A resilient woman, a versatile talent, an industrious actress: Hannah Dodd has the spotlight pointed at her in this very cinematographic season.
Just to name a few: she’s entering the illustrious Bridgerton family in the upcoming third season of the show as Francesca, the quietest and most introverted sibling in the chaos of the most beloved household of our times; she stars alongside Henry Cavill and Millie Bobbie Brown in the second chapter of “Enola Holmes” as Lady Cicily, a proud representative of the 19th-century British womanhood under so many aspects; she dips in the 90s playing young Sophie Whitehouse in “Anatomy of a Scandal”, “sticking it out” despite her challenging tasks in the show.
We spoke with Hannah about the most demanding and the most exciting elements of her performances, with an eye on the historical and psychological impact of both the characters and the real-life narratives, and what movies keep teaching her about society and herself: how she’d react to certain situations, how she’d face them and what kind of person she really is. And all starts off with one key question she asks about the role to be played: “who is she?”. But also, “who am I?”
Who is Hannah? With the discipline and devotion that characterizes the professional dancers whom she deeply admires, Hannah can be anything she wants. And she does. She wants it all, and she can have it.
What’s your first cinema memory?
Oh my God, I think it was when my parents took me to see “Toy Story”. But my earliest cinema memory is actually a very fun one: do you know the movie “Ice Age”? It was my 8th birthday party, I think, and we got the front row, and we laid all of our sweets out and all of my friends and me who were watching the film got moved on afterward. That’s probably my earliest cinema memory. I wish it was more romantic but no! [laughs]
You’ve now officially joined the Bridgerton family: what was your first reaction when you got the part, and the first question you asked the director and yourself?
I had no idea what I’d got myself in with the character. I loved the show, I’d watched the show but I’d never read the books, so the first thing I did was go and get her book because I needed to understand who it was that I was playing. I suppose all of the other questions I had are quite specific, and I might give away spoilers that I would get in so much trouble for [laughs]. I think I just asked myself, “who is she?” and I got right into that book straight away to try and find some answers.
“I had no idea what I’d got myself in with the character.”
Your character is Francesca Bridgerton. Will we see more of her within the storylines of her siblings in the season as, so far, we haven’t seen much of her?
It’s so nice to work on characters that come from a book series because it is so lovely to get that text to just dive into; then, you’ve also got the script, so you’ve got double the amount of information you normally would have. So, a lot of my preparation came from the books, and then, when it comes to the show, Francesca plays the piano, so I went straight into piano lessons, and we also had etiquette lessons, and dialect lessons.
For me, it was working out different people that I can call from and be inspired by and put into her characterization.
When you’re preparing to become a character, do you like to be more rational or emotional? If I think about “Anatomy of a Scandal”, for example, your character is a very specific one, she’s cold but at the same time, she visibly transforms…
It can change depending on the character, I think the character kind of dictates the preparation you end up doing. I love prep, I really enjoy the research side of it, I think it’s such a fun part of the job. Every character teaches you something new, whether it’s a time period you have to study, an accent that you have to learn, or a skill like horse riding or dancing, I love that element of the job.
In “Anatomy of a Scandal” in particular, I was playing a younger version of another character, so I needed to try and understand who she was in relation to somebody else’s work as well, so it was an interesting style of prep, also vocally and physically trying to match somebody else and stuff like that. There I focused mainly on the ‘90s culture, what it would have been like going to Oxford University during that time, what they were doing for fun, what music they were listening to, the fashion, the things that were going on politically, at the time.
“I think the character kind of dictates the preparation you end up doing.”
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that being an actor and playing different characters every time, you get to learn a lot of new things, as you said, and perhaps also about yourself. What’s the latest thing you learned about yourself?
That’s such a good question!
Movies teach you so much, so you learn about yourself and how you would approach certain situations because you have to play how somebody else is going through that situation, and depending on the character, whether or not they are close to who you are as a person or far away, you might really resonate with that or you might think, “this is so bizarre, why am I doing this?”, but it makes sense for the character. So, I think sometimes you learn how you would react to certain things, even if it’s the opposite of what you’re doing, you would know why you would feel a certain way about a certain situation.
