Young actress Lili Davies is best known for having the honor to play Young Vanessa Ives on Penny Dreadful. We caught up with Lili to talk about her young career, working on Penny Dreadful, observing and meeting Eva Green and the advice that Timothy Dalton gave her.
How are you Lili?
Hiya, I’m very well thank you, excited to be interviewed!
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m 16 years old. I have two older twin sisters and one younger brother and I love going to the West End to watch musicals.
Based on your imdb.com profile, Penny Dreadful is your first professional job. How did this all come about for you? Did you audition or were you offered the role of Young Vanessa Ives?
My agent put me up for the audition. I attended two auditions and was offered the part by John Logan on my second call back.
What was it like to be offered a part in a big production project like Penny Dreadful by none other than John Logan himself?
It was incredible! As it was my first professional role, I was so shocked! Especially to be told by John Logan himself that he’d like to offer me the part as Young Vanessa. It was an amazing experience not only meeting him but also working with him.
Can you briefly describe and explain who your character is to those who haven’t seen Penny Dreadful?
I play a young Vanessa Ives. My role shows Vanessa’s experiences as a child and what led her to be how she was.
What did you like about playing Vanessa? Were you given pointers on how to play her?
I liked that her character was very interesting and she had many layers and secrets. I enjoyed playing Vanessa very much. Although it was challenging, it was an unforgettable experience. The director of my episode Coky Giedroyc gave me pointers on Vanessa’s character and what she had gone through, like witnessing her mother and bestfriend’s father together. She helped me a lot whilst filming.
Lili as Young Vanessa Ives during episode 5 "Closer Than Sisters"
Have you ever worked on any other Victorian era and/or Gothic projects before?
I have not but I hope to in the future!
This is a very large cast with veterans and up and comers and all of whom has at one point in their career dabbled in theatre, were there a lot of points for you to learn from that as well?
Absolutely! Many of them, such as Timothy Dalton and Rory Kinnear shared some great tips. Also just by watching them whilst filming, I picked up some great techniques and tricks.
On this episode, you worked with Timothy Dalton and Anna Chancellor. What was it like?
It was weird seeing such familiar faces from the screen then in real life. Both Anna and Timothy were very talkative and friendly. We had a very funny conversation whilst filming the dinner scene and Tim was helpful.
Given that you played Young Vanessa, prior to filming, what kind of preparation did you do? Could you describe your creative process? What helps you be more creative?
Well, before filming each scene, I’d sit in my dressing room trying to fit myself in the mindset of Vanessa. I would watch Eva in some of her scenes and watch her mannerisms, this helped me prepare and play the role as best as I could.
You said that to prepare yourself on playing Vanessa, you watched some of Eva’s scenes and observed her mannerisms. Could you tell us more about this? What kind of mannerisms did you notice when she’s playing Vanessa?
When watching Eva’s scenes, I observed how she’d stand, laugh, smile and I then tried to apply these to myself. I also picked up on how she likes to keep in physical contact with Mina and I then used this in my scenes, for example the beach scene, I always clutch onto Mina’s arm.
Were you able to meet Eva Green? Have you seen any Eva Green film prior to getting the role of Young Vanessa? Do you have any favorite Eva Green film and character?
I did meet Eva, she greeted me and we had a very friendly conversation before filming the maze scene. I have seen some Eva Green films and my favorite is probably Dark shadows.
Did Eva give you any acting tips when you chatted with her?
Unfortunately I didn’t receive any tips from Eva as she is a very busy woman but I enjoyed the time I spent meeting her and she was very welcoming.
Any funny stories from the shooting or about the cast? We’ve been told about mystical occurrences on set.
Whilst filming the dinner scene with the Ives and Murray family, Timothy’s character was telling us about his experiences whilst travelling. One thing he would do was to make the most bizarre tribal sounds and make up words that sounded African to make us all laugh. Another funny story was when I thought one the assistant directors was Leonardo DiCaprio! I swear I have never seen such an uncanny resemblance!
Timothy Dalton previously talked about the maze scene being filmed in two different ways. It’s such a pivotal scene for your character. Could you talk about the maze scene?
In my opinion, the maze scene is very crucial as I believe this triggers her illness and sparks an emotion that Vanessa has not felt before. It was filmed in two different ways. When I was being filmed, I wasn’t actually watching anything but when the actual scene was taking place, my older stunt double took my place and she was filmed.
Lili behind the scenes of Penny Dreadful
Seeing as this is your first foray to television or a production of this scale, is this something that you see yourself doing more in the future? How has working on Penny Dreadful influenced your work?
Yes definitely! I had such an incredible experience and I’d like to be involved in as many other chances like this as possible. I’d also like to be involved in musicals too as dancing and singing is another passion of mine. Working on Penny Dreadful has given me the opportunity to audition for other roles and has influenced me as a person too.
Have you been watching Penny Dreadful? What do you like the most about it? What’s your favorite episode (so far)? Who’s your favorite character and why?
I did watch the whole of season one and my favorite episode was episode 2 when Frankenstein’s monster was introduced. I also loved watching my episode as I saw how everything came together.
As a child actor, how early on did you decide that you want to perform? Is there a specific genre or someone that you particularly dream of working with in the future?
As soon as I performed my starring role as the moon in my year one production of The Nativity, I have wanted to perform. I would love to work in musicals and movies as well. I would love to work alongside stars like Meryl Streep, Barbara Streisand, Robert De Niro and Emma Thompson.
What’s your dream character to play?
My dream character would be Velma from Chicago or a completely contrasting character, such as Chloe Moretz in Carrie.
Are you interested in doing more movies or tv shows? What’s your favorite film and television show?
I am very interested in doing more movies and my favorite movie is Little Mermaid and my favorite television show is Mr. Selfridge.
What’s your favorite Gothic novel? And, more generally speaking, what’s your favorite book?
My favorite Gothic novel has to be Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and well I prefer reading plays, so my favorite one at the moment is Little Voice.
Lili with Fern Deacon (Young Mina Murray)
Who are some of your favorite actors and why? Who or what are some of your influences right now?
My favorite actors are Chloe Moretz, Barbara Streisand, Judy Garland, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio…..the list goes on, all these actors inspire me as they are all so versatile and can portray any role with great passion and devotion.
What do you like to do when not filming or working?
I love to sing, dance and shop! I also like to bake cakes and bread. As I am currently taking my GSCE’s, I am also very busy with revision and course work.
Any current or future projects that you have in store?
As I am a member of The National Youth Theatre, I hope to be working with them this summer after my exams in upcoming plays before going to performing arts college.
Lili with Fern Deacon (Young Mina Murray) and Xavier Atkins (Young Peter Murray)
Any messages for aspiring child actors/actresses?
Take any opportunity you can and enjoy it as much as possible!
I’ll leave you with a quote that Timothy Dalton shared with me that I will never forget: “Whenever you’re stuck between two jobs, always go for the one that scares you the most because you’ll learn more from it.”
Thank you for your time and insight Lili! We wish you the very best!
Follow Lili’s adventures on Instagram and Snapchat (lili.davies1)!