Frances Turner

Frances Turner

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PHOTOS BY HUNTER ARTHUR • INTERVIEW BY CARIANN BRADLEY

CARIANN: Tell me a little bit about you so that my readers can get to know you a little better! 

FRANCES: Hi readers! I’m Frances Turner, a born and bred New Yorker. I’m born and raised in New Rochelle, just north of the Bronx, and have lived in Brooklyn for most of my adult life (minus a few years living in Los Angeles). I’m an actor—a lawyer-turned-actor, in fact—and you can catch me on the fourth and final season of Amazon’s “The Man in The High Castle.” I joined the final season as a new regular, “Bell Mallory.”

In this fourth and final season, resistance meets rebellion and Bell is a member of an underground Black insurgent group, the Black Communist Rebellion (the BCR), that is fighting for its own homeland and freedom from the forces of Nazism and Imperialism.

 

C: You have a law degree from Georgetown. It's impressive and almost surprising considering what you do now. How does your educational background influence your work?

F: Yes, that fact about me definitely surprises people! The biggest influence I see is the level of detail that is part of my process and preparation of stepping into a character, no matter the genre. The more specific I can get about the details of a character, the more grounded I feel in the world of the story and in that character’s given circumstances. I find freedom in the specificity. 

For High Castle, when I got the audition material, I basically took myself back to middle school history class. I gave myself a refresher course on what led to WWII, which meant going back to WWI, to really understand how it unfolded. I researched the rise of Nazi Germany, the rise of Hitler, anti-Black racism in Japan, eugenics, anti-Black racism in Nazi Germany and the Black Power movements of the 60s. Days before my last screen test for the role, I had a conversation with our co-show runners and Executive Producers, Dan Percival and David Scarpa, about the character and her arc for the season and they told me that Bell is very loosely based on Angela Davis. So, I took it upon myself to read her autobiography in the few days before my screen test - before I even booked the job. I knew I didn’t know as much about her as I thought I did and wanted to understand how she came to be the inspiration for Bell Mallory. Once I understood that, I really understood Bell and her journey on a deeper level. I think I’m intellectually curious because of my educational background, which informs my process, and that really supports the emotionally curious part of my process.

  

C: So you're in "The Man in the High Castle"—the final and fourth season—and your character is loosely based on activist Angela Davis. This show is deeply political and historical (alternative history, but still). How has getting to know this character taught you about the post-WWII moment in time and even the current political climate?

F: I’ll say this, in the alternate history of the show, the Civil Rights Movement didn’t happen. The Axis powers won the war before that moment in time could happen and that’s an important fact to remember as you watch Bell and the BCR fight for what they believe in. In this current political environment, it remains important for each and every one of us to fight for the benefit of all people, especially those who are marginalized. It’s important to make your voice heard in a way that fights for all people, not just some. This has always been something I’ve deeply felt, and my work on High Castle reinforced my belief in that.

 

C: How has this role/project differed from what you've done before?

F: This is the first project I’ve worked on that took place in a historical period, albeit alternate history. It’s a darker show than the work I’ve done in the past. I’d never been a part of dystopian storytelling before this. What was most exciting was the excellent world building on the show and being able to step into the high bar of detail that existed at every level of storytelling. From production design, costumes, hair, props, cinematography, etc.—to step into the ring with such talented artists was a real joy. Each episode felt like shooting a feature film.

 

C: What is your goal for future projects? What are you wanting to do next?

 F: I definitely want to continue in the vein of three-dimensional storytelling. Fully-formed, three-dimensional women who are centered in the story, whatever that story is. What is so wonderful about Bell is that she’s not just one thing. Yes, she’s strong but she is also vulnerable and soft. She’s smart but she’s also curious and discovering. She’s loved and in love and, though it’s a dark show, she does have moments of joy. Those types of three-dimensional women who move the narrative forward in interesting three-dimensional storytelling (and that could be drama or comedy, it’s not genre specific), that’s the kind of work I want to continue to do.

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"The more specific I can get about the details of a character, the more grounded I feel in the world of the story and in that character’s given circumstances. I find freedom in the specificity."

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For advertising opportunities, please write to us at goldie@midnight-woman.com

 

Have you been to Midnight Woman? That's our sister.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences anonymously.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. l'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. L'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.