Not all actors have the good fortune to be on one hit series, but Nell Hudson is on two popular shows, Starz’ Outlander and Victoria on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater simultaneously. Even though many of us are heartbroken over the recent revelation that we have to wait until fall to catch up with our favorite people from Outlander, at least we can take solace in learning more about the talented, friendly and beautiful performer who portrays lovestruck Laoghaire MacKenzie and the mysterious Eliza Skerrett.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise to learn that this rising star grew up on a farm as she is so down-to-earth and just all-around lovely. She was educated at Oxford School of Drama and has starred in many plays including Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. After some initial work on British television, she landed the prized parts in Outlander and Victoria.
Nell Hudson spoke to TheCelebrityCafe.com about her work, how she got the part in Outlander, reveled in getting to make out with Sam Heughan, discussed getting the accents right, dished about working on the two shows, what she likes to do for fun, what is her favorite look off of the red carpet and more.
Spoiler alert — there are references to actions that have been shown in previously aired episodes of Outlander and Victoria.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Nell, thank you so much for taking the time. I’m really excited about this.
Nell Hudson: Hello, nice to meet you over the phone.
TCC: Now, do you prefer to use your full name? Nell Rose Hudson? Or Nell Hudson?
NH: No, no. I just go by Nell Hudson.
TCC: Okay, you also share a birthday with my niece. Your birthday’s Nov. 19, is that right?
NH: That’s it. It’s true. We’re Scorpios. Cool. How old is she?
TCC: She’s 15.
NH: She’s 15? Sweet.
TCC: Where are you from?
NH: Where am I from? I’m from a tiny village in the middle of the West Midlands of England. I grew up on a farm.
TCC: You grew up on a farm [laughter]?
NH: Yeah, literally on a farm.
TCC: Do you have brothers and sisters?
NH: I do, yeah. I’m a middle child, which is probably why I chose to be an actress [laughter]. I needed the attention. I’ve got one older sister and a younger brother.
TCC: And my next question was going to be how did you know that you wanted to be an actor?
NH: I don’t know. I guess the middle child could come into it if you wanted to shrink it. But I don’t know. I just figured it out when I was approaching the age where teenagers forced to make major life decisions and I just went with my heart, which is that I love acting, and was lucky enough to kind of pursue that and for it to work out so far [laughter].
TCC: What made you choose Oxford School of Drama?
NH: Oxford School of Drama is quite a new school, and it seemed to be sort of exciting and quite up-and-coming. I think all decision making is very instinctive, in the end. And it was very instinctive and I liked the atmosphere there. It was a very classical training, and it covered a lot of the sort of foundations of classical acting that I think are really important for going into a career in sort of modern acting in film and TV.
TCC: With this training, you were in a lot of plays. Which plays were you in?
NH: So my first play, actually, was The Crucible, which is one of my favorite plays. It’s amazing and the actors are brilliant. And I was Mary Warren and that was an awesome part, and I got to get very hysterical [laughter]. That was a really fun part. I’d love to play Abigail one day.
TCC: You want to play the other side of it?
NH: Yes, exactly. I love Abigail. That’s a brilliant part, isn’t she? So that was the first thing we did there and then we did — I mean we moved onto the other ones. I played Alice in Patrick Marber’s Closer which was really fun. Again, another awesome part, very sexy [laughter]. I’m trying to think of other ones that we did. I did a Viola in Twelfth Night which was great role in Shakespeare.
TCC: Any plans to ever go back to the theater?
NH: Yes, definitely. I did a production of Pride and Prejudice, gosh, I guess it was two years ago, playing Lydia Bennett which was really good fun, and the experience of it is just so wonderful and sort of — their camaraderie is so amazing. And I’d definitely love to go back to it. Maybe after this season of Victoria [laughter].
TCC: Now, what was your first professional acting role?
