TV spotlight“Victoria” Premieres Sunday, PBS

Star Jenna Coleman ‘learned on the job’

By Luaine Lee / Tribune News Service

British actress Jenna Coleman tried to attend drama school. She really did. But her intentions were constantly thwarted when people kept hiring her as an actress.

There are worse things, she sighs. “I learned on the job really. I feel I missed something — it’s one of those things: what if I’d taken that road, or what if I’d taken THAT road, what would I know? I’ve never been trained in Shakespeare. Does that mean I can’t do it?

“I think the one thing I would’ve liked would be to have that rehearsal space, whereas I’ve done my training, but on camera, which is wonderful and I’ve learned a lot, but in a different way,” says the Blackpool native.

What she learned on camera catapulted her to “Doctor Who,” where she performed 39 episodes of the sci-fi favorite and became friends with two of the Doctors, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi.

And while it doesn’t seem probable, that part led to the redolent role of “Victoria,” premiering on PBS’ “Masterpiece” Sunday. In “Victoria,” Coleman interprets England’s long-reigning queen from age l8 to 21 — the defining years as Coleman sees them.

“I did lot of research on Victoria, how creative she was, which I never knew. She had such passion for music and opera and ballet and visuals. She created her own wedding dress, and wrote in her diary, and did watercolor and sketch, and she tried to learn how to sing opera. She had people come around to the house and teach her. She’s so vibrant and unapologetically full of life and never tried to hide it or pull back from it, which I really love about her,” she pauses.

“She’s really inconsistent and very flawed, but I love that. I think that’s what’s been quite tricky to play her, being unashamedly flawed. I’m trying to make that likable,” she says.

Coleman, who studied dance from age 4, relinquished the idea of becoming a prima ballerina and decided, at about 10, she wanted to act. She participated in school plays and later helped establish In Your Space, a small theater company that traveled to various festivals and reinvested every farthing back into the company.

“I did my first two TV jobs then didn’t work for about a year,” says Coleman. She decided to try her luck in Los Angeles where she landed various odd jobs. “I did waitressing in a bar. I tried to start a babysitting company, then I realized, ‘Oh, my goodness, people are going to put the care of their children in my hands, I don’t want the responsibility right now,’” she laughs.

“I remember we did loads of all sorts of stuff, did voice-overs, had a flat mate, but I don’t remember what the rent was.”

To make ends meet she had what she calls “car-boot sales.” “You fill up your car with stuff you don’t want anymore. You open your car boot (trunk) and set up a store. It’s like a flea market. I did that every Sunday.”

That year of unemployment proved frustrating, she admits. “I didn’t know how to go about achieving what I wanted to achieve; getting myself in a place where I could be in rooms to try. If I could be in rooms and people then say ‘No,’ then fine. But I felt like I was in a place where I couldn’t get in rooms for people to say ‘No.’ But you feel as long as you’re trying your hardest, that’s all you can ask for really.”

In Los Angeles she essayed a massive number of auditions. “I was part of the ‘cattle,’ and then I went home and got a tiny part in ‘Captain America’ and from there things started to move a bit and interesting work came in, and scripts that I adored. And it was great. I loved it.”

Studious as a kid, Coleman, 30, says her parents were always encouraging. Her dad is a joiner and her mother stayed home to rear her and her older brother. “I was always a mixture between being extremely shy but then putting on a show for people,” she recalls.

“I could entertain myself for days on end. My mum said I would get lost if I decided to make something or to start a new game.”

She refuses to say whether she has a boyfriend but confesses she wouldn’t mind marriage. Then she amends that to say, “Not necessarily marriage. I’d like to believe you find someone you have children with and stay with, whether that’s marriage or not, I don’t know.”

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