I think everybody has a different life experience, and when you start playing different characters and creating different backstories, you realize how different they are from yourself, but also the things that make everybody the same.
How would you describe Francesca, also compared to her other siblings?
She’s an introvert and I think, without giving too much away, the other siblings are really happy in big environments and they thrive in big environments and they know who they are and feed off of each other.
I think Francesca has all of that, but she prefers her one-on-one’s, she prefers her small groups, and she really thinks a lot and spends a lot of time with her thoughts. I think where they’re all quite happy to banter and compete, she’s happy to observe – she doesn’t feel the need to compete for attention. The little things make her content- She’s really happy reading a book inside, she’s really happy playing music, she’s really happy to do the little things in life, which I think is a really wonderful quality to have.
“She’s really happy to do the little things in life, which I think is a really wonderful quality to have.”
Do you have a favorite Bridgerton sibling?
I think that the fact that they’re all so different is an amazing thing with the books and the show, and they’re all fully developed characters so each has something individual about them. I, as a fan of the show, was obsessed with Eloise, and I’m obsessed with Claudia Jessie, who plays Eloise; I’d say that she’s my favorite.
Yeah, she’s my favorite too!
Everybody loves her! And Claudia is amazing as a person, too.
You’re also in the cast of the second chapter of “Enola Holmes”. What was the experience like?
The experience was so fun, I’ve been a massive fan of Harry [Bradbeer]’s for a really long time, so just getting to meet him in the audition was an achievement, as well as getting to work with him. The story is so good and I really enjoyed learning about it, I’m so grateful for that job. I’m not very good at watching myself, but this is one I really wanted to watch for everybody else:
the cast is incredible! I don’t really understand how I’m in it!
What were the most challenging and exciting elements of your character?
I would LOVE to fully get into my love for this character, but due to spoilers, I have to keep it zipped. There’s so much I want to say! The most exciting part was definitely uncovering this real group of women and their true impact. There are so many elements of this character that were so unique and fun to play with as an actor. It’s definitely been my favorite role to date. But unfortunately, that’s probably all I can say!
“The most exciting part was definitely uncovering this real group of women and their true impact.”
Were you familiar with the historical period the movie is set in? What did you learn and what realizations did you have from dipping into an era that’s so far from our current times under so many points of view? (I don’t think it is so far away from our current times…)
I was not! But I absolutely loved getting to learn about such an important piece of history and getting to be a small part of highlighting the courage and strength of these real women. We’ve come a long way in many ways, yes, but the reality is that women are still fighting for equal rights and respect within the workforce even now. So, not far enough. It’s insane to me that such a major historical event, led by women, isn’t common knowledge. It’s got me wondering what other historical events we’ve let be forgotten just because they were female-driven.
On this note, I would love to highlight the below charity who have been tirelessly working to get these women recognized for years: https://www.matchgirls1888.org/sarah-chapman
The credibility of a woman as a professional detective is a strongly discussed topic in the film, but still treated with an ironic approach, which might be more effective: what do you reckon regarding using irony to tackle such important themes? And what modern-day dynamics does all this aim at reflecting? And how do you think cinema could help fight social discrepancies in general?
I think adding an element of modernism helps highlight how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. It maybe makes these times more relatable and human to a current audience. It’s accessible and enjoyable for all ages and with a platform like Netflix, it gets into so many homes and therefore educates so many more people. I think irony and comedy are coping mechanisms for a lot of people in life. Allowing ourselves to laugh at things can sometimes lead to vulnerability and truth that catches you off guard. I think Henry [Cavill] and Millie [Bobbie Brown] play with that beautifully.
As for the credibility of women, I could go on for days. The film explored this in so many ways within narrative and complex female characters, but also off camera. We had so many women on set in all departments and as HOD’s. It was a celebration of female talent from start to finish.
How would you describe “Enola Holmes 2” in one word?
“It was a celebration of female talent from start to finish”
Both “Bridgerton” and “Enola Holmes” are period set works but with a modern twist; could this be kind of a new standard for a period drama to reach even a broader audience?