NH: [laughter] My first job was Holby City which is a hospital drama, a BBC hospital drama that we have over here which I guess is like, I don’t know, I mean you can’t compare it to ER because it’s nowhere near as epic. But it’s sort of one of those jobs I think a lot of young actors starting out sort of go to as a rite of passage. So that was my first job [laughter].
TCC: Well, what did your character do? Did she die, or was she sick?
NH: No. She didn’t die, luckily. Her grandma died very sadly.
TCC: Aww. That’s so sad.
NH: But I got to meet a lovely actor because I was playing with another girl, and the other actress was really lovely. So it was a nice warmup job into the world of professional acting [laughter].
TCC: Now how did you learn about the role of Laoghaire MacKenzie for Outlander?
NH: Well, I got sent the audition by my agent, and I hadn’t actually heard of the book until then, but then after a very quick Google search, I saw what a huge phenomenon the books are [laughter], and, yeah, and then off the self-tape?, and then I got recalled for that, and, in the recall, I met Sam Heughan, obviously, he plays Jamie, and loved him straight away [laughter], and the producers of the show, and, yeah, and I think they let me know the very next day that I’d got the part. So I immediately went out and bought the book and read the book, and completely loved it, and saw what all the fuss was about [laughter].
TCC: Now, how did you celebrate getting the part [laughter]?
NH: I’m sure that there was champagne involved [laughter], and I remember it was mid-summer. It was August so probably, yeah, I think probably sort of al fresco champagne or something [laughter]. I can’t remember. It was so long ago now.
TCC: Now, have you read all of Diana Gabaldon’s books now?
NH: No, I’ve only read the first three because Laoghaire leaves after that so [laughter] I dropped off the radar. But I should and I probably will at some point. I’ve got a huge stack of books on my bedside table that I’ve been given that I need to get through.
TCC: Now, what do you like best about Laoghaire?
NH: What do I like best about Laoghaire? I mean, in the first book, she was so lovely to play. I was so very much on her side and it was really easy to be on her side and see how her own version of the narrative was completely plausible to her and yet her motives for doing the terrible things that she does were very real to me and seemed quite legitimate, to be honest [laughter]. I mean maybe not attempted murder. Both sides of her were really rounded in the first book and then, obviously, later on, she goes through certain things in her life. She goes through strife. So she’s always got the dark side but she’s also so a well-rounded human character who I could find the kind of reason for the way he behaved. I mean, also, it’s really fun to play the bad [laughter]. It’s fun to play a character that people love to hate.
TCC: Well, I always imagined that Laoghaire got a serious talking to from Mrs. Fitz after some of her antics.
NH: Yes. Of course. Definitely [laughter]. Definitely. Very funny. I actually just ended up wearing Mrs. Fitz’s wig for season three because, obviously, I have to be aged up a bit. They still had Annette Bening– not Annette Bening [laughter]. Annette Badland’s wig from season one who played Mrs. Fitz, and they put me in her wig, so I really became my grandma [laughter].
TCC: That’d be a cute photo.
NH: I’ve got one ready to publish for when the series comes out, but I’m not allowed to share it yet.
TCC: Okay [laughter]. Now, if Claire never existed, do you think Laoghaire and Jamie would have ended up together?
NH: I think so. Yeah. I mean, I would say that, I guess [laughter]. I think so. I think that Jamie’s still has a tenderness for her, and I think Jamie’s definitely a hero to her and I know it’s through sort of not the right reasons, but they do end up together when it seems she [Claire] kind of has fallen off the radar. I think so, yeah.
TCC: Now, you were only in one episode last season, but in the book she actually wasn’t in the second book, so–
NH: Yeah, it was a really lovely decision–
TCC: What do you think was achieved at the end of Fox’s Lair?
