News

What to Watch With Vanity Fair Star Olivia Cooke

The star of Amazon's new period drama, based on the British novel, tells Rotten Tomatoes what she's watching right now.

by | December 20, 2018 | Comments

MAMMOTH SCREEN FOR ITV VANITY FAIR EPISODE 1 Pictured: OLIVIA COOKE as Becky Sharp. Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/Amazon

(Photo by Robert Viglasky/Amazon)

Vanity Fair’s Becky Sharp has seen her fair share of film and TV adaptations over the years — Reese Witherspoon in 2004’s film version, Natasha Little in the 1998 BBC version, Eve Matheson in the 1987 BBC version, Susan Hampshire in the 1967 BBC version — but the literary heroine gets her most modern take yet thanks to Olivia Cooke, star of Amazon’s Certified Fresh 2018 miniseries.

The show, which hits Prime Video on Dec. 21, is based on the classic William Makepeace Thackeray novel, and while it’s still set in early-19th century Britain, there are plenty of modern touches that make Becky’s story feel less like a stuffy period drama and more like an evergreen story about a resourceful woman clawing her way out of poverty at any cost is applicable to any era.

Gwyneth Hughes’ adaptation is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, and features the “Villainy, crime, merriment, lovemaking, jilting, laughing, cheating, fighting, and dancing,” as Cooke’s spirited Becky climbs her way up English society all the way to the court of King George IV.

In anticipation of the series’ U.S. release, Rotten Tomatoes spoke with star Cooke about playing a classic literary character, nailing a posh English accent, and what shows she’s been streaming lately.


What’s appointment viewing for you?

Recently, just ’cause it’s off the top of my head, Sally4Ever, the Julia Davis HBO show. It is so outrageous. It is so, so good. I mean, me and my boyfriend are watching it and we have to watch the past episode two or three times during the week just so we can get ready for the next episode that comes out on Sunday. It is so outrageous. It is so, so good. I mean, me and my boyfriend are watching it and we have to watch the past episode two or three times during the week just so we can get ready for the next episode that comes out on Sunday. Her sense of humor is so off color and so dark and so wacky. You can kind of see the improvising, and I actually love that you can see the actors just barely holding it together because of what they’re saying and what’s coming out of the other person’s mouth is so outrageous. It’s delicious. It’s so wonderful to watch.


What’s on your DVR?

I don’t have cable! I have Amazon, I have Hulu, I have Netflix, I have HBO.


What’s on your streaming queue?

I just started watching on Netflix — I know, blasphemy! I’m in an Amazon show — it’s about all these investors trying to work out if they ought to invest in a new restaurant: Million Pound Menu. One the other day was Cuban-inspired street food that we want you to invest like $500,000 in to house six or seven restaurants around the country. I think it’s these usually lovely eccentric people that just want to create a product that serves people and doesn’t harm anyone else. It’s low stakes, and it’s really nice to kind of switch your mind off, too.

The Bisexual on Hulu. I’ve watched that actually in England. That was Channel Four in England, now it’s just come to Hulu. It shows the part of London that I think is quite cool and aspirational but also realistic and the writing’s really good and the acting is wonderful and it’s about the sexual politics around different gendered relationships. It’s really interesting.

Forever on Amazon. I just finished watching. It was great. I mean, Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen I’m always there for.


What’s coming soon that you can’t wait for?

Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag (Amazon Prime Video)

(Photo by Amazon Prime Video)

Fleabag season 2. I’m excited for that. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say what, so I won’t, but I just worked with an actor who just filmed it and I was trying to get him to tell me secrets. I’m excited for that to come out next year.

And Veep! I’ve been going back recently and watching all the Veeps from the beginning to end and I’m excited about that. I’m especially excited to see what they do with their administration in light of everything that’s happening here. It’s so funny watching it a few years ago and being like, “This is crazy. This would never happen,” and then some of the storylines that were filmed before this current administration are now so realistic and so real and you’re just like, “Oh my God, they are Nostradamus.”


Jean Bentley for Rotten Tomatoes: I feel like being in a period historical drama is a right of passage for an English actor. So what was it like doing this, for you?

