Birth Name: Rose Eleanor Arbuthnot-Leslie
Place of Birth: Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom
Date of Birth: 9 February, 1987
Hair : Red
Eyes : Blue
Height: 5′ 6″ (1.68 m)
Siblings: William (born 1982), Sophia (born 1984), John (born 1989) & Portia (born 1990)
Residence: London, England, UK
Years active: 2005–present
Official: Facebook | CV
Note that Rose doesn’t use social media. She told a journalist that @RoseELeslie is a fake account and that she wasn’t on Twitter. She only has an official Facebook page run by her team.
Born in Aberdeen, Rose is the daughter of company director Sebastian Arbuthnot-Leslie, the chieftain of clan Leslie, and Candida Mary Sibyl. She is the third of five children : she has an elder brother working in the gas and oil industry, an elder sister who’s a teacher, a younger brother who’s a linguist and a younger sister who’s a hedge-fund manager. They have a family dog, Twiglet. Rose is the only red-head in her family and wanted to dye her hair when she was 8 years old, but she now loves her natural hair color and is very grateful for it : « It helps you stand out in the crowd in ways that used to make me cry when I was the only ‘ginger’ in a 40-mile radius at school. Now I’ve reached an age where I know it’s OK to be different ».
She spent her early life at Lickleyhead Castle in Aberdeenshire, the family’s 15th century ancestral Scottish seat and describes her childhood as “idyllic” : « I have had the most wonderful childhood and I was raised in a very loving family. And it was nothing short of an amazing privilege because I was incredibly lucky to be able to play up in trees and make it like silly dens in a bush and stuff like that. But being brought up in a house like that, my god it’s cold. You don’t walk down to the kitchen for breakfast in your pajamas because it’s too freezing. So there are wonderful, wonderful points and less so wonderful ones. But I feel incredibly lucky to have been raised in such a lovely place. »
When she was 10, her family moved to France for three years because her mother wanted to expose the children to a different way of life : « Living in France as a child made me feel European. My mum went to the Sorbonne University in Paris and always had a love affair with the place. My parents decided to give us the experience of living there too. I hated it at first, but, in the end, I loved it and I still speak fluent French ». They lived in the town of Maisons-Laffitte, just outside Paris, where Rose went to the Ermitage International School of France.
After coming back to England at the age of 13, she boarded at Millfield School in Somerset and lost her Scottish accent : « I kind of lost any Scottish accent when I was living in France – I had some weird hybrid of a French-English accent. Then I went back to Southern England and it was over, I went into the English accent.» It was there that she developed her loved for drama : «Interestingly enough, I know Millfield is well known for sport but it also has a fantastic drama program. And from a very young age, rather than pursuing sport, I was always drawn to the creative side, and they were brilliant at pushing you to write pieces of your own, and perform pieces of your own. »
To pursue her dream of becoming an actress (« It wasn’t like an epiphany that made somebody stand still and go, this is what I need to do – it just felt brilliant, it felt natural, and I wanted to carry on following this particular path of getting up in front of people and performing »), she moved to London at 18 years old and went on to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) to study acting, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 2008. The training she received there was influential : « Spending three years at drama school really helped to prepare me for the challenges of the industry. When you’re in that bubble, you’re constantly told by older students and teachers that it’s never going to be an easy path. It will be fluctuant, there will be (hopefully sporadic) moments of unemployment. »
She lived with her younger sister in a flat in North London from 2013 to mid-2017 when she moved in with her partner, actor Kit Harington. When filming The Good Fight in New-York, she resides in Williamsburg, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, where she does rock-climbing and pottery. She participated in the Women’s March on Washington which happened in January 2017, where she said was « the most extraordinary sense of uniting together with hope and dignity”. She often goes back to Scotland whenever she can as «Scotland is my home and I love nothing more than going home and being surrounded by hills and trees and heather. »
In September 2017, Rose and Kit announced their engagement through The Times. They got married in June 2018 in Scotland.
She was heavily involved in plays at LAMDA, starring in stage productions and doing a lot of classical texts. She received a BASSC certificate in stage combat and master diction in various dialects. In 2010 she was able to secure the lead role in Nell Leyshon’s play Bedlam, which was showcased at the Globe Theater.
While in drama school, she made her on screen debut came at age 20 in the television program Banged Up Abroad, but it was a Scottish Bafta New Talent award (Best Acting Performance – New Talent Award) for her role in the Edinburgh drama New Town which launched her screen career in 2009 : « We shot it up in Edinburgh, it was so nerve-wracking to be completely thrown into the deep end as I’d never done any film work before, but it was such an incredible and enjoyable opportunity. »
A year later, she had her breakout role as housemaid Gwen Dawson in Downton Abbey after the costume director happened to see her in a play : « I was proud of the fact that I was then a series regular, and I had a gig for something like six months. Before that, it was hand-to-mouth, it was episodic; an appearance here, a play over there. But with Downton, it was something I was being called for – it was extraordinary ». She left at the end of the first season following her character’s departure from Downton, but came back as a guest star five years later during an episode in the show’s penultimate season.
