The British star talks about the beauty of sci-fi, finding fame, and the importance of always having fun.
When celebrities (virtually) hang out with Bustle writers, we want to give them the chance to leave their mark. Literally. So we hand them a pen, a piece of paper, a few questions, and ask them to get creative.
"Yes, I still have the hat," laughs Hannah John-Kamen. I had to ask. The British actor, 30, shot to fame, in part, thanks to her role – and headwear – in Netflix thriller series The Stranger, an adaptation of Harlan Coben’s novel of the same name. While the baseball hat helped her character remain incognito, it has arguably done the opposite IRL. "I started getting recognised with [The Stranger ]. I think it was because it was such a high-octane drama and everyone was hooked — I was hooked by the book and the script."
Now, the London-based actor is starring in another gripping book-to-screen adaption, Aldous Huxley’s 1932 book Brave New World, for Peacock. In it, she plays Wilhelmina “Helm” Watson, a hedonistic, pill-popping, gender-flipped update of Huxley’s Helmholtz Watson. The series will premiere in October on Sky One, detailing an "immaculate" utopian society where monogamy is banned and orgies are the norm. The arrival of an outsider threatens to disrupt what they know as "New London."
"It’s basically a world where there are no such things as illness, currency, or monogamy," John-Kamen explains. "It’s basically living your best possible life. It’s thought-provoking and mirrors a lot of what’s going on now," she says, pointing out how that is what dystopian (or utopian, depending on your point of view) and sci-fi often does. "That’s the magical thing about the genre."
From Marvel’s Ant-Man to a stint on Game Of Thrones, Star Wars, Black Mirror, SyFy’s Killjoys, and Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, Kamen is, quite literally, no stranger to culturally significant movies and TV series. Whether pushing herself physically in a "very hot neoprene suit" as Ghost in Ant Man, or emotionally in The Stranger, John-Kamen says she’s lucky to play complex characters that show "depth, strength, weakness, and power," she explains. "I think vulnerability is a strength too," she adds.
For the drama school alumni, acting is both about vulnerability and, most importantly, fun. "As a kid, I always wanted to do this," she tells me. "I can’t remember not wanting to act. I always go by the script, I always go by character, and message. And I just want to have fun. And play something that’s completely daunting and opposite to me so I have to push myself."
"I want to try everything. I want to do things that scare me."
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