The Singapore Grip’s breakout star Georgia Blizzard on filming JG Farrell’s satirical period drama

By Polly Jean Harrison | 15 Sep 2020 | Culture

Georgia Blizzard stars alongside David Morissey, Luke Treadaway and Jane Horrocks in the lush ITV drama

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* The Singapore Grip star Georgia Blizzard [©Harry Livingstone]

Rising star Georgia Blizzard is an Australian actor who has recently moved to London to pursue a career here after graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. With roles in Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, Georgia has most recently starred in ITV’s six-part period drama, The Singapore Grip, based on the novel by JG Farrell. The Singapore Grip, which premiered on 13 September, follows the wealthy Blackett family during the fall of Singapore in the Second World War. 

Though the series has come under some controversy over its rather cliché portrayal of the era’s Colonialist past, it has been described as an epic and ambitious TV adaptation. Georgia plays Joan Blackett, the eldest daughter of David Morrissey’s Walter Blackett, who is embroiled in an on-screen love triangle with co-stars Luke Treadway and Elizabeth Tan. As her first major breakthrough role, Georgia spent four and a half months shooting in Malaysia with an ensemble cast including Treadaway, Jane Horrocks and Sir Charles Dance. 

In this interview, Blizzard tells Tempus what it was like to play such a bold character, filming in Malaysia and the lessons she learned from her co-stars along the way…

What can you tell me about The Singapore Grip?
The show is a period piece set during the fall of Singapore in the Second World War and revolves around the colonialism of that time. The whole series is sort of a portrait of a society in decline, where you see all the different characters clinging to their world that is quite literally falling apart around them. I play Joan Blackett; the daughter of a wealthy British rubber merchant and you follow her throughout the series focusing on her love triangle with two other characters. 

What was it like to play your character Joan?
She was absolutely delicious to play, she was so much fun. I was just intoxicated by her the first time I read the script; she's super charming and glamorous and witty and intelligent but also ruthless and bold. It was really exciting to me to play someone who is so in control, she's really in the driver's seat of every relationship she's in. I don't think that Joan and I would see eye to eye on just about anything. She is incredibly far removed from me as a person, but that was really fun to explore.

How did it feel back when you were offered the part?
It was just very exciting. It was a really long audition process so to actually get the job was surreal. Every ingredient of the show was fantastic; getting to work on a script by Christopher Hampton, who I admire so much, a cast full of actors that I've looked up to for so long and playing a character that was so exciting and fulfilling to play. It still sounds a bit cliché, but it really was a dream job, and as my first major role on TV I feel really lucky to have had this be my first big experience.

What was the filming process like?
I spent four and a half months living in Malaysia and it was unbelievable. I love to travel so to be able to spend your days off exploring a new culture was amazing. I spent the whole time desperately trying to pick up as much language as I could and try as many different foods and see as much of the country as I could. It also had its own challenges though; the temperatures are very high, and we also ran into an unfortunate timing of an early monsoon season – storms don’t mix well with a fast paced filming schedule. But It was such an incredible experience to get to film there and it made the whole thing feel even more like an adventure. >>

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* ITV's The Singapore Grip star Georgia Blizzard [©Harry Livingstone]

What was a typical day for you on set?
My days always started a lot earlier than all the boys because I had quite an intense routine involving a lot of curlers. I’d spend maybe an hour or so in hair and makeup before finding out what incredible clothes I got to wear that day – Joan has a lot of beautiful outfits. Other than that every day was really varied, you’d never quite know what you’d be doing that shoot.

What was it like being in a period drama? Did it make it more difficult to get into character?
It made it all the more enjoyable really. I've always really loved accents and dialects, so I was really excited to get to do a character such a fun 1940s British accent. Combined with the gorgeous clothes it all felt very playful. I found it a really fun process to work on a character that was so far removed but someone that I really relate to. It also makes it so easy to separate yourself at the end of the day when you take the clothes off and put your own back on - you really feel like you've left work which is so important.

You had some fantastic co-stars in this show, David Morrissey and Charles Dance to name just a few. What was it like to work alongside such prolific actors?
It was amazing, it was a huge perk of the job. My character traverses a lot of different storylines, which was one of the things that I felt luckiest about because it meant that I got to observe so many people acting - it was like getting a master class every day. I feel like I've walked away with a bit of a mental scrapbook of lessons from everyone I’ve worked with. I've taken a little bit from everybody, though with David Morrisey in particular it was incredible to watch him perform and the nuance and detail he brings to his work. But it was also great to see everyone working together. We had a huge ensemble of actors who all came together with a shared vision of telling this exciting story, and the feeling of camaraderie and collaboration was unbelievable

Other than the lessons from your fellow cast, what is the biggest thing you have taken away from this experience 
One of the things that I have had been trying to cultivate personally is my confidence. Playing Joan, who was so assertive and so self-assured has been really helpful to that. Its kind of been four months of fake it till you make it, so I’m glad to be taking a bit of that with me.  

Tell me more about your career up to this point, when did you decide to become an actor?
I’ve always loved performing- I started dance lessons when I was four and I grew up with music in the family. It wasn’t until my last couple years in high school that I did drama for the first time. I grew up in a in a tiny little town, so I didn't really know that you could pursue a career in in acting. But I was extremely lucky and had some super encouraging teachers who opened that door to me. They encouraged me to audition for drama school and it all kind of went from there. I ended up at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, and my first TV job out of school was an episode of Home and Away, which was amazing because its such a big part of Australian culture and felt like a rite of passage really. It made my grandma happy in any case! 

So, what's next on the horizon for you? Do you have any roles in the pipeline? 
I moved from Australia to London in February to pursue more work here but obviously not long after that everything got put on pause because of Covid-19. So everything is a bit up in the air at the moment, and I'm just focusing on staying creative and filling my days with artistic things so when everything does start again I can get straight back to work. I think there's going to be a real hunger for new stories after all of this, and I'm just really excited to see which new story I'll get to be part of.

The Singapore Grip premiered on Sunday 13 September on ITV.