After much anticipation, ITV’s 'Victoria' is returning to our screens for a third season. Shining in the role of Nancy Skerrett, Nell Hudson’s character marks the start of a revolutionary moment for social mobility as we watch her rise through the pompery and drama of the royal household to become the Queen’s dresser. But after the clapperboard calls cut, Nell is whipping up a revolution of her own; speaking out about body positivity, and challenging the ‘invisible forces’ that hold all of us back. Here, we chat about what goes on on the set of 'Victoria', the importance of reaching out in difficult times, and the comfort she finds in the love of her adorable four-legged friend, Maggie
Hi Nell! So 'Victoria' is finally returning to our screens. From your time on the show, do you have any particularly fond memories?
I’ve definitely had some really lovely times on set! There were only a handful of scenes where the upstairs and downstairs worlds collided, and one of those times was filming the Christmas special of series two.
We had a ball downstairs in the servant’s quarters and the Queen, Prince Albert and all of those characters came downstairs for a festive night of dancing and merriment. That was so much fun because all the actors who never get to play with each other were all put together, and we just had so much fun dancing around all day.
Skerrett is a fascinating character. What has been your favourite thing about playing her?
She is, she’s lovely. She has an incredibly strong moral compass. It’s gloriously simple as an actor because whenever she’s going through a conflict I can get a really good grasp of what she would want to do in her heart, because she always tends to want to do the right thing.
She’s got a very strong anchor that brings me back to her when I’m climbing back into that character, which is the challenge when you’re playing a role for three years in a row.
Are you planning on doing anything nice when the first episode comes out?
Yes, I believe we’re all going over to Daisy Goodwin’s house, who is the writer of the whole show, to have some dinner with her. And then we’ll all sit down and watch the show together.
I know you’re a big advocate for body positivity. Many actors face a huge amount of scrutiny about their appearance. Is that something that you’ve ever had to deal with?
I’ve never explicitly come up against that. But Lily Allen puts it really well in her book [My Thoughts Exactly] when she explains that no one explicitly says: “You’re a bit old now. You’ve got children so you’re in a more mumsy bracket. Therefore, we can’t market you anymore as this young, sexy thing.” If they did say that, they would be breaking the law. Therefore no one ever explicitly tells you, as a woman, that you have to look a certain way. It’s just, sort of, implied.
I’m sure that that’s the same for anyone, whether they’re in the entertainment industries or they’re just a human being on social media. There’s this tacit, throbbing, loud pressure for everyone
In a way, that’s almost more damaging, right?
Exactly, there’s no one that can you specifically fight back against, it’s an invisible force. I’m sure that it’s the same for anyone, whether they’re in the entertainment industries or they’re just a human being on social media. There’s this tacit, throbbing, loud pressure for everyone.
Do you have ways of protecting yourself from that?
I follow a lot of body-positive accounts on Instagram that are just little reminders for me that I am more than my body. I’m more than that.
That was what was so brilliant about the ‘I weigh’ accounts and the original movement on Instagram, which was, ‘I weigh my friends, and my job, and my dog… I weigh the books I’ve read and my degree,’ and that sort of thing. Social media – and I’m sure Instagram in particular because it's a purely visual media – is where we all go just to torture ourselves.
So, my feed is just filled with people that inspire me. I don’t follow anyone that would even remotely promote an unhealthy body image or something that doesn’t leave me feeling good.
If you do have days where you’re not feeling it, how do you pick yourself up again?
I have a really incredible bunch of friends, of both actors who are in the industry and get where I’m coming from on that level, and friends that I’ve met from therapeutic communities. And I reach out. I think that’s the best thing you can do.
I know that it’s really hard, I certainly have found it difficult in the past. When you’re feeling really low, picking up the phone or even texting someone can feel like a herculean task. But I often find that’s the best thing, to just burst that bubble.
I have to ask about your absolutely gorgeous dog, Maggie...
Yes! I was going to say, I also cuddle my dog!
There have been so many studies about the wellbeing benefits of animals and dogs, is that something you experience with her?
Absolutely, 100%. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m a real advocate for dog ownership. I think, particularly when you’re in downtime as an actor – when you’re just auditioning and there is zero structure to your day or week – having a really small anchor, like a tether to the world, that means that three times a day or two times a day you have to get up and go outside for a walk, no matter whether it’s freezing or a really sunny day, makes you feel better no matter what.
Also, the classic argument for having a dog or a cat is that it is this lovely thing that loves you and will love you when you can’t love yourself.
So, what’s next for you?
I’ve got a couple of independent feature films that are in the works at the moment. One of which I’m producing and I’m really excited about, so that’s cool, not having to be a passive actor for once, I’ve actually got a little bit of power in it, which is fun for me. They’re both contemporary projects, so it will be nice to be out of a corset for my next job!
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