Black Mirror’s Georgina Campbell: “It feels like change is happening”

Posted by
Stylist Team
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Despite her tendency towards dark roles, actress Georgina Campbell is feeling optimistic. Even her episode of Black Mirror might have a happy ending…

“I don’t usually get so much activity on Twitter,” quips Georgina Campbell, reflecting on the “overwhelming” response she’s had about Hang The DJ’, the episode of the acclaimed fourth series of Black Mirror she’s currently starring in, on Netflix. 

The dystopian drama’s much talked about foray into the fraught world of online dating has been lauded by critics, dubbing it this year’s ‘San Junipero’ (the episode which won creator/writer Charlie Brooker an Emmy Award in 2017), and lapped up by fans, who are loving its surprisingly optimistic outcome.

Campbell, 25, plays Amy, who signs up for a dating service called The System and is matched with Frank (Joe Cole). So far, so Tinder, except that The System’s handheld AI device gives all relationships a strictly enforced time limit. And Amy and Frank totally fall for each other. It’s a smart and sincere examination of modern love in a time when dating burnout is engulfing many.

It’s also a smart and sincere move for Kent-born Campbell, who shot to fame in 2015 when her devastating portrayal of a victim of domestic abuse in one-off BBC3 drama Murdered By My Boyfriend saw her beat Sheridan Smith and Sarah Lancashire to the Bafta TV Award for Best Leading Actress. 

Roles in popular and cult shows (Broadchurch, Flowers) and big budget films (King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword) followed, so now – in between gym training sessions for upcoming TV series Krypton (a prequel to Superman) and an audition for a new, undisclosed, project – it’s a rare chance to chat.

Georgina Campbell in Black Mirror

Hang The DJ’ is unusually optimistic for Black Mirror. What did you make of it?

When I first went for the role I didn’t know what the episode was about because they were so secretive. But even when I read the whole script it was difficult to figure out what was going on. We were very aware that the audience would be watching with a mindset of, ‘Oh my god, something horrible is going to happen to these two people’ and purposefully built it up, so there’s a big relief when you realise that no, actually it’s really lovely, they’re in love.

Should we feel more optimistic about online dating then?

I think so, because it shows that however you meet someone, you still need to be looking for that spark or connection. And the idea of option paralysis… [you shouldn’t] get distracted by all the other people out there, but be present in the relationship you’re having when you meet someone you’re interested in.

Are you speaking from experience?

A little bit. I have used dating apps a couple of times in the past and met people, but it is a difficult thing because you’re meeting someone who you really don’t know and you have no link to. I have friends who have had great relationships after meeting on Tinder or Bumble so I’d never say never, but it hasn’t worked for me.

Why do we have such an appetite for dystopian TV?

We’ve always had a sadistic obsession with technology. There’s always been a fear of ‘what if the robots take over and kill us all?’ and ‘what will the internet do to us 100 years from now?’ What Charlie Brooker has done is bring it a lot closer.

How do you feel about that?

I’m ambivalent about tech. I’ve grown up with it, but it’s still quite new; we don’t know what effect it’s going to have. My dad is a computer forensic scientist and was saying recently that the internet as we know it doesn’t work because it’s like the Wild West. There’s no way of keeping an eye on what’s going on. It’s been built without doors and windows and now we’re trying to put the doors and windows on it way too late.

Does that make you cautious about social media?

You have to be. People are starting to realise that when you write something online, it’s there forever. Posts can be dragged up and people victimised for something they said seven years ago. That’s quite a scary thing.

The #MeToo hashtag has demonstrated the positive power of social media. At this watershed moment, what is the solution to the inequality and lack of diversity in the industry?

We need to be more open across the board, from behind the camera and in front of the camera to writers and directors. Now we’re seeing TV shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale – which are led by women and are about women – do so well, there isn’t an argument any more that people aren’t going to watch these things and that they won’t make any money. You’d hope that will now make executives turn around and say, “OK, well, we can make money this way.” I do think, with everything going on at the moment, it does feel that there is change happening.

Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes really highlighted that, didn’t it?

I was so moved by Oprah’s speech, I thought it was incredibly inspirational and really encapsulated the feeling of change that’s going on right now. Basically we’re at a crossroads where people who have been marginalised are no longer standing for it and I think that’s fantastic. We’re definitely heading to a new age of equality and it’s about time.

Have you had any negative experiences in the industry?

I’ve not been discriminated against but I can see it happen. And not just race, but gender and sexuality too. It’s stereotyping, lazy casting, which is an issue, that people can’t see outside the box.

You were on the panel picking the Rising Star nominations for this year’s Bafta Film Awards. What impact did winning a Bafta for your first big role have on your career? 

I was very young, had just finished university and was working in bars. I still had a job in a bar in between making Murdered By My Boyfriend and it coming out! When I got the Bafta, I had this sense that I had made it; that that was it. I had to realign my expectations and realise that’s not how things work, nothing comes to you on a plate. It’s had a slow-burning effect on my career, but 100% an effect, I can see that now. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t won.

What are you most excited about culturally in 2018?

Widows by Steve McQueen, I’m a huge fan of his films – they’re so dynamic and beautiful. Also I’m all about the Daniel Kaluuya hype right now so bring it on. On TV, I’m watching the BBC’s Hard Sun at the moment. It’s very good!

Black Mirror is on Netflix now.

Images: Tom Leishman / Black Mirror