A for Andromeda – 2006 – Kelly Reilly

Memorable TV, 19th March 2006

Playing Professor Fleming’s assistant Christine, plus the alien creation of the supercomputer, Andromeda, proved to be a juicy challenge for Kelly Reilly in more ways than one.

“It was the coldest shoot ever!” she recalls. “When I was Andromeda we had this idea that she’d always have this wet, slicked-back hair and bare feet, and we were in these freezing cold warehouses. It was shoot and then get by a heater!”

She definitely wasn’t seduced by the glamour of the job, she confirms, laughing. “I had never done anything like this before, it was delving into a world that I certainly hadn’t explored and it just seemed to come from left field,” she explains. “The idea that John Strickland was going to be directing it and Tom Hardy was going to be in it really appealed, and I thought the whole thing seemed rather fun and exciting and different, and a bit of a challenge.”

We first see Kelly as Christine, a reasonably straightforward role for such a talented young actress. “She’s a computer scientist and there’s nothing extraordinary about her. She’s hardworking, she’s smart, just somebody who is living her life, she’s not thinking that anything extraordinary is going to happen,” says Kelly. “She’s young and she’s achieving quite a lot but she gets herself involved romantically as well; there’s a little bit of a triangle between Bridger, her and Fleming, so she has a messiness to her private life which I liked and thought was interesting.” In view of what happens to Christine, it was important, Kelly stresses, not to make her seem like a cliched scientist. “I wanted to try and make her as real as possible, as alive as possible, and not go down the track of glasses and a clipboard,” says Kelly, who admits that she herself is largely computer illiterate and balks at much more than sending emails.

It’s Christine’s scientific curiosity about the supercomputer that is her downfall. “There is definitely a curiosity about it and a connection to it,” Kelly agrees. “It uses her, it chooses her, the youngest and probably the healthiest.” When the life force that Professor Dawnay [Jane Asher] creates from the computer’s genetic information is born, it’s in Christine’s likeness. So how did Kelly go about differentiating between the two?

“I approached them as two very different characters,” she explains. “It was really difficult, actually, to know where to place Andromeda and I just wanted to keep it as simple as possible. I was very aware of how I wanted her to look – brand-new, almost stripped bare, the purest form of human being that she could be because that’s what the computer wanted her to be. She’s a carrier, and she’s just grey, basically, although she’s flesh. It isn’t like, peel back the skin and it’s android and alien, full of metal. What’s interesting is she is a human being but she’s ruled by the computer.”

Kelly reveals the make-up department had a few tricks to help with the effect. “I had these bright blue contact lenses and they made me look odd, a bit weird; you didn’t really know what it was, but it knocked you off a little bit. The make-up girls and costume did a really good job.” And Kelly’s own remarkable ability did the rest. “It was hard but exciting to think how do you start peeling away all the things that you would usually start to layer on when you’re playing a character, because to do Andromeda I had to take away and take away and take away, and then at the end put it back in again, so it was a challenge!” she smiles.

Luckily, Kelly, who hails from Chessington, thrives on those. The 28-year-old actress didn’t come through the traditional drama school route – she was spotted performing monologues at London’s The Casting Couch showcase, which led to a key role in Prime Suspect IV at just 16. She’s been working ever since, most recently with small roles in Pride & Prejudice and The Libertine – which may have been just a cameo, but she did get to kiss Johnny Depp! – and notable parts in The Russian Dolls and Mrs Henderson Presents, alongside Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins. And she’s currently much in demand.

I’m doing Nic Roeg’s film called Puffball in Ireland, and then another film called Rumba in London, Michael Channing Williams’s next film, and then after that I’m going to do a play at the Royal Court, she says of her busy schedule. But to date Andromeda has been the only alien she’s tackled and she’s enjoying getting inside such a different character. “Andromeda is ruled by logic – she can tell the difference between pain and pleasure because that is a biological function to survive, but she doesn’t ever delve into those complications of being human, good and bad,” Kelly comments.

“Andromeda gets so powerful through the computer that she becomes a huge threat and Fleming knows she has to be destroyed, so he tries to tap into the human side of her, to what is left of Christine, the human feelings and conscience, I suppose. Those chromosomes are part of her, they carry what Christine carried, so it is there. It’s about finding it, and accepting and acknowledging that part of herself which is truly human, truly feeling and truly conscious and not just ruled by logic. Once Fleming gets through to her, she realises what the machine is doing to her. She could create nuclear warfare, she could create chemical warfare, she could absolutely destroy everything, which is basically what the machine wants to happen, this higher intelligence who wants to take over Earth.” She laughs as she realises this really is the stuff of science fiction. “It’s a big leap of the imagination and that was part of the challenge – can we make this real and believable?” she says. “That’s what we all tried to do, to make it as real as we could and that this could be a possibility.”

(From Memorabletv.com)