Cooke: It was great. I’ve done a historical period piece before but that was only two months and it was a film. But doing this for five months and getting dressed in the morning and being put into your corset and then being sewn into your dress. You kind of start the day with this weird meditation/tradition, which helps you get into character and be like, bloody hell, no wonder women wanted to liberated because this is miserable. But yeah, if especially you’re a young actress and they just get you into a corset then automatically you’re like this treasured, virginal, ingenue.

RT: It struck me while watching that I’ve actually never seen you in anything where you use your own accent — you’re always playing an American.

Cooke: Yeah I was really worried going in ’cause I’m doing a very posh English accent, and I’m worried that I can’t do this now. I’m worried that I can’t act in something that is close to my own accent!

RT: I think it worked out. How did you feel?

Cooke: I don’t hear American and I don’t hear my own accent, so I think I’m all right.


MAMMOTH SCREEN FOR ITV VANITY FAIR EPISODE 4 Pictured: OLIVIA COOKE as Becky Sharp and MATHEW BAYNTON as Bute Crawley Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/Amazon

(Photo by Robert Viglasky/Amazon)

RT: What did you like about Becky?

Cooke: She’s just so naughty and so mischievous and conniving. She says exactly what she thinks and she’s so unapologetic for her actions. I think playing someone like that is usually only reserved for the men. And I think of a Fleabag or a Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep — these women that I’m so drawn to have these qualities where they’re incredibly flawed people but they kind of know it as well, and they’re using that to their advantage. Especially with Becky, [it was] a time when women didn’t have jobs unless you were a very, very low status. She’s using her wit and her charm and her skills as seductress to get by in life and to rise to the ranks of society. I just think she’s pretty clever and she’s pretty conniving for doing that.

RT: Had you read the novel this series is based on?

Cooke: When I got sent the scripts and they signed off on me, and I signed on, I read the book. It’s a really incredible book. It gives you a visceral sense of the time, but also William Makepeace Thackeray has written these incredibly flawed women, Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp, who are at two opposite ends of the spectrum. Neither one of them is this archetype or vision of what a woman should be in life.


Olivia Cooke in "Vanity Fair" Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/Amazon

(Photo by Robert Viglasky/Amazon)

RT: Reviews of the show have mentioned that it makes the story relatable for a 21st-century audience. Would you agree?

Cooke: I do, and I think all of us made a bit of a conscious effort because we weren’t there at this time in the early 1800s. You don’t really know what people act like. Gwyneth Hughes has done such an amazing job of adapting the book and really making it her own, in a sense, as well. The dialogue is there on the page, but in terms of physicality we don’t have to act with a big rod up our asses. You can be a bit more silly. You can be a bit more frivolous with your performance and more flamboyant. I think it works. Also, we adopted this motif of giving the occasional glances to camera in order to let the audience in and let it be a little more accessible and a bit more conspiratorial. So they’re in on the plotting and the conniving with Becky, and I think other period dramas sometimes hold the audience at arm’s length because it does feel too foreign, the way people live. But with this it’s a bit of a nudge-nudge, wink-wink, you’re on the same level as me.

RT: What’s next for you?

Cooke: I did an episode of the anthology Modern Love for Amazon. So Amazon is keeping me employed, which is nice. And then I did a film in summer with Riz Ahmed called Sound of Metal, directed by Darius Marder.

Vanity Fair is available Friday, Dec. 21 on Amazon Prime.


