By Jaimie Kourt
Five adjectives to describe your style?
What’s the most cherished item of clothing you have ever owned?
I don’t give a monkey’s uncle about any of my clothes.
A film you adore. A book. A song. A place.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988). Crime and Punishment. The Lark Ascending. The Bijagos Archipelago.
The Prada Candy adverts were precious. How did you being a part of them come about?
It was a little unconventional. Basically, Roman saw me at a casting for a different project and spontaneously asked me to read some sides on the stairwell, which his assistant filmed on a phone. A couple of weeks later, my agent called me and said, “Roman Coppola and Wes Anderson want to work with you.”
What is it like to be on a Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola film set?
Their set is great – that comes from trust. When you have two consummate filmmakers whose work you know and love, everybody is relaxed because they know the end product will be good. I wish more sets were like that and would love to work with them again.
What is the styling process like? Did you have a part in creating your look?
The team at Prada was great and they did allow me [to give] some input into the clothes I wore. In terms of hair, Wes wanted it “bigger and better”, which I was very down with.
How was the mini-film’s concept and the character’s essence imparted to you?
It was a love triangle, one where each guy couldn’t help but fall for this beautiful girl. However, they were best friends and despite the ups and downs they would ultimately remain so. They [the directors] like quirky and encouraged me to be very physically expressive.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a spin-off of ABC’s Once Upon a Time sensation. Alice in Wonderland is such ripe material. How near to Lewis Carroll’s original work does this project stay and how far away can it be taken?
It doesn’t stay close at all. It’s inspired by [Alice in Wonderland], not an adaptation, so you will recognize some of the characters and things in Wonderland but they will have a completely original spin and the narrative is completely unique to us. It can be taken far, far away. I think what the ‘Once’ name does is give complete artistic license. In fact, I can reveal that we will be visiting other realms – we will not just stay in Wonderland! Which realms they are… well, that’s a surprise.
Your character Cyrus is being described as mysterious. How much about this guy do you know? To my knowledge, he’s a new creation in the Wonderland world.
Cyrus and several other characters we will meet – Jafar, for example – are not originally from Wonderland but their stories have taken them there. To be honest, right now I don’t know a great deal of detail myself, but I am keener than anyone to find out! We will see how and why Cyrus winds up there [in Wonderland] starting in episode 2. Then, with each subsequent episode, we will discover more and more about him and unravel his many lives.
What is Cyrus’s relationship with Alice? In the book, each character had a distinct lesson to teach Alice, so what does she learn or gain from Cyrus?
There has been a lot said about how this version of Alice is kick-ass. Well, Cyrus is the one who teaches Alice how to fight! But more importantly, I think they give each other freedom. He gives her freedom from the real world and her doubters. The freedom to believe and trust herself. The knowledge that to know something in yourself is enough – you don’t need to prove it to others. She gives him literal freedom – the hope in a life lived not in service to others – and the freedom to love.
Is there a book, film, story, or any existing subject that you love and hope to bring to life one day?
I am very much into my screenwriting and am developing several projects, but I’m afraid I’m going to keep the details under wraps for now.
What is memorable and/or endearing to you about growing up in Sussex? Is it as idyllic as it seems?
Well, like any place, it has its pros and cons. But yes – it definitely has its idyllic side. There are many precious old villages and beautiful landscapes. I think what’s great is you can be walking through a field and stumble across an old motte-and-bailey [castle] that’s a thousand years old. There is a real sense of ancient history. I love nature and history so it’s pretty cool. We have the rolling green hills of the South Downs and the sheer white cliffs of the Seven Sisters, castles, and of course, Winnie the Pooh.
Let’s talk about Rowing Against Slavery. What have you done to bring attention towards putting an end to child slavery and human trafficking?
Rowing Against Slavery is a small campaign that my mother and I started with the intention to raise funds and awareness of modern day slavery. More people are in slavery today than ever before, and I felt that if I could do something to affect a positive change – even if the effect was very small – then it would be worth it. I don’t come from a family of wealth or connections so we knew we needed to do something extraordinary to get people to listen or donate.
I decided to row with a crew across the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean to Africa, an epic journey of over 3,000 miles. The journey took 39 days – that’s over 6 weeks of round-the-clock rowing out in the open sea in a tiny rowing boat! Then I ran a five-day self-sufficient 250-kilometer ultra-marathon in the Sahara Desert. Finally, I completed the series of challenges by summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, the world's highest freestanding mountain. We [Rowing Against Slavery] got attention from international press, I gave talks to thousands of school children educating them about the issue, and we raised money for Anti-Slavery International and Save the Children.
Look, I’m under no illusions that what I do will ever end modern day slavery – it’s too big and I’m no one special. I come from a humble background in a small town; yet, I gave my blood, sweat, and tears and achieved something nobody thought I could do. It did affect and inspire and made a real difference. So if I can, then anybody can. I think that’s the real important thing I want people to get from this: don’t negate your individual power. You don’t have to set out to change the world or do something big for it to have value. Any positive act, no matter how small, is worth it. After all, no act happens in a vacuum; like a stone cast into water, the effect ripples out.
What can and is being done for these people’s plight? Have international politics and the social consciousness around this issue produced tangible change? What type of rehabilitation happens for the victims once they are liberated?
I have handpicked some great websites that can answer those questions better than me and I would like to urge anyone reading this to visit them. Please take some time to discover for yourself and support these nonprofits in their vital work.
• The UK-based organization I partnered with, Anti-Slavery International (www.antislavery.org)
• Three more very good US-based organizations: Polaris Project (www.polarisproject.org), Love146 (www.love146.org), and Free the Slaves (www.freetheslaves.net)
Watch Peter Gadiot in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, premiering October 10th on ABC.
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