Our Rose is the cover star of Harper’s Bazaar UK’s June 2022 issue in which she discusses ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ ahead of its launch next month. The photos taken by Alexi Lubomirski are absolutely gorgeous ! You can find them all in the gallery and don’t miss Rose’s interview below. The issue will be on newsstands on May 4; scans will be added to the gallery as soon as available.
Photoshoots > 2022 | Harper’s Bazaar UK [+ 7]
Rose Leslie is doing that British thing of apologising when it’s not her fault.
We’d arrived at different cafés with the same name, and when we eventually find each other, she bursts into a flurry of ‘sorries’. It goes to confirm what I’ve always suspected: she’s preternaturally nice.
Sitting in a busy north-London café, casual in a viridian jumper over a Breton top with a denim skirt and white trainers, she also looks surprisingly normal. It’s only when I spot heads turning that I remember just how famous she is.
Unforgettable in Game of Thrones as the fierce, warrior wild-woman Ygritte (who captured her now-husband Kit Harington’s heart on screen and off), she has subsequently held her own in Hollywood blockbusters against the likes of Vin Diesel and starred in three seasons of the prime-time, Emmy Award-winning drama The Good Fight, as well as in Kenneth Branagh’s sumptuous adaptation of Death on the Nile this year.
Until recently, hers was a high-octane existence: though based in New York, she was constantly shuttling across the Atlantic. « North London is a different world, » she says of her trendy neighbourhood, today framed with clouds of cherry blossom and violet magnolia. « You feel you can breathe in this space – although I have never stepped into so many churches in my entire life!«
She gave birth last February in University College Hospital to her first baby, a little boy (the couple are keeping the name private), and, except for an intense six months back in New York filming her new project, has settled into domestic life, motherhood and her local community. She now spends most mornings attending play groups in church halls. « It’s a glorious thing, » she says brightly, sipping her coffee, « to be in that shared space with new mums, willing to open up about the trials and tribulations, and be like, ‘Yes, I’m actually finding it quite tough.’ When my son was born, the narrative seemed to be that you’re automatically going to be enamoured with this little person. But why should that be the case when you have never experienced having a child? Why should it come innately?
« There’s an element of me saying, ‘Hey, buddy, we’re here now. It’s amazing. But I’ve got to get to know you, and forge the relationship that’s going to see us through our lifetime.‘ She tucks her tousled golden-red hair behind her ear. « It’s something my husband also found. Once we recognised that the love gets built rather than being 100 per cent there from the start, once we voiced that opinion to each other, it felt like a real release. »
When her son was 10 weeks old, the whole family packed up to live in Tribeca for six months. Leslie had landed a dream role in the HBO adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s bestselling novel The Time Traveler’s Wife; she would be on set while her son was with his father. « Going into Time Traveler’s, I felt mentally prepared. I was champing at the bit to do this gig, do it well, and felt I could balance it with our child. But I remember finding it very brutal, being wrenched away from him. There were parts of me that doubted whether I would be able to see it through for six months. It was so tough.«
Having to express breast milk daily was, she says, « the most physically, emotionally draining experience, because you’ve been doing it all day, and just when you want a rest in the evening, you have to do it again. I also remember one breast being larger than the other, but I was trying to stimulate the smaller one so I could give more, » she says, laughing, which she does often. And how did Harington cope in sole parental charge? « He wore the Baby Björn loud and proud. And there were many satisfying moments; we had an understanding that, when our son cried in the middle of the night, it was on Kit to go and look after him, as I would have to wake up early to work –it was kind of glorious. »
For Leslie, knowing the producers would accommodate her needing the odd morning off meant that she could embrace the tiredness and carry on. « It’s mind-boggling to me that women who come back to work after giving birth don’t feel supported, » she says, her voice rising a little. « How can your employer expect you to sustain the mental capacity, the energy and the drive to do it with clout otherwise?«
Leslie plays Clare, the spouse to Theo James’ Henry, who has a genetic condition that causes him to jump through time involuntarily, never knowing when he’s going to turn up in Clare’s life, nor at what age. This was no small production: ambitious in scale, mind-bending in concept and completely reliant on the performances of the two leads.
At times, says Leslie, it felt as though she were in a play, with weeks of rehearsals, having to learn the quick, snappy dialogue and, crucially, to understand the subtle iterations of her own character, who ranges in age from 16 to 70.
« There were so many nuances in each line, » she explains. « Theo and I realised pretty early on that if you didn’t like what either of us were doing, it’s an issue, as the camera is either on versions of him or versions of me.«
« Rose and Theo were extraordinarily disciplined, and were word-perfect from the first take, » says the screenwriter and executive producer Steven Moffat when we speak the next day. « They are so precise in their performance. But if I had to use one word to talk about Rose, it would be ‘vitality’. She has tremendous vitality. »
Much has been made of Leslie’s cut-glass accent and background – particularly piquant given Ygritte’s strong Northern accent – a fact that is surely testament to her acting ability. She spent her first 10 years in the 15th-century Lickleyhead Castle in Aberdeenshire, the seat of the Leslie clan; through her mother’s line, she is descended from King Charles II (as, funnily enough, is Kit Harington, through his paternal grandmother).