After leaving Downton Abbey, she made an appearance in the British drama series Case Histories and temped as a secretary at a GP surgery on the recommendation of her co-star Laura Carmichael before being cast as Ygritte in the popular HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones. The producers already knew her from Downton Abbey and had noticed her talent for doing a Northern accent. Funnily enough, she had no idea that Game of Thrones was a phenomenon when she auditioned for the part : « If I’d had any idea just how popular it was after the first season, I think I’d have been far more nervous walking into that room. Luckily, it just felt like another audition to me. By the second round, I’d clued up and done my research, and I managed to get the part. But the first stage is always the toughest, and I walked into that room blissfully unaware. » After learning she got the part, she read all the A Song of Ice and Fire books up to the fourth one.
During her time on the show, she enjoyed the physical side of the role as she had the opportunity to do archery (« Now I genuinely love archery. I find it really therapeutic and settling. And how wonderful to be able to walk away from a job and pick up something like that. ») as well as wall-climbing sessions and developed a great love for Iceland where she went several times to shoot scenes in the wilderness. She played Ygritte for three seasons from 2012 to 2014 and said the show « had definitely opened doors. I arrived in season two and the momentum for Thrones just builds and builds and builds for years. Certainly by season two it was one hell of a feat to be a part of. » At the end of her last day of filming, she was offered Ygritte’s signature weapon : « The crew are very, very dear to me and there’s such a loving intense family unit vibe on set with everyone. They kind of rallied around and presented me with my bow and arrow for me to take home with me. They replaced the handle with a white leather strap and a silver placard saying “Kissed by Fire,” with an emblem of a rose on the other side, which made me cry even more. It was very emotional. »
While on Game of Thrones, she had guest roles in the 2012 drama film Now Is Good starring Dakota Fanning and ITV detective television series Vera, Channel 4 conspiracy drama Utopia and BBC One’s comedy series Blandings. From October to November 2014, she played Sarah Farriner in the four-part mini-series The Great Fire (« Tom Bradby’s scripts are amazing. I loved his past work and so was very excited to read these scripts. It’s very clever how he has weaved the story of the fire with all the different characters involved. »)
She was also offered the lead role in the horror film Honeymoon (2014) along with Harry Treadaway whom she already knew from LAMDA. Rose played Bea, a young woman embarking with her new husband Paul on their honeymoon at a remote cottage on a lake, and said she was drawn to the project because it was a two-hander and it appealed to her theatrical side : « It felt like a very intimate loving shoot, and certainly did feel that way whilst we were doing it. Also just the transformation that the character that I play goes through…it was great. » The whole movie was shot over six-day weeks for four weeks straight in spring 2013.
In 2015, she starred alongside Vin Diesel and Elijah Wood in the action fantasy film The Last Witch Hunter and played DS Emma Lane in the BBC detective drama Luther with Idris Elba in the show’s fourth season in 2015, which she said was « a lot of fun. I was such a huge fan of the show before so it was very cool to be part of it. I also got to shoot a gun. Being on set with Idris Elba was a lovely experience, I was like ‘How is this happening!’ »
2016 was a busy year : in June and July Rose fulfilled her dream of doing theatre again by starring in Contractions, a play by Mike Bartlett (one of her favorite authors since drama school) in which an employee undergoes a grilling from her manager because she has started a relationship with a colleague. She also portrayed the character of Athena, an aspiring backup dancer who has to return home to help care for her estranged father Jack (Ray Liotta) who has been diagnosed with cancer, in the independant movie Sticky Notes. In September, she starred in Morgan as Dr Amy Menser, a behavioural psychologist who is part of a small group of scientists who for five years have been raising a genetically modified human : « I felt incredibly privileged to be working on a movie with such a fantastic cast. I have always greatly admired Toby Jones and Paul Giamatti and so working alongside them, for me, was wonderful ». Finally, in December, she voiced Red Riding Hood in an animated version of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes for the BBC which was nominated in the “Best Animated Short Film” category at the 90th Academy Awards.
That year, it was also announced that she would star in The Good Fight, a CBS All Access legal drama and spin-off of The Good Wife which premiered in February 2017. The showrunners offered her the part of Maia Rindell, a new lawyer who just passed the bar and whose family is involved in a financial scam, destroying her reputation. She was drawn into the world that the Kings created in The Good Wife and « felt completely honored to be asked to be part of that. But it was the writing that really got me. I feel that they are such bold writers, and such advocates for women, and as a result, I greatly admire their work. I knew this was something I would love to be part of—particularly when it came to Maia, and the opportunity to explore in depth one character through the arc of however many episodes. » The first episode aired in February 2017 with positive reviews. The show has since been renewed for a second season in 2018 and a third season which will air in 2019.