NH: I think it was just really great for the audience to be reminded of Laoghaire, because obviously she does come back in the third book, and I think that it just sort of imprinted her in everyone’s memories for that future eventuality, and I think [laughter] we got both sides of Laoghaire again. I think she was really repentant at the beginning of that episode…[laughter]…and did want to have forgiveness and, I think, managed to sort of convince herself of her own life that she was kind of tired and had reunited with Claire. It was God’s will that she should reunite with Claire and get her forgiveness, but then I think by the end [laughter] of it…we see that Laoghaire’s love for Jamie is a fire that just won’t go out, and it kind of leaves it hanging quite nicely.
TCC: Now do you have a favorite episode?
NH: Of all the episodes we ever did? Or of all the ones ever to watch [laughter]?
TCC: I’d love to know what happens in the future, but I don’t think you will be able to tell me.
NH: No, I can’t. Obviously getting to make out with Sam Heughan was fun [laughter] in series one [laughter]. But, no, I mean, there’s a lot of good ones. I think the climax of the first season is so excellent with the sort of magic of Geillis and Claire together. I always loved that. I thought that was such a brilliant story.
TCC: Now how do you get the Scottish accent right?
NH: It’s funny, there’s just certain accents that you can and can’t do. And the Scottish accent was one that came quite naturally to me, which is weird because I have no one in my life who’s Scottish. But we have an amazing vocal coach on Outlander, Carol Anne, who’s really excellent to work with and super helpful. And it’s so easy now. There’s so many recordings online of the exact accent you’re going for. But I think Scottish is just one, hopefully, that comes quite naturally.
TCC: Now can you give us a couple teasers? What can we expect from Laoghaire this season?
NH: In season three she’s older, she’s been through a lot. She’s got her two daughters, obviously. And she’s sort of, I think, emboldened with age [laughter].
TCC: Now, are you allowed to give a hint as to when the release date is? [We have since learned that we need to wait until September for Season 3 of Outlander.]
NH: I don’t think I am [laughter], I’m afraid. I wish I could.
TCC: Bummer. My editor and I are big fans of the show so we’re excited to see it.
NH: Great, I’m so pleased. I’m so pleased.
TCC: Now, one final Outlander question, what do you like best about working on Outlander?
NH: I think– I don’t know, it’s such a good story. It encompasses so much with the historical element and learning about that time was so interesting and the romance and the time travel. There’s a wealth of things going on in the story, in the books, that I enjoyed so much. But, obviously, with any job the main thing that makes the job is the people and the people were absolutely lovely. Everyone that I worked with was fantastic.
TCC: When you guys got the SAG award, the thank yous were very nice.
NH: It’s so excellent. I’m so pleased. Everyone is lovely.
TCC: Now, do both Outlander and Victoria tape at the same time?
NH: Yes. Sorry [laughter]. They did. It was tight filming the second series of Outlander during the filming of the first season of Victoria. So that was all very rushed. And then the third season of Outlander was fine. I had space around that one, but in the second season, that was all happening at the same time, and it was weird going very quickly, from one to the other. I think I had one day off between two characters.
NH: With Laoghaire, I know her very well. It’s quite easy to slip in [laughter].
TCC: Please tell me about your character in Victoria.
NH: My character in Victoria is the opposite of Laoghaire, which was a dream [laughter]. Nice to have variety. She’s very grounded, and level-headed, and kind, and sort of savvy, and she’s a real girl’s girl, and would always, always put her friends and other women before any man unlike Laoghaire [laughter]. And she’s very, very smart.
TCC: You know, there’s some mysterious stuff about her past so I’m always interested to know more about her. Her name is Eliza Skerrett, is that correct?
NH: How far in are you at this date?
TCC: I’m one episode behind. I didn’t see last night’s yet.
NH: So what was last night’s though in terms of–?
TCC: Victoria and Albert just got married.
NH: Okay, cool. Okay, cool. I’m just reminding myself of where everyone’s at [laughter] because I’m not at that point.
TCC: There’s a baby featured, is the baby hers or is it her sister’s or something like that? I’m not sure.
