Stefanie Martini is Mary Thorne
Q: You graduated from RADA in the summer of 2015. What happened next?
“I was lucky enough to get my first job before I left RADA which fitted perfectly in between my last show and my graduation. That was a guest lead in an episode of Endeavour for ITV screened at the start of 2016. Then I spent a few months auditioning and working out how the life of an actor works. Then I was fortunate enough to get the role of Mary in Doctor Thorne. It’s lovely how that one phone call can completely change your life. So it’s all happened quite fast and it doesn’t really feel very real.”
Q: What was your reaction when you got the role of Mary?
“I was absolutely overjoyed. It took me a few days before it sank in, because it’s such a big deal. It involves so many amazing people, is such a great story and she is a brilliant character. “My agent phoned to tell me when I was in a coffee shop with my boyfriend. I had three pounds in my bank account that day. I remember going in, trying to get a coffee, having my card declined and thinking, ‘I can’t even buy a coffee. How am I going to get home? I’ve only got £3.’ Then I got the phone call and it was completely surreal. So I definitely identify with Mary Thorne having no money!”
Q: Who is Mary Thorne?
“Mary Thorne is very complex. She is strong and also humble, kind and instinctively wants to look after others. But within that she has this steel and is also quite private. “She’s sparky, incredibly resilient and can hold her own ground. But behind all of that she is very vulnerable. What happens in the drama completely takes her aback and challenges her. She does have flaws and can be a bit outspoken and stubborn, but she thinks and is considered. She’s a great character to play.”
Q: Was there any history of acting in your family?
“I’m the first. My dad works in construction and my mum works in HR. When I rang to tell them I’d got the part my dad was busy, so he just said, ‘OK, that’s good news, bye.’ Then rang me the next day when he’d actually processed it and said, ‘That’s amazing.’ And my mum was really happy for me.”
Q: What does Julian Fellowes bring to this adaptation?
“He’s very light, witty and quick. He understands the characters and they all have a journey, which is wonderful. He brings the authenticity of how they would speak and the detail about how these characters live. He brings out the humanity of everyone, which is brilliant. I met him at the read through and he is a really lovely man.”
Q: What was it like working alongside Tom Hollander (Doctor Thorne) and Ian McShane (Sir Roger Scatcherd)?
“Tom was very helpful throughout the filming process, because I’m very new to this, and he’s shown me how to save things for close‐ups. He’s brilliant to bounce off and very easy to act with. Ian McShane was wonderful, he has a real presence. Even at the read through he was incredible and full of energy. I’ve had a brilliant time.”
Q: And Harry Richardson as Frank?
“Harry has such energy as a human being and as an actor. He bounds through things with his boyish charm and enthusiasm and is great to work with. It’s exciting because we’re both in the same boat. We’re both recent graduates, it’s all quite new to us, so it felt like we were on this lovely exploration together. I really enjoyed working with him.”
Q: You filmed at several locations, including West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire?
“West Wycombe Park is a gorgeous location. When you film at night it’s beautiful and atmospheric because you can’t really see the cameras. It’s great for your imagination. We were walking home from a party with horses and carriages going past and the stars are out with the flames from fire beacons along the driveway. It’s just stunning. It also means a lot of the work is done for you because you don’t have to imagine you are in this place. You are genuinely there and it does take you back to that time. The exterior for the Thorne home is at Castle Combe in Wiltshire which is stunning. It’s like a little fairytale village. It’s so beautiful. It’s got a cobbled road with tiny houses and tiny doors, and then the interiors are at Dorney Court near Windsor. I love Doctor Thorne and Mary’s house because it’s smalller and cosier than the grand houses of the other families and the fire is always lit.”
Q: How did you find the horse riding?
“It was really scary having to ride side saddle. It was like sitting on a chair and then twisting your upper body to the right hand side of the chair and trying to go in that direction. It was strange. But my teachers were lovely and I felt confident enough with it after a while. It was also funny because there were some scenes where I managed to ride forward into the scene on the horse beautifully. Then when the scene actually started the horse kept going backwards for no apparent reason. So I was trying to keep the scene going while the horse was going backwards and I had absolutely no control over it. Horse riding is a really great thing for me to learn. But I wouldn’t say I’ve conquered it yet.”
Q: And the dancing?
“I loved it. It was fun. Being in costume actually lends itself to the dancing. The size of your skirts makes you keep the right distance, and how tight your arms are bound in by the dress stops your arms from going up too high on your partner. The corset makes you have the right tension in your back and it’s easier for your male partner to move you around.”
Q: Why do audiences have such affection for period dramas?
“It’s long enough ago for it to feel nostalgic, other worldly, intriguing, exciting and different. But it’s close enough that we can still relate it to ourselves. Some of the behaviours transfer and a lot of it is still relevant. It’s very beautiful and attractive and always looks amazing. And there’s a lot of drama there because there are more restraints than there are in modern society, in terms of the correct way to behave and greet people and what is right and what’s wrong. Also what you’re free to do and not free to do. Especially as a woman. In some ways there’s a lot more to struggle against. You can’t just do what you want. You can’t say to your parents, ‘No, I’m going to marry someone that I want to for love.’ We have a lot more freedom today in general.”
Q: Because of her social position, Mary is snubbed and not invited to things. Have you ever felt left out?
“Everyone can relate to the feeling of being left out. I was quite shy when I was younger, a bit awkward and by no means popular. I know what it feels like to not really know your place and not know where you fit in. Mary and Doctor Thorne are very much outsiders. But when they’re together it doesn’t feel like that. Mary is a young girl and she’s got to find her place in the world. She can’t really stay with the doctor forever. It must be hard for her to find her place and not have a clue where she fits in, because there’s no‐one else like her.”
Q: How do you look back on your Doctor Thorne experience?
“It was so beautiful. I’m very lucky because I learned a lot, especially about those moments when it feels like you’re not doing anything in a scene but, actually, you need to be there to listen and experience it. I was working with such amazing actors, just watching them you can soak up what they’re doing. It was an amazing job and I’m really excited to see it on screen.”