Tag Cloud

2016 Super Bowl facebook supernatural Columbia Pictures blaxploitation films Calendar Awards Bravo Pixar TCA Awards OWN TIFF video on demand Certified Fresh reviews joker Spring TV The Witch all-time emmy awards Teen X-Men Polls and Games Winners Showtime Netflix Hallmark Song of Ice and Fire RT21 political drama Countdown parents ITV Tarantino Ghostbusters true crime History Marvel Television DGA SDCC Masterpiece ABC Family The Walking Dead Rom-Com comiccon Binge Guide psycho docudrama Writers Guild of America festival romantic comedy adaptation doctor who Trivia singing competition worst Superheroe TCA Winter 2020 AMC screen actors guild FOX Animation Captain marvel video science fiction children's TV television Tumblr TLC Cosplay universal monsters 21st Century Fox Spike OneApp screenings 2015 MSNBC elevated horror indiana jones WarnerMedia Shudder GoT social media thriller Nominations cancelled HBO Baby Yoda Disney Plus Mary Poppins Returns Ovation Fox News Warner Bros. Holidays laika E3 name the review cancelled television Comic Book See It Skip It PBS stoner finale Ellie Kemper Opinion mockumentary biography 2020 MTV batman CBS Discovery Channel RT History concert richard e. Grant ghosts IFC Emmys Turner versus cinemax Podcast police drama Amazon Prime cops Valentine's Day rotten Cannes Black Mirror Biopics black Horror Infographic Pop 4/20 Musicals festivals Schedule renewed TV shows El Rey PlayStation Rocketman spy thriller Crunchyroll anthology Martial Arts Tomatazos LGBT Mary poppins Lifetime Christmas movies movies First Look Sundance TV serial killer Character Guide franchise psychological thriller book Drama independent cooking spanish language DC Universe casting YouTube Premium Fantasy a nightmare on elm street BBC stand-up comedy LGBTQ south america Apple animated crime documentary Heroines Avengers Cartoon Network 72 Emmy Awards movie Film FX cartoon Spectrum Originals BAFTA Hallmark Christmas movies Comedy Central Music TCA remakes San Diego Comic-Con Holiday Fall TV Amazon BET Awards 71st Emmy Awards indie superhero scary movies Lionsgate tv talk archives Anna Paquin mission: impossible crossover Amazon Studios Britbox unscripted vampires adventure Epix quibi President halloween GLAAD hispanic theme song The Arrangement Premiere Dates Syfy Stephen King 2018 DC streaming service Brie Larson Black History Month sports Marathons kids spanish 20th Century Fox dc blockbuster strong female leads sag awards Pirates Pride Month NYCC Nat Geo cars Hulu aliens The Academy Video Games venice jamie lee curtis Arrowverse Superheroes Awards Tour National Geographic slashers binge Emmy Nominations Universal crime drama Disney streaming service YouTube 2017 Shondaland Elton John space twilight comic Esquire Chernobyl hist obituary VICE APB Box Office transformers YA Musical Apple TV Plus Christmas Acorn TV Disney Oscars Red Carpet 2019 Adult Swim HBO Max American Society of Cinematographers PaleyFest child's play rotten movies we love The CW technology comedies Grammys period drama breaking bad Interview BET nature Film Festival dogs TCM Hear Us Out halloween tv spain italian Western CBS All Access sequels satire Starz Action scorecard zero dark thirty Sony Pictures WGN New York Comic Con nbcuniversal directors Marvel Studios disaster MCU Toys die hard Country robots Television Critics Association First Reviews Trailer Pop TV Disney Channel Sundance Now Walt Disney Pictures Mindy Kaling documentaries Paramount Network BBC One CMT NBC Winter TV cats Paramount FXX war Apple TV+ IFC Films Star Trek toy story boxoffice Women's History Month hollywood politics Mystery Food Network cults Marvel CW Seed comic books revenge sitcom Best and Worst spinoff Dark Horse Comics A24 medical drama Election series talk show worst movies SXSW nfl critics Rocky Lifetime 007 TV renewals witnail game show SundanceTV TNT Tubi teaser free movies Funimation stop motion dramedy Travel Channel TV Lucasfilm E! ratings Extras chucky Logo zombie werewolf Thanksgiving comics latino Peacock Star Wars fast and furious cancelled TV series ID Photos Netflix Christmas movies YouTube Red Amazon Prime Video discovery what to watch diversity cancelled TV shows crime thriller james bond TV Land classics TBS Rock FX on Hulu USA Network dragons christmas movies asian-american Comics on TV A&E TCA 2017 romance DirecTV news japanese Year in Review BBC America reboot Creative Arts Emmys Nickelodeon canceled Crackle Watching Series 45 criterion Endgame Sci-Fi zombies justice league The Purge natural history USA Turner Classic Movies miniseries Television Academy streaming VOD spider-man ESPN Mary Tyler Moore Fox Searchlight Set visit foreign french based on movie toronto Reality Quiz Sundance Pet Sematary sequel Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Sneak Peek golden globes dark Classic Film DC Comics Freeform historical drama australia game of thrones TruTV Family Mudbound deadpool Disney+ Disney Plus Kids & Family 24 frames best harry potter football mutant Chilling Adventures of Sabrina travel canceled TV shows Vudu rt archives Academy Awards award winner anime VH1 Comedy Trophy Talk HBO Go Summer composers ABC Reality Competition dceu GIFs CNN green book