THE GUARDIAN: Though it’s meant to be a one-on-one interview, and government rules prohibit group gatherings, Jessie Buckley has brought along a companion when we meet by the River Lea in London. “This is my bike,” says the Irish actor, proudly presenting a battered turquoise Bridgford that has a malfunctioning bell, clickety spokes and rattling chains. “Sorry about the noise she makes.” As we set off walking along the river path, Buckley, 31, explains that she once paid a cycle mechanic to tighten the nuts and screws, which definitely made it a quieter ride, but also stripped the bike of its character. So she got the mechanic to loosen everything again and has been jingle-jangling around the city since, “like a happy, noisy clown”. Buckley thumbs the bell twice with satisfaction. Ting-ting!

The river path is bustling with activity this afternoon. Geese honk, narrowboaters tend wood fires, and in a car park that borders the water a man stands alone striking golf balls into a bucket. Buckley, dressed in torn jeans and a tightly fitted beret, stomping through puddles in her felty shoes, fits in well with the general chaos and eccentricity of the scene. At one point she falls into conversation with a bearded older man in a T-shirt who staggers by, recognises her County Kerry accent, and wonders (of the beret) why anybody from that lovely part of Ireland would want to “masquerade as a Frenchwoman”. Buckley hoots with laughter. The pair of them wind up exchanging endearments in Irish.

Listening to her chat, I realise that it’s possible to have watched through many hours of Buckley’s consistent and excellent acting work without having met this true Irish persona at all. She played a Glaswegian in her breakthrough film, Wild Rose, in 2018. Afterwards she went gravelly, English and posh in 2019’s Judy. That year she was allowed to do a generalised Irish brogue in the ensemble drama Chernobyl, but her two biggest roles from 2020 (in the TV drama Fargo, and in Charlie Kaufmann’s movie I’m Thinking Of Ending Things) required she go American. Happily, in Buckley’s next bit of work, a filmed version of Romeo & Juliet that was produced by the National Theatre and will soon broadcast on Sky, we get something close to the realer thing – a Kerry-accented Juliet, vital and quirky as Buckley herself, and perfect foil to the English actor Josh O’Connor as a hunched, repressed Romeo.

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