VOGUE – Lily James first became a household name as Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, before going on to star in Disney’s Cinderella in 2015 and Kenneth Branagh’s production of Romeo and Juliet this summer. As Burberry reveals a new side of the actress in her first ever campaign – for My Burberry Black – we sat down with James to talk about everything from fashion to food to fragrance.

On Fragrance
I have also always been really drawn to fragrances. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve had signature scents that I’ve worn or been bought, and for every character that I play when I’m acting I have a scent which helps immerse me into the character. Especially when I’ve been doing series – like for Downton Abbey, every year when I went back I’d spray my Lady Rose perfume and was like: “Ah, here I am”. With My Burberry Black I like that it has this floral feel but then the darker sensual note of the amber, which feels stormy and a bit seductive. I really overspray perfume, I use a lot! But I like when people are like: “Ooh I can smell you”. I spritz it in the air and walk through it, spritz it on my wrists, on my neck… The other smell I really love is lavender – my granny loves it and so I always get her lavender gifts.

On Skincare
I’m a big cleanse, tone and moisturise every night and morning kind of person. I take really good care of my skin actually and I love products, I love Kate Somerville, Liz Earle – stuff that feels really natural and light on your skin. I never sleep with my make-up on. Even when I’m really drunk I wake up with a washed face. It’s a miracle sometimes, I don’t know how it happens. I like feeling like my skin can breathe.

On Brows
I know it should be like “beauty comes from within” and all that, but the best beauty advice I’ve ever been given was when I was once told to grow out my eyebrows. It wasn’t even from a beauty angle, it was from a director I was working with where I was playing a 13-year-old. So he was like: “Your eyebrows are too thin, you shouldn’t pluck them!” So I grew them, and it kind of revolutionised my face. I used to pluck my eyebrows so they were about one hair thick – it was a bad phase.

On Make-up
I wear quite a lot of make-up in Romeo and Juliet because it’s on stage – though I cry most of it off – but in normal life I tend to just wear tinted moisturiser and mascara. I like with the Burberry make-up that you can use your hands, it’s tactile. The Fresh Glow Highlighting Luminous Pen and Face Contour are really easy to use. I love a red lip but I don’t think I do it very well because I’m always drinking or something and then it ends up all over my face. It feels a bit restrictive. I like going for a nudey, smudgy, smoky vibe. Very Burberry. When I did the London premiere for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies I really liked my hair and make-up because it was a bit more sexy.

On Hair
I’ve actually had some pretty dodgy hair colour phases, especially over the last couple of years because of dying it so much for work. I actually wasn’t entirely sure my hair was a nice colour shooting this campaign – I was terrified! – but it looks good in the campaign itself.

On The Red Carpet
I have a great team I work with and I actually really love it. At first it was something I was really frightened of and I was like: “Oh god I have to do a red carpet,” but now I’ve sort of embraced it. You really can create a whole look with the hair, the make-up and the dress to complement each other. And when you feel confident it’s a wonderful feeling and you can really enjoy that.

On Acting
I love acting, I love getting up on stage every night and doing the show. And that’s come with its challenges too – it’s the longest run I’ve ever done, and it is gruelling, and I get so worried about getting sick… There’s more pressure than with film – you can hide more when you’re filming. When there’s 700 people watching every night there’s nowhere to go! I love working with other actors and when scenes come alive. It’s been a wonderful run and people that have come to see it have been really enthusiastic. But I’d love to play a baddie next.

On London
I love London, it’s my home. I just think it’s the greatest city in the world! My family’s here and my friends are, and I just am very proud to be British. I love going to the pubs around Hampstead Heath like the Bull and Last, and there’s a great little Italian called Fabrizio in Archway that I love going to. I like restaurants like Ducksoup in Soho too. I live in North London so I hang out a lot around there. I love going to Hampstead Heath or Waterlow Park and feeding the ducks… The best thing to do in London in the summer is to sit somewhere outside all day and drink rosé in the sun. Having a speaker playing some music, drinking some Pimm’s… In places where it’s usually hot you get used to the sun but in London when it gets sunny everyone cheers up – everyone says hi to each other on the street and it’s like this festival feel.

On Working With Burberry
I have always been a big fan of Burberry. I love the brand, I love what it represents in its Britishness and its coolness and its history. The most worn item in my wardrobe now is definitely my Burberry trench. I’ve got a blue silk one that’s really light and it transforms every outfit. So I was just honoured and really excited when the conversations began about this campaign, it felt like a lovely fit.

On Shooting The My Burberry Black Campaign
I was nervous to meet Mario Testino because I admire his work so much and he’s worked with such incredible models and actresses. It’s intimidating but also inspiring. He was so funny and so charming and naughty and I just immediately felt very at ease in his company. Mario was great at getting me to be me in that environment. He made me feel really free and confident.

On Music
Doing Romeo and Juliet I’ve been listening to a lot of the music I listened to as a teenager, trying to remember what it felt like to be 14. So I’ve been listening to SWV, Blu Cantrell, Craig David… And then this summer the track I’ve been listening to most is probably Wide Open by Chemical Brothers. I’m going to Italy soon for my best friend’s wedding before driving through Tuscany and Umbria, so I’m going to make sure to listen to a good soundtrack.


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