With a host of diverse productions under her belt, including Atlantis (BBC, 2013), and The Five (2016, Sky1), Hannah Arterton is returning to the small-screen once again for Netflix’s latest thriller, Safe, where she plays an ambitious detective investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl from a gated community
Off the screen and onto the red carpet, Hannah is a vehement supporter of the Time's Up movement, an advocate for fighting workplace harassment in all industries. Here, we catch up with Hannah to chat about why Time's Up still matters, her upcoming role in Safe, the mental health pressures faced by actors, and the incredible ways that she manages “hurricane head”.
What was it that first appealed to you about Safe?
I’d worked with Harlan [Coben, Writer] for a series called The Five, so when I got a call from my agent saying that Harlan had written something else, it felt like a no-brainer. I then got the script through and it was brilliant, and I loved the character. It was a really easy decision!
Tell us a bit more about your character Emma
She’s just moved into the town where Safe is set, which is a gated community. Everyone knows each other and it’s very close-knit, so she’s kind of an outsider. She’s a young detective who’s just joined the force, and she’s incredibly ambitious, instinctive, and good at her job. And she knows that she’s good at her job – which comes with a certain amount of friction between her and the other detectives.
I loved the fact that she’s incredibly confident and appears to be independent and capable. She’s new in this place and she’s doing her best to be really strong and get on with the job, but she can’t deny this feeling of loneliness, and that draws you in as the audience.
You’re very involved in the Time's Up movement. Why is that so important to you?
For me, it’s important that through this campaign we’re bringing attention to inequality in our industry, but also in all industries. When I was younger I left drama school and I was working in bars and pubs and restaurants, and the level of inequality there was just crazy – and it still exists. If I was working behind a bar, I would like to think that I could do my job without inappropriate comments or feeling like the fact that I’m a woman limits me, or that my working experience is different to that of a man.
That’s my vision: that even though it’s a movement around show business, it inspires women from all industries to feel that they can say when something’s inappropriate. And to feel like they’re legitimate in speaking out, and they’re not just being difficult.
What can we do to tackle this?
Women really finding their strength and knowing that it’s not OK. That feels like a small statement, but it’s huge. If someone told me in my 20s that this isn’t OK, and I can speak up, that would have been huge.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience with anxiety?
When I feel like I’m struggling, it’s usually worrying about the future. Or worrying or feeling anxious about things that feel like they’re out of my control. The nature of this job is extreme. You’re either working, and nine times out of 10 you’re away from home which can feel quite lonely, or you’re not working and you’re auditioning which requires you to put all of your energy and your enthusiasm and ambition into a role for the audition – and once you’ve done it, you have to completely forget about it, otherwise it drives you insane.
That kind of fluctuation between extremes can be really taxing. I think that having some kind of way to leave all that aside, and come back to a neutral space where you feel like yourself, is really important.
How do you make sure you have a good work-life balance?
I've found recently that a really good way to switch off is to go and see some sort of live performance. I find it all-encompassing – it takes me totally out of my own thoughts. My boyfriend is in a band and I went to see him play in Dublin recently. At the time I was worried about something, but I saw them play and felt immediately better.
What does self-care mean to you?
For two years I lived on my own, and that was me not taking care of myself. I’ve learned that I’m the kind of person who needs to have human chats. Me and my best friend have this thing that we call “hurricane head”. It’s when you spend too much time on your own and your thoughts just whip up around each other. It gets really bad at night when you get into this vortex of worry.
In order to get rid of it, you just have to get it out to another person, and for us that’s each other. We do it on voice-note on WhatsApp, just kind of soundboarding off each other. And then the other one comes back and is like: “You’ve got hurricane head, don’t worry about it, I love you”.
That, for me, is self-care. Knowing when I need to reach out to someone.
Harlan Coben’s 'Safe' is available to stream on Netflix now.