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ALLURE – It’s Wednesday at 3 p.m., and Lily James is handing me a shot of Patrón XO Cafe, a sticky coffee-infused tequila that goes down way easier than it should. “It’s good, isn’t it?” the actress asks after we toss them back. “I much prefer it to, like, tequila-tequila.” She licks her lips. “I find that really drinkable.”

We’re at a pub in Finsbury Park, a neighborhood of North London that isn’t known for being particularly posh, and since James has the luxury of an afternoon off, it feels appropriate to day-drink. It started with a few frames of bowling next door at Rowans Tenpin Bowl, then some pints, then talk of something called a “strawpedo,” where you reportedly suck Smirnoff Ice out of a bottle as quickly as possible. Thankfully, this pub, a typical British working-class spot called the Twelve Pins, doesn’t serve Smirnoff Ice. So instead, we’re slamming back shots of tequila.

Here’s what you’re probably thinking: Isn’t Lily James known as a good-girl actress? She’s doing shots on a Wednesday afternoon in a dingy pub? Didn’t she play Cinderella?
And yes, James is exceedingly nice and noticeably polite. The 29-year-old actress has cultivated a career playing kind protagonists in period pieces like Downton Abbey and the upcoming Netflix drama The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and she embodied one of the most iconic fairy-tale princesses in Disney’s live-action adaptation of Cinderella. Her characters always overcome the odds, get the guy, and live happily and sweetly ever after. There’s a reason no one writes anything negative about James — because how could you? But public perception, filtered through Instagram and TV and the press, isn’t always a representation of the truth. The reality is that James is like any person, complicated and layered. One minute she’s recounting her work as a patron of the North London branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, and the next she’s telling a story about being recognized in a bathroom line at the Glastonbury Festival at 5 a.m. You can be a good person and still do shots in the afternoon.

When James first started working as an actress, after graduating from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London in 2010, she didn’t feel quite as pigeonholed as she does now. Her work in theater was far edgier than the women she embodies these days onscreen, and ultimately it was being cast as Cinderella that tipped the scales toward always being seen as the good girl. She’s ventured off course, particularly in last year’s Baby Driver, but James always seems to come back (or be pulled back) to the amiable blonde heroine.

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