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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Leonardo: Flora Spencer-Longhurst plays Lisa

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What would we have seen you in before?

Well, recently I have done more theatre than television and I have done a film but it isn't out yet. In terms of TV you might have seen me in Wallander on BBC One or possibly the three-part drama Unforgiven for ITV1.

What do you think Lisa would have made of women today?

Lisa's very forward thinking, she exists in a very male-dominated world, so I think she would be really impressed and happy that women and men are much more equal in society today. Also, she would appreciate that women today have many more opportunities then they did in 15th century Florence.

Are there any similarities between you and your character?

Yes there are certainly some similarities! Firstly I love art. I did Art A'level and in fact I did consider applying for art school.

Lisa is very determined and can be pretty stubborn at times and I think my family and friends would agree that I am not dissimilar!

I don't think I'm as brave as Lisa though. She is very loyal to her friends and I would like to think I am too.

Are you a particularly arty person?

Well I love art and always have. I am lucky in that my parents are very arty – my mum used to run a contemporary art gallery and my dad is an art historian – so I have been brought up with art!

Did you have to paint in any of the scenes?

Yes! Obviously the wonderful art department did most of the work, but there are a few scenes that Jonny and I had to be seen to be painting.

I loved filming all the workshop scenes and getting to do a bit of painting or sketching was always fun. We had a lesson and spent some time in an artist's workshop before we began filming, so it wasn't too daunting.

Tell us about your costumes. Did you have any favourites?

Because Lisa has run away from home she has a limited number of clothes and possessions, so I only had a few different costumes.

My standard costume was boots and trousers and then a selection of different shirts. I particularly loved my leather boots! Also, it was always a treat to put the dress on and feel girly again.

How did you find dressing up as a boy? Did you find people treated you differently?

For the majority of the show I am dressed up as a boy and wear a short wig. To be honest I got used to it pretty quickly. There were some funny moments though when guest actors and visitors to set presumed I was a boy or at least had short hair. They were always quite shocked when they saw me in my own clothes at the end of the day.

I think being dressed up as a boy on set did mean people treated me differently even if sub-consciously. Somehow in costume I was just one of the boys.

What challenges did you face playing a girl often pretending to be a boy?

I suppose the biggest challenge was thinking about my voice. Beryl the director and I decided that it wasn't right to put on a "boy voice" as such, but I did have to keep my voice grounded and ensure that I didn't get too high-pitched. This was particularly difficult when Lisa/Tomaso gets excited as I would naturally get higher.

I also had to think about my physicality and how Lisa was different when dressed as a girl, from when she was Tomaso and dressed as a boy.

What's it like being a girl in a mainly male cast?

Fun! I did worry a bit before we went out to South Africa that I may sometimes feel in the minority or occasionally crave some female company, but I really didn't. All the cast are so brilliant and we are really lucky as we all get on incredibly well. From day one we all just clicked and filming was so much fun I didn't have time to miss my girlfriends!

What's been your favourite memory from filming?

This is a very tricky question as I have so many brilliant and funny memories from filming. I loved being in South Africa, I loved the set, I loved working with all the animals, but I think most significantly I will remember the people.

I feel very lucky to have worked so closely with Jonny, AK and Colin and the rest of the brilliant cast, the wonderful directors, production team and crew.

I don't think I can pinpoint a favourite moment or scene, but it would definitely be a day when all the gang were filming together, eg the party scene at the Medici Palace. We had such a laugh. I can't remember how many bouts of hysterics I had that day.

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