Kate Phillips is the first to admit that she’s been lucky. Very lucky.
Earlier this year she was just one of the country’s thousands of students embarking on their final year of drama school dreaming of being plucked from obscurity while nervous about stepping out into the real world.
However, before she was able to complete her final assessments, Phillips received a call from her agent. She had landed her first professional role in the BBC’s lavish adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winning novel Wolf Hall. Most undergraduates would have had to be satisfied with a bit part, one that eventually ended up on the cutting room floor. Not Phillips. She had been cast as Jane Seymour opposite Damian Lewis’ Henry VIII in the epic saga which chronicles 35 years in the royal court from the rise of of Thomas Cromwell to the death of Sir Thomas More.
She finished filming last month and then after a two-week break hopped on a train to Leeds where she will make her professional stage debut as Abigail Williams in the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s new production of The Crucible which opens next week. It’s early days, but understandably, Phillips is already being singled out as one to watch.
“What can I say, except it’s been an incredible few months?” she says when we meet in the Playhouse cafe in between rehearsals. “They are both incredible roles, but more than that they have been great experiences.”
While Phillips’ life may appear charmed, she’s not had it all easy. Rejected from her first round of auditions to drama school she was forced to take a year out before reapplying. It was a knock to her confidence, but after spending seven months as Chloe Moretz’s stand-in on Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed film Hugo she was convinced that acting was where her heart lay.
“When you are working with really young actors there are strict limits on how many hours they can be on set each day, so on big budget productions they will employ stand-ins for a lot of the preparation work. It can take half an hour just to set up the lighting for a shot, so instead of having the star stood there while they fiddle around, they get someone like me. During Hugo there were times when I thought, ‘I just really want to be on the other side of the camera, I want to be the one doing the acting’.
“I kept it to myself and did my job. That’s what I was being paid for and there are worst ways to spend seven months. I took a lot from it, but I guess it gave me renewed determination to go to drama school.”