Yeah, I think so! Some people love period dramas, but some people find it really hard to connect with them, but in this way, there’s a way in for everyone, whether it’s with fashion, set design, language, or music, it can really freshen it up. I really enjoyed that, it’s really engaging.
If you could choose a real-life person to play, who would it be?
I’m obsessed with old-school Hollywood movies, like musicals Busby Berkeley’s style, Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, Debbie Reynold’s “Singing in the Rain”; I don’t want anybody to remake any of these films because they are perfect just the way they are, but if they do, I want to be that person [laughs].
I trained as a dancer originally and was sort of heading into the musical theater; I love films, and one day being able to do musical theater on film, maybe, would be an absolute dream.
By the way, you started off as a model. What’s your relationship with fashion? What role does it play in your life?
I love fashion and I’m really glad it was a part of my life growing up.
It’s funny that when people talk about modeling, it feels like a completely different part of my life because it was never the plan to do it, it was literally a way of earning some money so I could pay for dance college. So, it’s funny when people refer to a career that was just a part-time job for me, and I just needed it to get to college.
I love doing shoots like this one we did, though, I love trying on clothes, I love the dressing up element of it, and helping with the input in what story we could tell with that kind of thing. But dancing, movement, and characterization really helped, and I think it’s just the discipline: dancers are built differently, I have so much respect for dancers that are doing it professionally; obviously, I never did that, but the dedication and the time that dancers put in is something I admire. I think I’ve got a little bit of that drive, but the only thing is that you’re never happy, you’re trained to look in the mirror and critique and work, you want to see what you need to improve on, so, as an actor, I need to learn to be able to watch myself and not just critique and see what I want to improve, I want to just think, “That’s the performance!”.
“But dancing, movement, and characterization really helped, and I think it’s just the discipline: dancers are built differently…”
Your latest binge-watch?
I know I’m really behind, but I’ve just started “Stranger Things”, I’m currently on season 3, but I’ve obviously seen so many spoilers… I also binge-watched “Dopesick”, it’s so good!
What’s your must-have on set?
I use perfume, which is starting to become an unoriginal thing because I’ve realized a lot of actors do it, but I have a perfume for each of my characters, so when I’m doing prep, I’ll pick the scent that I think will make sense to them which could be based on a million different things that make it make sense; in prep, I will spray it so it helps with my memories when I’m practicing piano or when I’m learning something; so, I’m one of those people that if you spray something, the smell takes you back to your memories straight away.
Your best act of rebellion?
Oh my God, now I’m like “I’ve done nothing fun in my life!” [laughs].
I guess, sticking it out: I didn’t have enough money to go to dance school, so I just went and earned it myself; I didn’t get in and went back the year after and tried again; I don’t think I was really ever going to be good enough to be a dancer, so I found another avenue as a way to work. I don’t know, I feel like I’ve rebelled constantly, but in a very nice way, in a very safe way, trying to be nice kind of way [laughs].
What’s the music you like to dance to the most?
I like really random songs; at the moment, because of “Stranger Things”, everything I’ve been listening to is 80s music. But anything that’s “feel good” and gets you on a dance floor with your friends… I’m there.
What’s the thing that makes you laugh the most?
I’m such an easy laugh, I laugh at anything and everything, and I find everything funny; people who can make people laugh are my favorite type of people.
What does it mean to you to feel comfortable in your own skin?
Especially now, working on different sets and things like that, it’s with the people who really know who I am – I’ve got a really amazing group of girlfriends and my family – that I feel comfortable being whoever I am, I don’t have to overthink things or play characters.
What’s your happy place?
My mom lives near Southwold, in Suffolk. When I go there, I just feel so calm… And my dog’s there, too!
Photos&Video by Johnny Carrano.
Styling by Sofia Lazzari.
Stylist assistant: Daisy Holland.
Makeup by Kim Kiefer.
Hair by Christopher Gatt.
Dress: Laurencia Irena
Earrings: Givenchy x 4element
Dress: Renli Su
Shoes: Ajoy Sahu
Earrings: Dior x 4element
Rings: Azulmalin jewellery
Earrings: Hanying Jewellery