Florence Pugh’s star is on the rise, from major TV pilot to a film in cinemas this week, but, as Katherine MacAlister finds, she’s no good at packing for LA

Florence Pugh’s luggage was already checked in at LA airport when she got the call she’d been waiting for. She had landed the lead role in Studio City, a big new drama being made by Fox. Global stardom beckoned.

“I’d only taken three pairs of knickers with me and now I had nothing,” she laughs.

It meant the 19-year-old spent the next six weeks in California filming the pilot episode, then flying to Canada to get her work visa sorted and is now waiting to see if the series will be taken up by the networks.

If so, the story of Cat, a wannabe singer/ songwriter who leaves her alcoholic mother in Utah to move to LA to get into the music business, could become an international hit to rival the likes of Mad Men or Gossip Girl.

“It’s sex, drugs and rock’n’roll seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. People are always fascinated about the music industry and it’s a true story, about characters that you immediately care about, so I think it will be taken up,” she says.

So can she sing? “Yes,” she replies, calmly. “I did a lot of drama at school. I was that annoying girl with her hand up for everything.”

But this isn’t the project we are here to talk about, or why we have met in an Oxford cafe to catch up. Instead, it’s about her new film, The Falling, in which she is the star and was nominated as best newcomer at the BFI awards last year.

It is released nationwide tomorrow and Florence is on publicity duty. She filmed it in Oxford, while at school at Teddy’s, which meant she had to take two months out of her A-level term; not a hard choice for her to make.

“I’ve always wanted to do acting. I’ve never been good at anything else,” she says.

That she was a local girl filming in Oxford was a coincidence. That she got the part was unexpected. Not because she isn’t brilliant. Anyone watching The Falling will be in no doubt why director Carol Morley cast her in the lead role.

Florence had picked up a flyer about auditions at school and, with no notable experience, was cast.

The risk paid off and her star is rising fast. Sitting opposite me with huge, tawny eyes and quirky style, it’s not hard to see why the camera loves her.

What is remarkable is how fast her acting career has taken off and her life has changed irrevocably. So, what now? “I’ll have to move to LA permanently,” she says, “although Oxford will always be home.”

For the daughter of restaurateur Clinton Pugh and sister to Game of Thrones actor Toby Sebastian, the US is a long way from Oxford.

She doesn’t know anyone over there, but, totally unconcerned, says: “I’m more than happy to move to LA for my career.”

Friend Celia, who is sitting in on our interview, is going to hang out with her BFF in LA, so it’s all sorted.

“This is the first time we’ve been back to Summertown since we finished our A-levels, so it’s quite weird,” they observe.

The Oxford Times:
Teamed up: With director Carol Morley

The Falling was filmed at Carmel College, Oxford, in 2013.

“We stayed in a house with eight other 17-year-olds,” Flossie remembers. “It was joyous. When I came back to school, I had so many essays to catch up on, but I got my A-levels. It was really hard going back, though. I felt like I’d already moved on because I’d already found the thing I really, really loved and wanted to do.

“We were treated like adults when we were filming, so to go back to being told what to eat and how to dress was very hard.”

The Falling, a BBC film, has created a big buzz and it isn’t out yet.

“We had no idea how big it was going to get, but people have taken a real liking to it. It’s very exciting.”

Off to Beijing next week, where the film is up for an award, Flossie, now 19, has adjusted to her new lifestyle.

“It’s fun getting dressed up for the red carpet and mixing with so much incredible talent,” she grins.

Celia says: “At the BFI, the entire screen was just taken up with Flossie’s face, in front of all those famous people.”

They laugh in disbelief. But it’s been a year of firsts. First award nomination, first time in LA, first screen test, first pilot, first film.

So is Florence ready for fame? “I don’t know. I’m not a glitzy person. “But it is funny out there in LA. We had to stand under brollies the whole time because my character is from Utah, where it always snows, so she couldn’t have a tan. But no-one in LA knows how to put up a brolly, so I had to show them,” she laughs.

“But it is lovely to be home,” she says wistfully. “It’s not flashy here and you don’t have to dress up to leave the house. You can just hang out in Oxford.”

The Falling
Released nationally tomorrow 
Starring Florence Pugh, Maisie Williams. Directed by Carol Morley

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