Plus it was Sue Townsend directing my episode which was very cool, she was the first female director that they’ve had.


Wait, so were you any good with the bow and arrow?

YEAH! I was a natural! Wait, that sounds really arrogant… I was “okay”. I was trying to challenge my teacher to a contest, and he was like “No, I’ll beat you.” Everyone should try it, it’s so satisfying when you actually hit a target.

Dress – Temperley / Earrings – Carolina Bucci / Necklace – Lily’s own

With roles like Naomi [Skins] and Alexia [Fear of Water, for which she won the Best Newcomer award in 2013] you’ve been praised as a kind of hero to the LGBT community. I actually have friends who had the courage to come out because of the Naomi/ Emily storyline – I think that whether or not you chose to be, you were praised as a hero to the LGBT community – was that something you ever set out to do?

In terms of my character being gay? It’s not something I had ever thought about before I got the part. I didn’t think about it that much to be honest, it was just “Oh, I’m playing this character and she happens to be gay” – it wasn’t a thing that I thought about. Me and Kat [Prescott, who played Emily]… we didn’t think that it was going to be how it was, the first season we did we thought that we were secondary characters. We just had this little story on the side, which we loved, we loved our characters and thought that it was very clever but we didn’t think that people would react the way they have. I’ve actually had people come up to me in person and say that I helped them come out, and I’ve read it in some places, and had letters. It’s amazing because I didn’t write it, I just got given the lines. So, it’s great to be credited with helping people come out like that, but I don’t think I can take the credit. It’s a very strange feeling because I don’t quite feel like I deserve to be thanked for it, but I’m so happy that people were able to come out because of something that I’ve been involved in. It’s amazing, you’d never think that you could have that influence on anyone. So yeah, it’s very special. With Fear of Water I just really liked the script, it’s like, you can’t turn down two straight roles in a row, so I’m not going to turn down two gay roles.


So I know that you and Kat had known each other before Skins and have stayed friends – are you a total social butterfly with actors you’ve worked with outside of work or are you more of an introvert?

Actually I was with Megan (Prescott, played Emily in Skins, Kat’s twin sister) the other day, we’d met at an acting class at Wood Green. So we were talking the other day, she’s one of my best friends, and she told me that she thought I hated her the whole time we were at that school! Which was news to me, I thought we were friends! I mean, we knew each other but we didn’t hang out, and then we bumped into each other at the Skins audition and obviously didn’t think that the three of us would all be in that, but then we were! I’m certainly not a social butterfly, I’d never use that term and neither would either of my friends, hah. But it’s sort of over the years I’ve had friendship groups that have come out of the different things that I’ve been in, and people sort of intertwine and know each other. I have a small, very very good circle of friends on top of my best friends from school and college. A lot of them are actors but we don’t do “actor things” we’re just a group of mates… I hate saying that because obviously I’m normal, but I’ve never seen it like that, we’ve all blended into one group of people.

Dress – Temperley / Earrings – Carolina Bucci / Necklace – Lily’s own

So, you’ve gone from these down to earth kind of projects to Set the Thames on Fire which looks creepy and dystopian, totally not your wheelhouse, how did you end up working on it?

That was kinda the reason. I love my job, but a lot of my job is spent up North, in the cold, on a street, in not the prettiest places… this was a chance to do something where I’m playing a sort of fantastic character, not a real life person, and I got to go on these incredible sets which I’ve never done. Everything I’ve done is on location, on a street or in a club or in a pub, but being able to walk onto a set and feel like you’re in another world was just so cool. I really loved the story too, I’m a Londoner from generations and generations, and I just thought the idea of one there being just this small community of Londoners left because everyone else is gone, or dead… I found that very interesting, I’d like to think that I’d be able to stick it out to the end in London. I just loved the story, and the colourful characters, and that it wasn’t over the top. This film looks insane, like a work of art, but has a great storyline, and although you could say that some of the characters are over the top, it’s still got… I’m so shit at summing things up! [Laughs]. The idea of London being boiled down to just a few occupants left, and also the character, Emily. I’ve never really played a character who was sweet and innocent, and a little stupid, I get to play very intelligent women, which is amazing but variety is nice. I just wanted to play something that people never really get to see me as, I get put up for a lot of roles that are quite similar, but Emily is someone who is not strong, not intelligent, doomed for terrible things I think.


What was it like to film? Was it a bit much with the big sets? Did you get a little star struck with Noel Fielding and the rest of the cast or did you play it cool?

No, it was quite chilled actually… it was chilled on set and everyone was very nice. It was cool to work with the camera crew we had; someone had told me that they’d worked on Pan’s Labyrinth which made me really excited to see how it was going to look. It obviously didn’t disappoint when I saw it. I just wanted to not let them down, really. Obviously Noel Fielding is this great comedy actor and I am NOT a comedy actor! I mean, I’ve tried but it just doesn’t come to me, so I just didn’t want to be the one to let the side down.

Ruffle top – Stella McCartney / Earrings – Carolina Bucci

I suppose it was a bit daunting working with these famous comedians on set.

Yeah because they can create these incredible crazy characters that you’d never think of. I’d get the script and learn it but it would never occur to me that I could do something to make it funny. Like you’d always watch it back and be like “Oh I could have done that better, or made that bit more entertaining” but… I’m happy.


If you had the chance to work with your dream cast of people, director, actor/actress etc, who would you choose?

Okay, well this is going to sound really random, but my number one would be Daniel Kaluuya (Skins, Black Mirror, Sicario) who is a very good friend of mine, and a very talented writer and actor. I would like Tommy Lee Jones in it, because I love him. I need to think of a female actress, because that’s prejudice if I don’t… WHOOPI GOLDBERG! I’ve loved her since I was four!


[Laughs] That’s totally out of left field, I didn’t see that coming!

Neither did I! But I’ve loved her since, like, The Rascals. Think she’s wicked. Maybe directed by Pedro Almodavor.


This would be the strangest film of all time.

It would be wacky, good luck with it.


This is the script you should be writing! So what are you doing at the minute, any more projects lined up?

Well I just came off stage, and I needed a break because it was just a two person show. So now I’m just going back to my writing that I’m working on… I don’t have anything lined up, it comes very quickly and goes again really quickly really.

Shirt – Paul & Joe / Skirt – Markus Lupfer / Earrings – Carolina Bucci

What is your FAULT?

I think being too self-conscious and too aware of what other people think to the point of anxiety sometimes.


Set the Thames on Fire is on demand from 19 September and on DVD from 26 September, and also stars Sadie Frost and Noel Fielding. You can follow Lily on Twitter.


Words Morton Piercewright

Photography Jack Alexander

Styling Jess Stebbings @ Frank Agency

Hair & Make-Up Lauren Griffin using MAC Cosmetics

Hair & Make-Up Assistant Anni Rademacher using Bumble & Bumble

Special Thanks Clayton Arms, Peckham