Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Emily Atack - Breakfast At Tiffany's

Emily Atack has been playing a lot of girlfriends lately. The twenty-six year old actress may have first come to prominence breaking geeky schoolboy hearts as sassy Charlotte Hinchcliffe in The Inbetweeners, but more recently she has been seen in the big-screen reboot of classic sit-com, Dad's Army. In the film, Atack plays Daphne, the wartime squeeze of local spiv Private Walker, who, as played by Daniel Mays, manages to get everything on ration.

Atack plays girlfriends as well in two upcoming feature films. Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race is a sequel to a Finnish science-fiction comedy about what happens when Nazis from the Moon invade Earth. Atack plays Tyler, the partner of a cult leader played by Tom Green. In Lies We Tell, Atack is gangster's moll Tracey in an action thriller led by Gabriel Byrne, Harvey Keitel and Gina McKee.

In her professional stage debut, however, Atack gets to play a far more independent woman in a touring production of Breakfast At Tiffany's that arrives in Glasgow and Edinburgh over the next couple of weeks following dates in Aberdeen. Atack plays Holly Golightly, the upmarket American call girl originally created by Truman Capote for his 1958 novella of the same name, but immortalised on film three years later by Audrey Hepburn in Blake Edwards' big-screen take on the story.

“I'd seen the film,” says Atack on the eve of rehearsals, “but this is quite different, and is more faithful to the original book. Holly Golightly is a good time girl who's been through a lot in life, and is a bit of a drifter, but she has lots of different layers. She's unapologetic and she's ballsy, but there's this inner vulnerability there as well, and the audience has to unravel all of that.”

Atack hadn't planned such a baptism of fire for her stage debut, and it was only after former Emmerdale star Verity Rushworth was forced to drop out of Nikolai Foster's production for the Curve Theatrre, Leicester after becoming pregnant that she was approached.

“I got a call from my agent, who said that the people from Breakfast At Tiffany's wanted to see me, and I was so flattered and felt so lucky to even be seen. Then when they told me the next day that I'd got it, for my first show it felt quite scary, and it was really being thrown in at the deep end. But I was up for the challenge. I've got the confidence, and I feel really ready for it now. “

This is an attitude Atack has had since she left school at sixteen, because “I wanted to get out there. I've got a really strong work ethic, and I really believe you get your real education by being out there doing something. My teachers used to tell me I'd never get anywhere if I didn't do my maths homework, and I'm like, I will.”

Atack got an agent pretty much straight away, and was put up for auditions with the friendly warning that she might not get anything for a while. As it was, her first ever audition saw her cast in an episode of TV cop show, Blue Murder. It was her second audition, for The inbetweeners, however, that changed everything.

“I'd only left school a year before,” she remembers, “and suddenly I'm in this massive sit-com. That had always been the plan, but I never expected it to come off. But the second I read the script I knew it would be good. Once we got together at the first rehearsals, everything started to gel, and we knew we were onto something big, but it was fascinating watching it grow into what it became.”

Given her background, it was inevitable that Atack would end up on stage at some point. Atack's father is Keith Atack, who in the 1970s was a member of the band, Child, who had some chart success as well as becoming teeny bopper idols who were once voted the second most popular band for teenage girls in FAB 208 magazine. Atack's father later played as a session musician with David Cassidy, Rick Astley and Bonnie Tyler before forming Eagles tribute band, The Illegal Eagles.

Atack's mother is Kate Robbins, who, aside from having a top ten hit in the 1980s with a song she sang while appearing in TV soap, Crossroads, and providing the female voices in satirical puppet show Spitting Image, is a first cousin once removed of Paul McCartney. Robbins provided the English language dubbing for Eurotrash, appeared in Victoria Wood's sit-com, dinnerladies, and has toured with the Grumpy Old Women stage show.

“We had such a crazy childhood,” Atack says. “We were always away on tour with mum and dad, and I was just in awe of them. They're both really strong people, and have always supported me with everything I do. We've always been a close family,and even though I was quite shy as a child, ever since I could walk and talk I was always going to be a performer. It was just what I was going to do. People ask me what else I'd have done, and I honestly don't know what else I could do.”

Dad's Army saw Atack appear alongside a role-call of British acting talent that included Toby Jones, Bill Nighy and Catherine Zeta Jones, as well as her Inbetweeners co-star Blake Harrison, who played the gormless Neil, as Private Pike.

“That's definitely been my best job to date,” she says. “I had a meeting and got told the same day that I'd got the role, and I couldn't believe it. It's a hard old slog, though. You can go for a million auditions and not get anything, and then you hit the jackpot. With Dad's Army I hit the jackpot ten times over. The film focuses a lot more on the women, and Daphne is one of a group of women trying to protect their men when Catherine Zeta Jones comes into town as this journalist.”

Atack's other films are becoming increasingly diverse. Iron Sky 2 is “a crazy film set on the Moon, where evil reptiles are trying to take over,” while Lies We Tell is “a gutsy drama, in which I play the girlfriend of an evil drug lord.”

Given the amount of girlfriends she's been playing in comparison to the free spirit that is Holly Golightly, how does Atack see her career developing beyond them? Are their any roles out there she'd like to get her teeth into?

“Something quite dark,” she says without naming anything specific. “I'd like to play a role completely opposite to a lot of the things I've done. I don't know why, but I usually get cast in these glamorous roles or in comedy, which are brilliant to do, but I'd like to strip away the glamour and the make up, take the lashes and wigs off and do something dark.”

Breakfast at Tiffany's, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, May 23-28; King's Theatre, Edinburgh, May 30-June 4.
www.edtheatres.com

The Herald, May 17th 2016

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