NH: The baby is her cousin’s baby. So, it’s all I am allowed to say all this about the plot at this time. I mean, because it’s aired in the U.K. so it’s not really a secret. I’m sure it’s fine. The baby is my cousin Eliza’s and the real Eliza trains as a maid, and with all of that to go and be a maid of Buckingham Palace when she fell prey to a soldier and his seductive ways and fell pregnant, and decided to keep the baby, and came to me, her rather impoverish cousin who is working in a brothel, and said, “Look, here’s an amazing opportunity for you to get out of this horrible life that you’re living. Pretend to be me, go and work at Buckingham Palace, and then with the money you make, you can take care of me and the baby I’m going to have.”
So obviously, my character, her real name is Nancy, leapt at the opportunity and goes to work at Buckingham Palace, but she has no idea what she’s doing. She’s just kind of winging it. But she is very good at doing hair, and I think she sort of charmed the queen with her sort of realness, I can use a modern word, and there’s obviously parallels between my character and the queen in that we’re sort of both around the same age, starting out on new lives at the beginning of the story. And I think that there’s a sort of nice respect that the queen has for my character.
TCC: I thought it was a nice touch that the queen was kind of charmed that people would pay for her used gloves that your character was selling. So I thought that was cool.
NH: Yes, I think so too. I mean Queen Victoria historically famously was very sort of improper about the social boundaries between her staff and herself, and had no kind of social graces about their kind of hierarchy in that situation. And if she liked someone, she liked someone and befriended them.
TCC: Nice. Well, she was queen I believe for 63 years. So how long do you think the period can go [laughter]?
NH: Can you imagine if it went that long [laughter]?
TCC: Well, you’d make a lot in residuals [laughter].
NH: That’s true, that’s true [laughter]. We’ll see. A couple more years would be nice. There’s so much to cover and a lot of amazing things happened during her reign, didn’t she? It was a real revolution.
TCC: Definitely. And what’s the most difficult thing about being in period pieces?
NH: Corsets [laughter]. Yeah. Well, not really. I mean corsets are a pain, but fine. I think sometimes the period language. It’s a leap. It’s not like doing Shakespeare, but the leap of connecting to someone in the past through the medium which you have, which is the way they speak, is a little bit of a leap depending on how far back you’re going. But people are people, and love is love, and hate is hate, and fear is fear, so. She’s such a wonderful character. So it wasn’t hard with Skerett. So I think in terms of period pieces in general, it’s not the language that would come to you by nature.
TCC: Now, who are some performers or directors you would like to work with?
NH: Oh my gosh. Directors I would love to work with– Mike Leigh is one of my favorite directors.
TCC: Secrets and Lies, right?
NH: Yes. Exactly. I think he’s really brilliant, and his process for actors is so generous. You get months to kind of develop a real person with him. So that would be an absolute dream.
Andrea Arnold – check out her first film Red Road about a woman seeking revenge for the death of her husband and child. Mike Leigh for being so generous to actors. I’m also a huge Wes Anderson fan.
TCC: Are there any actors who you would like to work with?
NH: I’m just trying to think. I mean, putting out there I’d love to work with– there’s lots of people I’d love to work with. Riz Ahmed is incredibly talented and versatile, Mark Rylance is my hero and inspires me to do better. A couple of British ladies – Sian Brooke and Denise Gough.
TCC: Now what kind of part out there is something you’d really want to play that you haven’t played yet?
NH: I mean, I’d really like to take on the challenge of being a lead role. These characters I play in Outlander and Victoria are wonderful rich characters, but I would love to play the lead in something purely to just sort of be more immersed in the next thing that I do. Just to be myself with the next role I take on.
TCC: I also read that you’re a singer-songwriter. Can you please tell me about your music?
NH: [laughter] I mean, hardly. It was a really brief spell in which I sort of got picked up by — a song that I’d written fell into the hands of a quite notorious person in the music industry who I won’t name. But he really liked it and he sort of encouraged me to pursue it so I did do some gigs. But it wasn’t for me [laughter]. I love it. I mean, it’s something that I kind of do in my spare time as a sort of release. It’s a bit like writing a diary, I’m myself. When I sing, that’s me being me on a stage and, obviously, I’m much more comfortable being someone else.