In the past, she has said that she was brought up to be respectful about her ancestors and proud of her lineage. I ask what aspects of this unusual heritage she will be passing on to her son; Leslie pauses uncomfortably, but smiles. « It’s important that he’s aware of his ancestry in the way that it’s important for every family, but, for me, it’s more about instilling values – it’s not necessarily talking about Charles II!«
When I suggest that her childhood was more I Capture the Castle than Downton Abbey (in which she played Gwen Harding, one of the maids), she bursts into laughter. « You couldn’t be more spot on, » she says, shaking her head. « There’s a romanticism to growing up in the middle of nowhere in Scotland. You know… glorious, with an abundance of space. » She would, she says, run and hide around the grounds, make dens in the rhododendron bushes and, with no neighbours nearby, scream and shout to her heart’s desire. The middle of five siblings, Leslie describes her older brother and sister as a duo, while the rest were left to « be a little tripod ». They’d play Power Rangers and jump on the trampoline every night after supper, occasionally getting roped in to play rugby with their older brother.
« Nothing quite captures the peace in my soul the way that the Scottish countryside does, » she says. « I associate family, love and security with the landscape. But the idea that the castle was very quaint and idyllic isn’t the truth. It was draughty and cold. We really did stay in about three rooms in the entire house, because one had a fire, one had the only radiator that functioned, and the other was probably the kitchen.«
While her siblings were sporty and academic, she liked to perform. She left home when she was 18 to attend the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art and, at the age of 21, won a Scottish Bafta for a role in the 2009 television film New Town. « It’s no coincidence that I’m a middle child and an actor, » she says. « I struggled with finding words to express myself, to find the words in my mind. I struggle with being eloquent. A part of me recognises that and wishes to say other people’s words. » She gives a self-deprecating smile. « I’m leaning in to that. » Despite her confident and elegant exterior, she more than once mentions an internal critic that threatens to undermine her. « It’s madness, and also maddening, that my own inner voice is like, you are failing. Oh, my God! » she exclaims. « Who asked you to turn up? Stop it. Go away.«
A turning point for her was filming Vigil, the 2021 BBC drama about a murder on a submarine, while six-months pregnant. In preparation for a scene where her character is thrown against the wall and beaten up by intruders, she insisted on fully rehearsing and doing only two takes, giving it everything she could, after which her stunt double would take over, in order to protect her baby. « As I was saying it, there was a saboteur in my head being like: who the fuck do you think you are? But then I told myself: shut up – you are the person who is always accommodating and wishing to please everyone. I felt that I’d grown in that moment, in taking a stance, taking responsibility, recognising that I had to protect us both. »
Since becoming a family, Harington and Leslie make decisions together about career choices, taking it in turns to support each other’s projects with a baby in tow. When we speak, Harington is starring in the title role of Henry V at the Donmar Warehouse, and so Leslie is the one who has to wake up in the night when their son stirs. They try to keep their lives as normal as possible; neither is on social media () and both are wary of fame (« debilitating is the word« ); they value their privacy and keep to themselves when they can. This is understandable, considering a recent interview Harington gave that revealed his struggle with fatherhood and previous battles with depression and addiction.
« For Kit, being an addict, it’s very important for him to recognise himself as such, » she says, slowly, before falling quiet. It’s one of those unexpected spring days, which started with frost but is now balmy, and we have decided to take a walk along the canal. For a while, all I hear are our footsteps pacing in time with each other. « The AA community has provided such a loving space for him to feel heard, to make sure he’s not alone. But if it weren’t for rehab, he would be in a very different headspace right now. »
And how is she coping herself? « I’m doing well. This was in 2019, so we’re now several years into his sobriety. » She pauses, before telling me how fantastic Al-Anon (the support group for friends and relatives of alcoholics) has been to her. « I’ve learnt a lot about addiction and it’s something Kit is forever going to be aware of, but it’s on him whether he chooses to drink again. No amount of nannying is going to be able to stop him from doing what he decides to do… I don’t choose to put that pressure on myself. The responsibility of his behaviour is on him. It’s not on me to guard him from it.«
What they are choosing to do is be a unit, build their world as a family. They have bought a second property in rural Suffolk, where they will decamp after Henry V ends. « We’re going to make a home, try to make friends. We’re just going to use our son! » she jokes. « In London, we’re firing on all cylinders, and when we get to the countryside, we can just turn it all off. »
We have now wandered together for almost two miles, and the shadows are getting long. She gives me an enthusiastic embrace before setting off back to Harington, who is once more at home holding the baby. I can’t help but admire that tremendous vitality; what will she do with it next?