Among the creative industries, the coronavirus pandemic has had a particularly big impact on movies and theatre, with cinemas and stages closed – and filming halted mid-production. For Scottish rising star Marli Siu, whose big screen debut was in cult horror musical Anna and the Apocalypse, there’s been an effect on multiple music-heavy projects.
Firstly, her indie film Run opened in March during growing uncertainty, lasting just five days before lockdown scuppered attendance (it’s out on digital this week). Inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen and starring Game of Thrones’ Mark Stanley, the thrifty 76-minute drama follows an existentially frustrated father in the Scottish town of Fraserburgh, who swipes his son’s car for a late night drag race.
Later this year, Siu will also feature in Our Ladies, the long-awaited adaptation of Alan Warner’s beloved 1998 novel The Sopranos (no mafia connection), which had its planned multiplex release in April pushed back to September. The Derry Girls-ish film follows five riotous teenagers from the Highlands running wild in mid-’90s Edinburgh for an afternoon of debauchery. But before that, you’ll see her on the small screen in Prime Video’s new series Alex Rider, based on Anthony Horowitz’s bestselling spy novels and also starring national treasure Vicky McClure.
Basically, Marli’s got a lot going for her right now. So, we dropped her a line to find out why she’s suddenly such a big deal.
Hi Marli, how’s lockdown treating you?
“I’m doing OK, I’ve gotten used to the new normal now. Being an actor, you spend a lot of time unemployed. I usually spend my time off watching loads of films anyway, so there’s been a lot of that and reading. I hope that everyone’s finding ways to cope because it’s a pretty anxious time.”
What have you been watching?
“There was a list that the BFI put out at the start of all this and I’ve made my way through as much of that as I can. There’s also loads of great ’80s comedies on Netflix. And I’ve found there’s some really good music documentaries on Amazon, even on musicians I didn’t know about. There’s one called The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins that’s really cool. It’s about half an hour long and follows this blues musician, just snippets of his life.”
What attracted you to new movie Run?
“I’d loved Shell, [director] Scott Graham’s first film. He has an incredible way of conveying the atmosphere of a place. I grew up in Forres, which is a little northeast town about an hour from Fraserburgh, where Run is set. When I read the script, I knew that town and that feeling.”
A lot of Run is about wanting to escape a place. Do you think watching it takes on a different meaning while in lockdown?
“Yeah, massively. It does have that sense of being stuck and we’re all feeling that. We’re all going from room to room in circles in a similar way to this film’s characters driving around town over and over again. There may be comfort in watching it, actually.”
You’re in the new Alex Rider series next – what can you tell us about your character?
“The character I play, Kyra, is not in the books, but Guy Burt, who’s adapted it for TV, wanted a female presence who could both challenge and help Alex. It was a totally different experience from anything else I’ve done before.”
After Alex Rider, we’ll see you in Our Ladies – how did you get the part?
“I was still filming Run when I got the audition for Our Ladies. I got in at six in the morning after a night shoot and had to tape a scene, but I had to do it really quietly because everyone in our B&B was sleeping. I had to sing the soul song ‘A Love Reputation’ [by Denise LaSalle] without being too loud! It’s sad that the film’s been delayed, but I’m hoping once venues are open again that it’s the kind of fun, joyful and uplifting film that people will want to go see at the cinema.”
Kylah, your character in Our Ladies, is the frontwoman of a garage band of boys and also leads the school choir. What was your favourite song to perform?
“I secretly always wanted to be in a band when I was younger, but was never cool enough or had the confidence or skills. So, getting to do my little Buzzcocks number [‘Ever Fallen in Love’] at the start of the film was the most fun. And because we weren’t sure what we’d get the rights for, we also did a version of the Ramones’ ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’, just in case. It was a real Glasgow band playing the characters in Kylah’s band. I’d never previously done singing training, so it’s just randomly happened that I’ve ended up having to sing in all three of my films so far!”
‘Run’ is available now online – and ‘Alex Rider’ streams on Amazon Prime Video from June 4