TCC: That makes sense. What are some other projects you’re working on right now?
NH: So, what are the other projects I’m working on right now? Actually, the writer of Victoria, Daisy Goodwin, her daughter Ottilie is also a writer and has actually written three of the episodes for season two of Victoria. Very, very talented young women and I just made a short film with her, which was really great because it’s nice to do something contemporary for once [laughter]. And she’s a really brilliant writer and I think that she will go places. So most recently that, but I start filming season two on the day after tomorrow.
TCC: Oh, wow. That’s soon. Great.
NH: So then that will take me up to August so, after that, we’ll see [laughter].
TCC: And then hopefully a holiday for you.
NH: Maybe [laughter], we’ll see.
TCC: Can you please tell me about the charities you support?
NH: Yeah, so, just to name a couple of them. One of them is called the Fistula Foundation, which is a charity for women, really. I read about it in a wonderful book called Animal by Sara Pascoe, which is about the evolution of women, because we always hear about evolution from the point of view of men, basically. It’s sort of never really discussed, the sort of particular female aspects of evolution and it was really fascinating in a kind of social and anthropological way. And she mentioned the charity for the Fistula Foundation which saves lives. So the fistula is, I’m sure you know, when a women tears after giving birth and in the Western world and the developed Western world, that’s something that is very easily correct and normally without complications. And in the developing world, 289,000, women die a year in childbirth, and most of these deaths are preventable. So the Fistula Foundation builds hospitals, and trains surgeons for women to be safe giving birth, basically.
NH: It just seemed like such an obvious thing to support.
TCC: No, but it’s good to give credit to places that you want to succeed. When you’re not working, what’s your makeup and clothing style?
NH: Oh, no. No, I hardly wear any makeup. TV and film makeup is very heavy, so it’s nice to give my skin a break when I’m not filming. And I’m really grungy, probably too much so. Although when I go out, I love to dress very glamorous and quite sexy [laughter].
TCC: Well, you look fantastic on the red carpet.
NH: Oh, thank you. But yeah, in the daytime very, very casual, and then I like to dress up at night.
TCC: Do you have any favorite designers?
NH: Good question. I’ve got to start, but I’m not cool enough [laughter].
TCC: How tall are you?
NH: I’m 5’4″.
TCC: Okay. Well, you’re still taller than Victoria.
NH: I am taller. Jenna is so tiny. I think Jenna is 5’1″. She’s just so little. Every time I see her I’m sort of, restruck by it each time.
TCC: What do you like to do for fun?
NH: I like to go to the Cinema. I love to do movies and seeing new films and foreign films, and what’s happening with that. I’m trying to do like wacky exercises this year [laughter]. So I’m trying new ones all the time, which is really fun. You’ve got to kind of make yourself enjoy exercise, haven’t you? So, I’ve just been trying out climbing, which is really fun – indoor climbing. And aerial yoga, which is good fun. I feel like in a different life I could have been a trapeze artist, and [inaudible], or something [laughter]. I find all that stuff really fun. Yeah. And just reading, hanging out with friends.
TCC: Now, where do you live?
NH: I am in London. I’m in East London. In Hackney.
TCC: Now, what is something in life that you really want to do but haven’t gotten around to doing yet?
NH: I’d love to live in New York City. To write a book. To be in a comedy!
TCC: How do you like fans to get in touch with you?
NH: You can DM me on twitter and I’ll try and get back to you!
TCC: Is there anything you would like to add?
NH: Thanks to everyone watching Victoria in the U.S. Stay tuned for the official Victoria after party – interviews with cast (including me), writer and designers of the show – which airs straight after the season finale.
Nell Hudson can be seen on Victoria on Masterpiece Theater on PBS where the finale airs on March 5, and Outlander which will return to Starz in September.